Ridgefield attorney acted quickly in the wake of Binghamton tragedy

That is the headline of a story in the News-Times of Danbury, CT this past week.   And, I’m puzzled why this is news.  One would expect that the government contractor, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) would naturally send some people to comfort their subcontractor’s (American Civic Association) staff and refugees they were responsible for resettling.  Did USCRI put out some news release?

RIDGEFIELD — Ridgefield attorney Tom Belote has been able to move beyond the helplessness so many feel in the wake of the mass shootings at an immigrant aid center in Binghamton, N.Y.

Belote is chairman of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a national organization with its headquarters in Arlington, Va. In his official capacity, Belote was able to act quickly on Friday when he received word of a gunman opening fire at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, killing 13 people.

Belote contacted the executive director and the chief executive officer of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and had three of the organization’s senior staffers sent to Binghamton to make sure the surviving victims receive the support they need.

Why did it take their LAWYER chairman of the board to “act quickly?”  Wouldn’t the CEO of USCRI, Lavinia Limon, know to send ‘comforters’ to Binghamton.   Again, so our critics understand, I am not criticizing an act of compassion, just wondering why this is so prominantly newsworthy.  Surely, there couldn’t be any legal liability for USCRI.

“As chairman of the board, I have an obligation to assure our organization acts quickly on a tragedy such as this,” Belote said Monday. “We had to act on a same-day basis. The care of resettled refugees is very delicate. They have special needs and when a partner agency is disabled, we have to act.”

O.K. we got that, but were they not going to act quickly if their LAWYER chairman of the Board didn’t tell them to?

Normally Lavinia Limon is quoted in stories about USCRI, where was she?  Or her family member, Peter Limon, director of field offices?

Eskinder Negash, vice president and Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, said Monday the victims of Friday’s shooting were like family to the members of his organization.

“Three of our senior staffers were immediately dispatched to Binghamton,” Negash said. “They will visit every refugee that has been settled in the area since 2005. They will provide counseling and work with a local mental health agency, making home visits.”


He commended Belote for his quick action in the face of the Binghamton tragedy, saying Belote not only saw to it that the senior staffers were immediately sent to the scene, but also contacted New York senators Charles Shumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and the mayor of Binghamton, Matthew T. Ryan.

Now that last line strikes me as critically important—Not!   What the heck does it matter if USCRI contacts the US Senators and Congressman?

We did learn in this article that USCRI resettled the Iraqi woman killed in the shooting, whose funeral is reported in the New York Times, here.   Since we have heard so much about unhappy Iraqi refugees elsewhere in the US, I wonder where she had been previously.

Layla Khali, 57, the Iraqi woman killed in the shootings Friday, had been relocated to Binghamton just eight months before by Belote’s organization.

We told you last week that USCRI is the parent organization, the federal contractor, that in turn subcontracts resettlement work to agencies such as the American Civic Association.

We have reported problems USCRI has had with other subcontractors in Albany, NY, Erie, PA, Waterbury, CT, Manchester, NH and Akron, OH.    These were problems related to those subcontractors either having too many refugees and some not adequately caring for them, or in the case of Erie there was some funny-money business going on.  

Critics take note, I am not saying this shooting had anything to do with USCRI, this tragedy obviously was way out of their control.  It just struck me as odd that there would be anything newsworthy about their chairman of board telling senior staff to get to Binghamton.

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