Friends of Refugees born out of Chicago experience

Last night I wrote about how your tax dollars were being used in Chicago to do “community” organizing for the political promotion of grievances by the multicultural crowd.  You know it’s a shame they don’t use all that money to help refugees and immigrants assimilate—-too busy organizing I guess!

I had recently asked Chris Coen of Friends of Refugees to tell us how he got started helping refugees after we posted this from the “Notes from the North Country” blog.  I had known that somehow Mr. Coen started helping refugees in North Dakota.     The post at “North Country” has prompted a good exchange between the blogger, Jen, and Chris Coen (be sure to read it).

So, I found it an interesting coincidence that Friends of Refugees was born in this same Chicago immigrant community that has so much taxpayer money sloshing around.  You know the one that Senator Obama was busy organizing.

Read Mr. Coen’s shocking story!

In the summer of 2001 I was driving some of the ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’ refugees from Fargo to Michigan to visit their friends, when we stopped in Chicago to see some of their refugee friends there. While we were in Chicago many of the refugees complained to me about how they were being neglected by their refugee resettlement agency, USCRI affiliate Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. The young refugees were placed in dilapidated, roach-infested apartments. Many of them had stomach pains and where told it was all in their head (years later we would learn that public health agencies such as Heartland Alliance’s had failed to test the Lost Boys for schistosomiasis – a stomach parasite that many of them were afflicted with). A Somali case worker at Heartland Alliance had also threatened two of the Lost Boys, saying he would deport them for complaining that the agency had done nothing to help them find jobs. Many of the refugees were also being beaten-up and/or robbed on the streets by thugs, and neither Heartland Alliance nor the government oversight agencies would do anything to intervene.


I wrote several letters to the State Department documenting what was going on. The State Department then got on the phone with USCRI and told them to investigate themselves – an ultimately useless strategy for rooting out problems – but this is the essence of the ‘public/private partnership’ notion of refugee resettlement. The USCRI so-called investigators then flew to Chicago and wrote a report concluding I – surprise surprise – had poisoned the refugees’ minds with distrust of their agency, and that their affiliate Heartland Alliance had gone above and beyond requirements in helping the refugees.


After that defamation report USCRI did on me to cover up their abuses I was told by the State Department people that they would be making a monitoring trip to Chicago and I could meet with them at its conclusion if I wished to. I got in my beat-up car and drove all the way to Chicago (this was just after caring for a Sudanese refugee who died from liver cancer). When I got to the expensive downtown Chicago hotel the State Department people were staying at (that’s your money) I had to pay $40 just to park the car in the hotel parking structure. The State Department people were dressed in expensive clothing and aloof. They had their buddy, the Illinois state refugee coordinator with them – a Dr. Silverman – he’s real hostile and has to get up frequently to go out to smoke. We sat down to talk and I gave the State Department people additional information I had collected from the refugees. They didn’t believe any of the complaints the refugees made that I was forwarding to them.


Yet, I had been in the dilapidated apartments and I had seen much of it with my own eyes. The State Department monitors also didn’t believe that the refugees were being assaulted on the streets (later, using a FOIA, I would get one of their own monitoring reports from Chicago from two years prior in which the State Department people themselves documented that one of the Lost Boy refugees had been robbed and assaulted in the lobby of his apartment building – and that the resettlement agency case worker had failed to tell them about it even though he had visited the refugee in the hospital after the assault). Yet, now they claimed it was not credible that refugees were being attacked and refused to take any action. Approximately a month after this meeting a dozen of the Lost Boys were playing basketball in a nearby north-side Chicago park and were attacked by the Latin Kings gang. They were beaten with bottles, fists, and a metal rod and three of them were stabbed. (I later gathered six Chicago police reports documenting attacks on dozens of the refugees).


After my first meeting with the government monitors, they said that I could meet them again the next day at Heartland Alliance at the conclusion of their monitoring visit. I went with another Lost Boy refugee who had been resettled by World Relief. I figured this Heartland Alliance wasn’t his agency, so he wouldn’t be in a strange position. The State Department people refused to let him in. They said, “no way”, and wouldn’t explain why he couldn’t participate in the process. At the meeting I got lectured by a Bosnian case worker who said that the Lost Boys of Sudan are actually lucky being practical celebrity refugees in the U.S., and when she came here as a refugee no one looked in on her. The State Department people said that most of what the refugees had claimed that I had told them was not true. Dr Silverman was there again, seemingly there only to “defend” Illinois as a good refugee resettlement site (i.e. “bring in more government grants and low-wage labor”), and had to run outside in the middle of the meeting for another smoke.

At the conclusion the State Department personnel promised to send me a copy of their monitoring report when they finished it, and then I left. They then never sent me the report. I had to do a FOIA and wait about 16 months for the report. When I finally read the report I observed that they had covered up most of the neglect, abuses, and contract-cheating that had gone on (that’s your tax money at work paying for so-called government ‘monitors’).


After that, I founded my group and got to work on the issue, seeing that the root of the problems seemed to go all the way to the top in Washington. I’ve been at it ever since. I have used my own time and my own money to help refugees to resettle. Rather than finding refugee resettlement agencies and their supposed government oversight agencies being of assistance to the resettlement efforts, I have often found them getting in the way, if not outright siphoning off public money while neglecting refugees.

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