Update November 2nd: Bowling Green overloaded, refugees to go to Owensboro, here.
When I first saw this article yesterday from “welcoming” Bowling Green, I assumed I would be writing another of those puffy ‘refugees see first snow’ stories. That’s what I call the template story that always begins with a recitation of the terrible circumstances refugees found themselves in that resulted in their resettlement to America where they struggle to survive with little federal money, but with the miracle of seeing their first snow comes hope for the future. I swear it makes me wonder if there are actually professors that teach this style of writing in journalism school.
I started a little research and found there is much much more to whatever is going on in Bowling Green (a preferred community!) with one resettlement agency in particular.
So, here is the ‘snow’ story, sans snow, with some bits I wanted to mention before getting to other puzzling aspects that turned up in my research.
The article begins with the usual very sad story of how rough the Zaw family had it in Burma. Now the Zaws are settled in Bowling Green where both college-educated parents can’t find work other than Mr. Zaw’s job in a chicken processing plant. I’ve followed so many of these stories that I can almost bet there is a chicken or meat packing facility somewhere near where the federally contracted resettlement agency has placed new refugees who must work or be kicked out of apartments—some within 3 months of arriving.
We learn that more than 15 years ago the city of Bowling Green was flooded with 3000 Bosnians. Funny, what a coincidence that’s about the same time the meatpackers of Iowa were rewarded with Bosnian labor by the Clinton Administration! I swear the head honcho do-gooders are really head hunters for big business!
Back to the Zaw family’s resettlement with the Bowling Green International Center:
Speaking of the Burmese, Tatyana Sahanic, the center’s refugee program director who happens to be Bosnian, says:
“There is the perception that this group is more foreign than the Bosnians,” she said. “They look different and many have lived in the jungle without electricity or running water so they have to learn very basic tasks like using a microwave or washing machine.”
Read on, there are lots of column inches devoted to how little they get from the resettlement agency and the federal government and on top of that they need to pay back their airfare (this article does not tell you that Ms. Sahanic’s agency will be getting a cut of anything they can collect from the refugee for the family’s airfare bill).
Many arrive with only a plastic bag filled with their belongings, and an IOU for the U.S. government for thousands of dollars for their plane fare. That amount can often range from $3,000 to $9,000, depending on the number of family members in the group. The refugees have three years to pay the money back before they are subject to negative credit, regardless of their economic situation, Sahanic said.
The caption under the photo tells us that Ms. Shanic’s agency, the Bowling Green International Center, may not be fulfilling its contract with the State Department. Refugees are supposed to be supplied with basic furniture and clothes. BTW, clothes are cheap, just stop by any local yard sale and you will know what I mean.
The Zaw family, Kaung (from left), 1-month-old Hay man, mother Yi mon and 4-year-old Hein Htet, are Burmese refugees who have been in Bowling Green for three months. Their apartment is almost bare with no personal effects adorning the walls and very little furniture. They are concerned about the upcoming winter and have few clothes and amenities.
How many Burmese are being resettled in Bowling Green? Who knows because the article gives us two different numbers.
805 other Burmese refugees who have been resettled through the Bowling Green International Center since 2004.
About 500 resettled Burmese refugees have made their home in Bowling Green.
Of course the explanation for the discrepancy may be that 305 Burmese moved on shortly after resettlement by the Bowling Green International Center.
And, before I get on to who is the Bowling Green International Center, this little line was curious. Why on earth would an Al Jazeera reporter be interested in a presumably Karen family?
The Zaws received special assistance from a journalist who worked with Al Jazeera.
What is the Bowling Green International Center? Who are they? Who are they affiliated with?
I thought this would be simple, that I would just look up BGIC and find a website, but no such luck. I soon found out they have two names—why? Who knows! According to The Idealist.org.
The mission of the International Center (Western Kentucky Refugee Mutual Assistance Association, Inc.) is to serve the area’s foreign-born by advocating for their rights, facilitating economic self-sufficiency, empowering communities, and supporting cultural integrity and family solidarity while assisting them to assimilate and contribute to their new country. We specialize in advocacy and services to the foreign born and serve refugees, asylees, and immigrants. We are a partner agency of U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)in the resettlement of refugees and asylees.
Affiliate of USCRI, the plot thickens. Learn all about how USCRI itself has changed its name, here. O.K. so since I couldn’t find a website for BGIC, I went to USCRI affiliates page and yup, there it is listed as the Western Kentucky Refugee Mutual Assistance Association, Inc. There is a link for a website which no longer works, why?
Checking on the Form 990’s
My next stop was BGIC’s Form 990’s, but when there were none I immediately figured of course they would be listed under the Western Kentucky name. Sure enough, here is their 2008 Form 990. Check it out! In that fiscal year (July 07 to June 08) they received $796,907 from government grants (that’s you!) in a total income of $1,001,667. That’s 80% of its funds from taxpayers.
Scroll all the way to the end of the return and note that they claim to have filed requests for extensions of time to file because some third party information was not available. By the way, when I look at these Form 990’s virtually everyone of these resettlement agencies files for extensions and virtually never has their Form 990 in on time, so that is no surprise. This agency claims they couldn’t find the letters from the IRS allowing two time extensions—-great bookkeeping!
Political advocacy on your dime and how conservatives are outspent!
Now, have a look at this Form 990 for 2006 where 87% of this group (whatever its name is) was funded by taxpayers. Yet, here they are involved in lobbying for an Amnesty for illegal aliens bill before Congress that year!
What gives here? Why does USCRI use this group’s name interchangeably? Is it to confuse the public? And, most importantly how is it possible that this group that gets as much as 87% of it’s funding from taxpayers to care for refugees is busy advocating and lobbying for legislation before Congress?
Hundreds of people from all walks of life gathered Sunday afternoon in front of the Warren County Justice Center on Center Street to show their support for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s recently penned compromise bill that would neither make undocumented immigration a felony nor send home the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in America.
Carrying signs that read, “We love the USA,” “The USA was built by immigrants,” and “No man is illegal,” the group cheered and applauded as local religious leaders and human rights advocates spoke on a makeshift stage decorated with red, white and blue balloons.
The legislation in question is an immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate, which would give legal status to illegal immigrants already in the country, while tightening border controls and implementing a guest worker program supported by labor. The original version of the bill, passed by the House of Representatives, would make undocumented immigrants living in the United States guilty of a felony.
The International Center supports the Senate’s reform bill, said Executive Director Marty Deputy, who helped organize the rally.
I think they all went to the ACORN school of community organizing that goes something like this: obtain federal grant money for humanitarian purposes (wealth redistribution), set up many groups so the public stays confused, and then use other people’s tax money for leftwing political advocacy.
Meanwhile refugees like the Zaw family don’t have enough clothes as winter approaches.
For more information use our search function for Bowling Green. We have several not so happy stories from that “welcoming” city.