I first told you about this two days ago—the International Rescue Committee has announced it will close its Boston office because they don’t have enough money in their $200 million plus annual income to take care of refugees there after 3 decades of doing so. From the Boston Business Journal:
IRC officials said their work in Boston was crippled by a combination of factors: the area’s high cost of housing, federal funding limits set too low to make ends meet, fewer refugees assigned to start their lives in Boston and dwindling philanthropic support. Headquartered in New York, IRC will continue its refugee resettlement programs in other cities across the country.
While federal funding comprises the lion’s share of the IRC’s budget, private contributions make up the difference and those plummeted over the past six years in Boston, dropping to approximately $25,000 in 2008 from $207,000 in 2003.
Although they are supposed to be public-private partnerships, these corporate humanitarian organizations, like the IRC, have become almost completely dependent on taxpayer funding to resettle refugees. This reference above to fewer refugees being assigned to Boston means that since these agencies are paid by the head (by you!), their coffers are diminished when each has less refugees to resettle. On top of that, it is human nature that when people realize the government is the charity, then there is less private charity given.
What? Housing costs are through the roof in the Socialist Republic of Massachusetts! Senator Ted, send them to Hyannisport, Kennedy can’t afford to keep refugees in his state! I wonder how many refugees Kennedy could care for with his personal wealth? Or, how about Rep. Barney, the housing king, Frank, no room at his home either?
The closure of the IRC is starkly symbolic of Boston’s struggle to maintain a strong refugee population while balancing housing costs that remain among the highest in the country despite the spiraling economy.
And here it is, an unbelievable revelation that the presence of refugees have a political impact. This can’t be, I thought this was all about helping the downtrodden.
The factors leading to the IRC’s decision to leave Boston are perhaps more significant even than the closure itself. With a steady decline in the number of refugees resettling in Boston there is a potential corresponding decline in population statewide [What, a decline in Democratic voters?], a number factored into decisions about the composition and size of Massachusetts’ Congressional delegation and certain types of federal funding.
And again, for all of you wondering how refugees come to live in your city, it is just as I said on previous occasions, these corporate humanitarian organizations decide if and when your city is “welcoming.” The State Department only jumps in when problems arise, otherwise completely unaccountable NGO’s are choosing your community for resettling refugees.
Where to resettle refugees, one city or state versus another, is a decision that rests at the federal level, reviewed weekly by the U.S. State Department and a group of national aid organization that provide services for refugees. These national organizations, in turn, assign cases to local affiliates based on several factors, including housing cost and employment. The IRC, for example, assigned refugee cases to its Boston-based office, while the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops assigns cases to Catholic Charities in Boston.
Based on this information, Catholic Charities might soon have to cut its refugee resettlement program.
As the IRC closure demonstrates, Boston has lost its appeal in recent years, most acutely since 9/11 [what the heck does 9/11 have to do with Boston’s appeal to refugees?] and particularly for refugees who have no relatives in the area. Catholic Charities managed 450 refugee resettlement cases at a time in Boston during the 1990s; today, its caseload is 127, said Marjean Perhot, the operation’s director of refugee and immigration services.
Boston, don’t give up yet! More refugees may still come your way if your state refugee coordinator* has his way. Afterall, he needs to assure refugees keep coming because the feds (the federal taxpayers) pay for his office too!
Chacon (Richard Chacon, executive director of the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants) said he is lobbying hard on the national level to keep refugees coming to Boston, and said he hopes to see the IRC return to the city someday.
* Contact information for Mr. Chacon and all other state coordinators can be found here. See Massachusetts and note how much federal money Mr. Chacon’s office receives. Scroll up or down for your state.