I wondered what ever happened to this issue, it seemed to have dropped into a black hole. However, now comes news via another sad refugee puff-piece story in the Houston Chronicle that the State Department hopes to get the family reunification portion of refugee resettlement up and running by year’s end. Readers may recall that the program was suspended when widespread fraud was uncovered last year. See those reports here.
From the Houston Chronicle, yesterday:
The program has been dogged by allegations of abuse for years, and it was suspended in October after a pilot program involving DNA testing found evidence of widespread fraud by people falsely claiming to be related to each other.
Refugee resettlement workers now say the program’s suspension and prolonged processing delays have created a hardship for refugees in the U.S. who are eager for the safety of relatives left behind in Africa, where hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded in war-torn regions.
The Chronicle reporter builds her story, designed to get the reader’s sympathy, around Houston African refugee 24-year-old Mayam Kromah who has discovered her long lost Daddy whom she hasn’t seen since she was 3 or 4 years old. He is in Guinea, not a hotbed of civil unrest. As a matter of fact, we only admitted 3 refugees from Guinea in the last year.
Houston is home to loads of refugees.
Dario Lipovac, the resettlement services director for YMCA International Services in Houston, said he has a filing cabinet full of paperwork from applicants for the P-3 program, many of whom are still waiting to hear from immigration officials.
Houston has one of largest refugee populations in the U.S. In 2007, Texas resettled 4,440 refugees — many from Africa — ranking second to California.
87% of applicants had lied or disappeared before they could be tested!
The P-3 program aims to reunify families separated after resettlement, which has been considered a long-standing priority in U.S. refugee admission. Since 2003, the program has admitted roughly 36,000 relatives of African refugees, plus about 400 people from other countries, according to the State Department. The majority were from Somalia, Ethiopia and Liberia.
Admissions through the program were suspended last spring for applicants from a handful of East African countries after a pilot DNA testing program in Kenya found high rates of fraud.
A joint investigation by Homeland Security Department and State Department officials involving 500 P-3 cases found that 87 percent of applicants had either lied about a biological relative or failed to show up for an interview as word of DNA testing spread.
Family reunification suspended worldwide.
After the initial findings in Kenya, the DNA testing was expanded to other African countries that participated in the program and found varying rates of fraud, said Fred Lash, a State Department spokesman.
He said final results of the testing are not yet available, but the results were troubling enough that U.S. officials suspended the program throughout the world.
Admissions have dropped dramatically since the start of the fraud investigation — from 5,090 in 2007 to 1,540 in 2008. Since October, only 139 family members of refugees have arrived through the program.
DNA testing should be done on everyone—so-called “anchors” here and the applicants abroad!
Lash said the U.S. government plans to reinstate the program by the end of this year. He said it will require more stringent biometric checks in the future, most likely through DNA testing. The State Department and DHS have not said whether that testing would include “anchor” relatives in the U.S.