State of Minnesota wants more refugees; agencies will have to work harder

That’s what I take away from the article today at MinnPost.  Apparently most of Minnesota’s refugee resettlement has been through family reunification but that program is still suspended due to the discovery of widespread fraud more than a year ago.  If  Minnesota wants a lot more refugees, and according to this story they do, they need to take so-called “free cases” where refugees come with no support system.  No family connections means the federally contracted resettlement agencies have to work harder!

From the MinnPost today:

For many years, Minnesota’s refugee resettlement efforts have been synonymous with family reunification. Established Somali, east African and Hmong community members have sponsored family members to relocate here. Minnesota hasn’t been getting what are known as “free” cases, refugees who come to the United States on their own without a family member or relative to sponsor them.

That is changing. The State Department put a moratorium on most refugee-family-reunification requests more than a year ago, stemming from a fraud investigation in Africa. The moratorium has significantly slowed the number of refugee referrals to Minnesota. So, for the first time in years, Minnesota will start receiving free cases again. They will include more refugees from Burma and Bhutan, people who will have small support communities.

For readers in new resettlement cities, keep in mind that family reunification is how the refugee numbers will be built up in your locale.  The original families just apply to bring more family members and the resettlement agency gets paid by the feds to process their paperwork.   The first families serve as sponsors for new families and the agency still gets tax dollars and has less responsibility for their care.

Minnesota’s five refugee resettlement programs (see related material, at right) will have to gear up and start recruiting volunteers like they haven’t done in years. Rachele King, director of refuges services for the Minnesota Council of Churches,*said refugees arriving with no local family will need more direct support. They don’t have somebody who has been saving money for them for the past several years. They don’t have anybody who will help them register their kids in school or suggest the best place to buy groceries.

Generally Minnesota gets lots of refugees but this has been a slow year (due to that suspension of the fraudulent family reunification program).

From the 10 years between October 1998 and September 2008, Minnesota received 34,261 refugees, or on average more than 3,400 a year. The top three countries of origin are Somalia (14,363 or 42 percent of the total); Laos (5,228, or 15 percent); and Ethiopia (4,210 or 12 percent).

For the 10 months of the current federal fiscal year, Minnesota has received 719 refugees — on pace for fewer than 900 annually, well below the state average.

Although there is no sign the recession will end any time soon, that’s just fine for Minnesota officials who say—-we will take 2000 this next year!

Chuck Johnson, an assistant commissioner with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), said Minnesota has proposed accepting 2,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year. Half of those would be free individuals.

* See the Minnesota Council of Churches policy statement on immigration here.

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