Update later today: I just learned that there is an entire series of articles on the Burmese Karen refugees in Waterbury, CT at the Republican American here.
We have been following the case of the International Institute of Connecticut for a few weeks. Most recently the volag was temporarily suspended from resettling new refugees stemming from complaints that Burmese Karen refugees had not been properly cared for.
Now it has come to our attention that this same subcontractor of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) had received a warning in March 2006 from the Office of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the US State Department.
In a summary of findings government investigators reported:
“……monitors expressed serious concerns regarding substandard housing and poor documentation of R & P (Reception and Placement Program) service delivery. One housing complex frequently used by IIC (International Institute of Connecticut) to place refugees was in such poor condition that monitors strongly suggested the affiliate phase out the use of these buildings for refugee accomodation.”
The report goes on to document how large families, one a Meshketian Turk family of six and another Somali family of eight were living in two bedroom apartments. And, although the families had been in the US for over 5 months at the time of the monitoring visit, neither had a family member employed. A description of the living conditions of these families and a couple of others visited were shocking. I want to remind readers that we have heard of this practice of placing refugees in substandard housing from other areas of the country as well.
The issue of lack of proper furniture is inexcusable because as we all know, furnishings are readily available through various charities and if the IIC just put out word they needed this or that, citizens would have happily donated the excess we all seem to have in our homes.
In its Response to PRM, IIC director Myra Oliver says the large families chose to continue to live in crowded conditions because they did not want to pay, or could not afford, higher rents. That may well be so, but I suspect Connecticut has zoning laws that require a certain number of bedrooms for given family sizes as we have here in Maryland. So, the refugees can’t choose to break laws, it’s up to the resettlement agency to figure out this problem.
In addition to zoning laws, the State Department sets certain guidelines for such things as appropriate apartment size as a condition for the non-profit group to receive federal funding.
In defense of IIC, it appears they attempted to find employment for able-bodied family members and a single Somali man, but the refugees themselves either refused the work or quit. The Meshketian Turk refugees had been employed with the help of IIC at landscaping work, McDonalds, and a Holiday Inn. They all quit their jobs.
The Somali family has employed members now after some initial fits and starts at various jobs. The single Somali man, highlighted in the PRM report, had refused a job in a supermarket according to IIC’s response document which states:
“The PRM report inaccurately states that this client was offered two jobs as a butcher. The client was actually offered two jobs at supermarkets–one was to clean the floors and the other to retrieve shopping carts. The client refused both jobs because there was pork present in the supermarket.” [RRW: Muslim prohibition on eating pork, guess they can’t be within miles of it!]
What struck me as most interesting when reading through the complaint and the IIC’s response is that one got the definite impression (or at least I did) that the employees of the IIC were very annoyed to have been monitored, but more significantly I got the feeling that they didn’t really like the people they were responsible for resettling.
I wondered if it’s possible that there is a disconnect of sorts. People choose to go into this line of work—helping to resettle the Third World to America with this notion of how wonderful it will feel to see families with children working their way up the ladder of success in the United States. You know–the image of the hardworking immigrant who betters himself and his family in the land of opportunity. Then to be slapped constantly with the reality of representatives of many cultures that do not, and never will have, the work and life ethic of Americans because they have come from a culture radically differant from ours. It must be difficult because then resettlement work is just a job, just a federally funded pay check.