American Civic Association: Tragic shooting at refugee resettlement agency

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.

Men shoot up immigration center in New York State

Update:  More details from AP here.  One shooter.  Also, learn more about the American Civic Association, here.

The Associated Press reports:

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – A gunman blocked the back door of an immigration services center with his car Friday before walking through the front door firing, wounding at least six people and taking as many as 41 hostage, officials said.

Sky News says the gunman was described as an Asian male. He killed 12, 13 or 15 people. 

Latest reports say two Asian males were taken from the scene with their hands bound, suggesting the gunman may not have been working alone.

US news source WGBH said police are looking for a third suspect in connection with the shooting.

The leftist UK Guardian includes this in its news report

The United States, which has some of the laxest gun control laws of the developed world, has for years been beset by seemingly random mass shootings.

And the story goes on to paint a picture of the United States as a gun-totin’ society rife with killing, with rational gun control held hostage to the “well-organised pro-gun opposition.” (You wouldn’t know Britain’s violent crime rate is much higher than ours from the Guardian.)

What I’m interested in is what sort of Asian these attackers were. In Britain, “Asian” is usually a euphemism for Pakistani Muslims. We don’t have a lot of Pakistanis here, and Asian usually means east Asian. 

Aha, here’s an update from the AP as I write:

A law enforcement official says the gunman who killed at least 12 people in Binghamton, N.Y., died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The official spoke Friday on condition of anonymity and said the suspect carried identification showing him as 42-year-old Jiverly Voong (VUNG’) of nearby Johnson City, N.Y.

I don’t know what kind of name that is. I guess we’ll find out, and also find out if there’s a reason he targeted an immigration center — in fact, according to the update, immigrants taking a citizenship class. 

Update: I should have said this, but Pamela Geller said it first:

If NY didn’t have such draconian, anti-second amendment gun laws and one of those hostages was carrying – this nightmare would be over. Gun control laws kill innocent people.

From Maine to Malta, give voting rights to immigrants?

Immigrants, that is, who are non-citizens!    All of a sudden, or maybe  not, maybe it’s just come to my attention, but leftist political leaders from both sides of the Atlantic are pushing for non-citizen immigrants to have voting rights in local elections.

From the Times of Malta in a discussion about voting rights in the European Parliment:

A report drafted by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil on a common EU immigration policy was yesterday adopted by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee after a marathon voting session on no less than 234 amendments.

The vote followed intense negotiations during the last few weeks, presided over by Dr Busuttil, between political groups in an effort to reach a compromise on some hotly contested issues.

However, yesterday’s vote did not go according to Dr Busuttil’s plans since a majority of MEPs on the committee – composed of Socialists, Greens, Communists and Liberals – voted together to support granting immigrants the opportunity to vote in local elections.

This led Dr Busuttil’s group, the EPP [EPP is considered a center-right party, here], to withhold its support on all the compromises by abstaining on the final vote in Committee until the matter is redressed.

Speaking to The Times after the session, Dr Busuttil said the vote respected nearly all the compromises reached during the negotiations but consensus broke down when it came to granting political rights to immigrants.

“The Socialists, Greens, Communists and Liberals formed a majority to support granting immigrants the opportunity to vote in local elections. Giving migrants the right to vote is a red line for us (EPP), which we were not prepared to cross,” he said.

“For this reason, my group’s support is on hold and I hope this can be remedied in time for the adoption of this report in plenary,” he said. Negotiations would now resume in search of a compromise on the main sticking point.

Be sure to read the comments and see that the Maltese people don’t like the idea of illegal aliens and other non-citizens having the right to vote.

Now to Maine.  The discussion is going on there too!   And, much to my surprise, some towns in my state of Maryland already let non-citizens vote in local elections!  From the Morning Sentinel:

AUGUSTA — Lawmakers are preparing to consider a bill that would let communities choose to allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in municipal elections.

Proponents argue that letting non-citizen immigrants vote on local issues would include them in the community, and provide incentive for them to pursue citizenship.

Critics say voting is a right that should be reserved for U.S. citizens, and some suggest that newcomers to the country don’t necessarily have the language skills or the knowledge of issues needed to make an informed vote.

Did you know that some jurisdictions in the US already allow voting by non-citizens?

Chicago, for instance, allows them to vote in school elections, and six towns in Maryland allow them to vote in all local elections. They can vote in the Massachusetts towns of Cambridge, Amherst and Newton, said Hayduk, and proposals have been made to do the same in Chelsea and Somerville, and likely will resurface in Boston after a 2007 defeat.

Dumb Americans, smart immigrants!   Guess who thinks this might not be a good idea?  Immigrants!  Where is Transitionland, you see I can say something good about immigrants, they seem to have more sense then leftwing Americans!

