By now you know more details (see our earliest report) on the terrible shooting at a refugee agency, American Civic Association, in Binghamton, NY today. The lone gunman who killed 13 people before taking his own life is tentatively identified as a former Vietnamese refugee, Linh Phat Vung (AP is still referring to him as Jiverly Voong)*. As the evening progresses and in the days ahead we will find out who he is and what made this man snap. Right now the speculation is that he was recently fired from his job and that might have pushed him over the edge. But, why shoot other refugees and volunteers?
The American Civic Association is a refugee resettlement office (a volag) that says its purpose is to “aid new immigrant assimililation.” According to this article originally published in 2007, but reprinted today, the agency supplies caseworkers for resettlement and offers legal services to immigrants among many other services.
Although, Fred Trzcinski, a former director says the organization was founded in 1939, its Guidestar report says 1941. Trzcinski says of the mission:
The mission of the American Civic Association is to encourage the spirit of brotherhood among nations and peoples; to sponsor citizenship education; to promote racial, religious and political understanding; to cultivate fellowship between native and naturalized citizens; and to safeguard and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Since 1939, the ACA staff has helped to settle thousands of immigrants and refugees.
A check of the American Civic Association’s most recent Form 990, tells us that the organization is a pretty low budget operation with an income of $156,719 in 2007. Goverment grants amounted to $46,922.
The refugee agency is an affiliate of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) which means it gets some of its funds from the mothership, USCRI. USCRI has been the subject of many many unfavorable posts here at RRW, especially since the agency has had problems with various affiliates not performing their duties to the standards expected by the US State Department. Reporters might want to call Lavinia Limon, the head of USCRI, for comment. USCRI press release here.
New York is among the top 5 resettlement states in the US having received hundreds of thousands of refugees since the Refugee Act of 1980 (Kennedy, Biden, Carter) became law. Ambitious readers can check out how many refugees have gone to NY (and to your state) by following the links in this post.
Also, this is interesting, Broome County, where the ACA is located, ranks 28th out of 63 counties in New York on a diversity scale that Judy brought to our attention a month or so ago.
As I watched a little of the news coverage of the tragedy this evening, I was struck by how little knowledge the various news commentators have about refugee resettlement. I guess they and the public will be getting an education about that in the coming days.
*Update April 4th: This issue of the shooter’s name appears still not to be settled this morning. I have now seen, in addition to the names above, Jiverly Wong, Henry D. Voong and Lin Voong. You gotta start to wonder about a guy who has a bunch of apparent aliases. This article quotes a sister who says he has been in the US for 28 years and is a citizen. If he is in fact 42 years old that would mean he came here at the age of 14, well after the Vietnamese War ended.
It’s not the first such shooting at a refugee agency, see today’s new post here.
Update at 1 p.m. on April 4th, here.
Update April 5th: AP tells us a lot more about the American Civic Association’s role in bringing diversity to Binghamton, here.
More than 7,100 immigrants, most of them Asians, have settled in Binghamton since 2005, according to city statistics. They are a cosmopolitan mix of Kurds, Chinese, Filipinos, Africans, Iraqis—but only a fraction of the city’s predominantly white population of 43,000.
7,100 since 2005, that is a staggering number! It must be wrong. No small American city can absorb that number of immigrants in less than four years without serious social unrest from lack of jobs and housing alone. Oh, but that is what we have here, unrest of the most tragic kind.
Update April 6th: Letter written by Wong indicates he had serious mental problems.