Pregnant Iraqi refugee: “Every day I cry”

Yes, once again we have an unhappy Iraqi refugee story, this one from near Cincinnati, Ohio.  

“I’m nervous. Every day I cry,” Al-Sharea ( Rasha Al-Sharea) says.

Sometimes she wonders if her decision to leave the Middle East was too hasty.

She is alone, about to be evicted, and due to have a baby any day.   No wonder she is crying.

I don’t know what is going on.  Her story is about the twentieth such story we have written in recent months.  Ohio is one of 17* states where Iraqi refugees are left in the lurch, jobless and unhappy and often wanting to go home.   The stories are virtually the same, either reporters are lemmings and one such story leads to another or the problem is so pervasive it can’t be ignored.   If the stories were not all so uniformly critical of government contracted resettlement agencies, one might guess they were planted stories to drum up support for more funding for refugees, but I don’t know why these contractors would be willing to expose their failings in caring for these people.

Al-Sharea is a well-educated woman who thought she had won the lottery by being accepted to come to the US as a refugee, and now she is crying every day.   The agency that has apparently let her down is Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities South Western Ohio bills itself as the top provider of resettlement services for refugees in Greater Cincinnati.

Al-Sharea is one of 411 refugees since 2001 to arrive in the region after being sponsored by the local nonprofit agency.

Few arrivals are from Iraq, said Rod Huber, who heads the office’s refugee resettlement program. Last year brought five or six – including Al-Sharea – although the number of Iraqi refugees nationwide continues to swell.

As of early February, nearly 20,000 Iraqi refugees have resettled in the United States since 2007, according to federal statistics.

Catholic Charities lost track of her.

Catholic Charities in Cincinnati is among dozens of nonprofit agencies across the country with government approval to help refugees resettle in the United States.

Agency workers meet the refugees at the airport. They offer $425 in initial housing assistance, set refugees up with donations of furniture, household goods and clothing and offer job assistance. They hook them up with English classes if needed and help refugees apply for food stamps, cash assistance and Medicaid.

Refugees without children are entitled to eight months of public assistance by law. Benefits can continue if the family has children, Huber said.

Huber said services were offered to Al-Sharea. Then, the agency lost track of her.

Read the whole story about Al-Sharea and her misfortunes that could have been avoided if someone knowledgeable was guiding her through the red-tape maze of the welfare system.

This month, Al-Sharea received a letter from the apartment management saying the rent was habitually late and they wanted Al-Sharea to leave or face eviction.

Huber, of Catholic Charities, said he wasn’t aware of the latest housing flap or Al-Sharea’s problems getting food stamps.

A caseworker helped Al-Sharea obtain food stamps in November. But after that, they thought Malabeh had taken responsibility for her.

“We kind of bowed out at that point for that reason,” Huber said. “We want the family to be involved. We want the family to help them.”

The agency has only so much money, he said.

How much does it cost to follow-up with a phone call every month or so to see how a refugee is doing?   I can see maybe losing track of them after a year or two, but within months!   It would help the refugee not fall through the cracks as Al-Sharea obviously has, but if they have begun treatments for such things as TB (yes, refugees do enter the country with TB), it would protect the public as well to know where they are.

And, aren’t there reports that must be made to the Office of Refugee Resettlement involving employment?  I know there are because here is the site  (this is a pdf file, scroll to your state) at ORR where employment is reported.  So, if Catholic Charities didn’t know within months were Al-Sharea was, how were they able to report her employment, or lack of employment?    Makes you wonder about the accuracy of these reports doesn’t it?


*The 17 states where Iraqis have few job prospects and are unhappy include: Arizona, Maryland, New Hampshire,Virginia, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Idaho, Connecticut, New Mexico, California, Utah, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Washington. See our Iraqi refugee category for all these stories and more.

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