State Department yanks International Institute of Connecticut contract

Update:  Jerry Gordon at the American Congress for Truth blog has also posted on this story here.  Gordon suggests a GAO study should be initiated by members of Congress.

Wow!  Unbelievable!  There is justice afterall!  From the Republican-American today:

The State Department has canceled its contract with the agency responsible for resettling 64 Burmese refugees to Waterbury. In response, Connecticut’s congressional delegation has sent a letter of protest to the state department, asking it to give the International Institute of Connecticut more time to settle its problems.

This follows months of reports of poor housing, fractious relationships with volunteers, missed immunizations for students and insufficient assistance with daily tasks. The State Department brought the refugees here to escape the tyranny in their native Myanmar.

“I’ve heard of agencies being under investigation and there being a threat of canceling a contract, but this is the first time I’ve known about a particular case being canceled,” said Stephanie J. Nawyn, a sociologist at Michigan State University who studies resettlement. “I do think this is unusual.”

This professor, Stephanie J. Nawyn, has been in her ivory tower too long.    Dear Ms. Nawyn, this is going on across the country.  Many agencies have been closed but no one is talking about it.   I recommend she do some research into the Ethiopian Community Development Council as a first step in informing herself.

Former Democratic Presidential candidate Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd joins Ms. Nawyn in demonstrating his ignorance.   He has spearheaded a Congressional letter in defense of the volag.

So did Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, whose office was said to have spearheaded the letter to the State Department.

“The IIC has made it clear that they are taking the necessary steps to improve their resettlement program, including incorporating the recommendations of the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants” Dodd spokesman Bryan DeAngelis said. “The IIC has only asked to be returned to suspension status, so they can continue to make the necessary improvements in their program, and the Senator believes their request should be considered fully by the State Department.” 

A State Department spokesman, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said he was shocked at the delegation’s support for the institute. “I’d love to know why they’re coming so quickly to the defense of an organization that is clearly not doing its job,” he said. The spokesman said State Department investigators were shocked and embarrassed by the squalid apartments where the refugees were initially housed.

To the State Department spokesman who wants to know why Senator Dodd and others in the Connnecticut delegation have so quickly jumped to the defense of the Institute—it probably all goes back  to the mothership.  Likely Dodd has a cozy relationship with the IIC’s mothership, US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and its president Lavinia Whoop-de-do Limon.   This is how Washington works!  She is an old Democratic insider (headed up the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Clinton administration) who I am guessing jumped on the phone and got Dodd’s staff involved, who in turn then don’t have all the facts and don’t know what they are talking about.

The people who do know what they are talking about are the volunteers in the local churches who have befriended the Burmese refugees and can’t figure out why Dodd and these volags would not first look to the well-being of the refugees.

Diana Monti, of Living Faith Christian Church, believes the institute has done a poor job teaching the Burmese refugees to deal with critical daily tasks, like mailing a letter or paying a bill. “They brought them here. But whose job is it to teach them how to write a check, how to pay a bill? I don’t see the follow-through. If we didn’t step in, where would they be today?”

The volunteers plan to contact members of Congress to try to get the facts to them about this egregious case in Connecticut.  See all of our earlier coverage on Waterbury here.

And, I can’t believe this is coming from me, but, way to go US State Department!


Update a few hours later:   Here is a comment from Chris Coen, Friends of Refugees, on the Republican-American website today:

” When the World Relief refugee program in Port Richey, Florida (Tampa area) was shut down in 2006 for abuses and deficiencies similar to the ones in this case, many of the refugees were left high and dry.

The affiliate began by destroying all of the refugees’ documents, including paperwork for pending immigration cases. There didn’t seem to be any consequences for that outrageous action from the State Department or Florida’s refugee coordinator. To this day refugees in the Tampa area still do not have green cards, seven years after their arrival, thus jeopardizing their ability even to work legally in the U.S. We recently counted seven Lost Boys of Sudan refugees in New Port Richey, FL alone who still did not have green cards seven years after their arrival.

A Liberian refugee mother’s immigration case to bring her husband to join the family was closed for lack of activity. With an infant and three other young children she has struggled to maintain fulltime employment and care for her children while also sending money to her husband in Africa, a displaced refugee in Ghana who is unable to find any work. Had the U.S. refugee program operated with some integrity and responsibility this refugee woman’s husband would be in the U.S. now and helping to support his family.

When the State Department closes a refugee affiliate agency – and only in cases of extreme neglect and/or media scrutiny – the refugees often get swept under the rug.

Christopher Coen
Friends of Refugees

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