When our refugee issue boiled up in Hagerstown, MD we learned that the largest city close to us, Frederick, MD, was also receiving refugees. That was way back last spring. So, I was surprised that a well-connected Frederick woman called a month or so ago to ask about the Burmese she had heard, through the grapevine, were in Frederick with more on the way.
Sure enough, now literally years after the first refugees were resettled the Frederick News Post has a couple of articles about the Burmese who started arriving there in 2002. Here is some information from the first article.
According to statistics from the U.S. State Department Worldwide Refugee Admission Processing System, from October 2002 to September 2007, 43 refugees from Burma moved to Frederick.
Then here is where it gets confusing. First, our old friend Martin Ford explains that refugees go through a rigorous vetting process.
Burmese admitted to the U.S. have escaped a repressive military junta in their country and have waited in refugee camps, sometimes for months, sometimes for years, said Martin Ford, associate director of the Maryland Office for New Americans.
The office, part of the Maryland Department of Human Resources, is tasked with providing assistance in the form of money, employment services and English language training to refugees for an eight-month period after they arrive.
The refugees go through a rigorous vetting process, and are citizens before they arrive [not], he said. Refugees who need help are then sponsored by one of 10 voluntary agencies throughout the country.
Then the reporter switches gears and talks about how many of the Burmese in Frederick are actually asylees. Asylees are a whole differant type of immigrant. These are people who were not “vetted” in camps in Thailand, they are people who came into the country illegally and then said they were Burmese and claimed asylum from persecution in Burma. We have really no way of knowing if what they say is true. We don’t send investigators to Asia to find out who they are.
Asnake Yeheyis, a statistician with MONA, said that there are also Burmese in Frederick with asylum status. Asylees share the same legal definition as refugees, but obtain their status after arriving in the country.
MONA tracks only those asylees who seek benefits, which accounts for roughly less than half of the asylee population, Yeheyis said. During the same five year span, from 2002 to 2007, MONA recorded serving 22 asylees from Burma in Frederick.
According to report compiled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, from 2004 to 2006, the U.S. government accepted 1,612 new Burmese refugees. [In 2007, the US accepted over 15,000 with another 15,000 expected this year]. In 2006, Maryland received 524 asylees.
Also, note that the MONA representative says they only keep track of those looking for services. I guess if your motives for being here are not necessarily pure, you might not want to sign up for government programs and English lessons.
Frankly, I was shocked that half of the so-called Burmese refugees going to Frederick were actually asylees. And, the overall number of asylees coming to Maryland struck me as high.
This is where the line gets blurred between legal and illegal immigration. Someone sneaks into the US from a trouble spot in the world, makes an asylum claim and bam—-welfare, food stamps, English lessons, and an employment case worker. I guess the Mexican illegals wish they could make the persecution claim too.
Folks in Frederick need to check out a couple of posts we have done in the last few weeks. The first is about an asylee in Philadelphia. I think you will be shocked to see how he got into the US. And, the other is about the tragic rape and murder of a 7-year-old Burmese Karen (Christian) refugee by a 21-year-old Burmese refugee in Utah. I’m wondering now if he was an asylee?
You might also want to check out the huge costs being run up by the Health Department of Ft. Wayne, IN which has the largest community of Burmese in the country. Rumor has it too that they are experiencing friction between the Burmese Karen and the Burmese Muslims that are somehow getting into the US.
As we said in Hagerstown, the bottomline for any city is that the citizens who live there need to be given all the facts in advance of the city becoming a resettlement city. Decide how many refugees you can afford. Make absolutely sure that each refugee family unit has a sponsor, like a church or other group. What good is it if the sponsor is some immigrant who has been here for a few months— that is the blind leading the blind!
My advice to Frederick, get all the facts.
P.S. To regular readers of RRW, Walkersville, MD where the Ahmadiyya Muslims were seeking to build a convention center is also in Frederick County.
Note on April 13th: For those of you searching for more information on what happened in Hagerstown last fall, we have an entire category to your left called “September Forum,” or feel free to e-mail me through our contact address at right.