Reaction was mixed in Portland’s immigrant community. [not really!]

Mohamud Barre, president of the Somali Culture and Development Association of Maine, said he’s concerned that many immigrants aren’t informed enough to vote.

“They don’t know what’s going on, they don’t speak English,” said Barre, who is originally from Somalia.

When immigrants get the right to vote through citizenship, said Barre, they’ve spent time learning about the country and working on language skills. That allows them to become informed, he said.

“They have at least learned what’s going on — they can make a decision,” he said.

Sam Udomsay, who came to this country from Thailand when he was only 4 and got his citizenship about 10 years ago, said he’s not sure many immigrants would have an idea of how the process works.

“I guess it would be a great idea to allow them to vote, if they had more knowledge of what was going on,” said Udomsay, 32, of Westbrook.

Udomsay said that immigrant communities tend to have leaders. He said he would be concerned that if non-citizens didn’t understand the issues, they might just vote the way their leaders instructed them.

Udomsay also said that people should earn the right to vote.

Mr. Barre, Mr. Udomsay, I couldn’t agree more.

Salt Lake City: Refugee gang violence continues

I say “continues” because according to this report in the Salt Lake Tribune, law enforcement in Utah has been dealing with gangs that include refugees since the ’70’s.    First it was Asians such as Vietnamese and Cambodians, later Bosnians (remember the 2007  mall killings by a Bosnian refugee) and now it’s Iraqis and Somalis.  I didn’t know that this was a big issue in Salt Lake City, although we have  previously chronicled gang violence involving Somalis in Minneapolis (here) and Seattle (here).

We follow the news fairly closely and so I was especially shocked to see that this report opens with a description of the shooting death of an Iraqi refugee who had opened fire in a public place just this past January.    Did this make the national news?

After 19-year-old Hussein Al-Rekabi opened fire into a crowd at a downtown nightclub in January, a mob of his angry relatives screamed death threats at officers who responded.

A Salt Lake City police officer shot and killed Al-Rekabi, who had ignored a command to stop and injured two bystanders near Club Bliss at 404 S. West Temple around 1:15 a.m. on Jan. 24.

Al-Rekabi’s family includes documented members of an Iraqi gang, Detective Nate Clark of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office Metro Gang Unit said Thursday.

At the shooting, “It was ‘You guys are dead.’ But also, ‘Get out of our country and leave our oil alone,'” Clark said Thursday at the Utah Gang Conference, during a session about gangs that formed after refugee groups arrived in Utah.

Refugees are joining existing gangs or forming their own.

Metro Gang Unit investigators say they’re now seeing newer refugees, such as young men from Somali and Sudan, latching onto American gang culture. From listening to hip hop to mimicking gang dress, some are forming their own gangs and others are assimilating into existing gangs, Clark said.

The Center for Immigration Studies released a report last fall on the extent of immigrant gang violence in the US, here.

The Salt Lake Tribune has written extensively on refugee issues in Utah, use our search function for ‘Salt Lake City’ to learn more about the problems the city faces.

Some refugees in Fargo pitch in

A few days ago I posted a link to photos of volunteers helping out in the Fargo floods and wondered if immigrants there would join their neighbors in helping out. According to this AP article, the answer is yes, at least for some of the refugees. It begins:

For some transplants to this quiet Plains city, last week’s feverish rush to hold back a historic flood threat carried reminders of the chaos that forced them from their old lives.

The National Guard troops and the constant humming of military vehicles along the Red River made Amar Hussein a little nervous. He came to Fargo from Iraq after a bomb blew up his vehicle and left his arms and leg deeply scarred.

“We see the military trucks, I see people making sandbags to protect the town, I think something happened,” he said.

Although much of the story is about the refugees’ anxiety about the flood threat, we also learn this:

Immigrants also volunteered in the flood-fighting effort and formed their own support groups, sharing food and information and finding that pitching in to save the city is a sure way to put down roots.

And this:

The refugee resettlement agency gives all newcomers an introduction to the area — how to work with police, how to deal with inclement weather, the basics. They put on similar sessions during the flood.

What, an agency doing its job? Hallalujah! And this:

But to many newcomers, facing these hard times has also forged a connection to the place, and to the people with whom they shared work and worry.

A family of six who left the fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia, formed an assembly line at the Fargodome, filling sandbags and passing them, hand to hand, to a growing pile.

“This is my home now,” said Maliyun Santur, who arrived in Fargo two and a half years ago. “I’m here to save our city.”

I’m usually cynical about heartwarming refugee stories, knowing that there is much underneath that isn’t so great.  But I must admit that I am cheered by the idea that at least some of these refugees have formed this kind of connection to their new home.