Guest column: 2010 New Years Day – Bowling Green Police Department assists refugees neglected by the International Center

This is an article written for RRW by Cindy Florez about her experiences with refugees and a resettlement agency in Bowling Green, KY and her battle to help the refugees.  We first heard from Ms. Florez here in early November when the plight of the Karenni refugees in Kentucky first came to her attention.

I would like to add a bit of additional information to the story about the Bowling Green Police Department‘s (BGPD) New Years Day donation of over 150 coats to the Karenni refugees from Burma. First I would like to thank the BGPD for their generous spirits and kind hearts. The BGPD deserves a Gold Medal for what they did. Their compassion will long be remembered by the refugees, and has acted as a counterweight to the fear that the refugees felt due to the International Center’s actions. To be clear, the BGPD stepped in to provide these minimum required items when the International Center, which was paid to do so, would not.

Secondly, a bit of background information about how I became involved with these refugees. During trips to Thailand since 2003 I lived with these people on and off for a week at a time in refugee Camp 3 in Thailand outside Mae Hong Son on the Burma border. I saw the suffering they endured from the Burmese & Thailand Army and I came home filled with sorrow and love for the Karenni refugees. When the refugees were resettled to Bowling Green I began to visit them there and monitor their progress under the auspices of the International Center (IC), also known as the Western Kentucky Mutual Assistance Association, an affiliate of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). Unfortunately and to my astonishment, as I wrote in earlier comments here, I observed that the refugees were placed in deplorable living conditions and have been ill-treated by the IC, its caseworkers, and affiliated landlords.

On Friday, December 18, 2009 I made another road trip to visit the refugees, my car filled with donations, since the refugees continue to lack so many of the basics. When I arrived at the Lover‘s Lane Apartments the owner Noy Oulay asked who I was. When I told him my name he immediately responded, “You are evicted from this property!” I asked, “Evicted?, I don’t even live here.He told me to leave immediately or he would call the BGPD. I told him I would help him out and call the BGPD myself. In the meantime I could hear him ten feet away calling the International Center. Why would he need to call the International Center?

Nonetheless, the BGPD came and the officer said I was banned from the property. I asked, “Banned?” “How can I be banned when the tenants who have leases want me here?” The officer saw that my car was fully loaded with gifts and said I had 30 minutes to unload and then leave. She said that if I returned to the property again I would be arrested for trespassing. The refugees watched all of this with fear and trepidation. Before one of my previous trips to visit them on Friday, November 13, 2009 two IC Caseworkers knocked on the refugees’ doors and warned them not to speak to me or let me into their apartments. So, as we were unloading my car I told them not to worry about me, that everything would be okay.

My only conclusion as to why I was banned from the apartment complex is that the IC and it’s landlord friend wanted to isolate the refugees from me. There was obvious heavy communication going on between the landlord and the IC. I, of course, come to Bowling Green simply to assist the refugees. I bring them basic necessities. I take photos of the filthy slum apartments in which they have been placed by IC, and for which they have to pay over $500 a month. I take photos of what basics they have and are lacking. I take statements from them. Many of the refugees have told me that after they first arrived that there has been no food in their apartments for up to 17 days! They lack appropriate winter clothing, eating utensils & dishes, towels, and furniture. One refugee family with two small children had just 2 coffee cups, 1 plate, and 2 spoons, and they had been here for over three weeks. They didn’t have any furniture in their apartment! Many of the refugees who have been here less than 8 months have been rejected for Medicaid, even though funds are provided to Kentucky for Medicaid for all refugees for their first eight months!

Anyway, first thing on Monday, December 21, 2009, I faxed both the BGPD and the Attorney General of Kentucky regarding the Friday incident and pointed out that only the tenants had the legal authority to determine who they wished to welcome as guests in their apartment homes. The refugees that live at Lovers Lane Apartments also signed the letter saying I was welcome. The BGPD then called me and apologized and lifted the ban. I replied back with a thank you and told the BGPD about how these refugees have been neglected and were in desperate need of a variety of basic necessities, including winter coats, hats and gloves, which the International Center has not been providing. The following day I then received a call from the BGPD saying that they had a few coats that were leftover from a previous coat drive during Thanksgiving, and that they would see what else they could to donate more.

On New Years Day three officers showed up at the Lovers Lane Apartments and handed out over 150 winter coats to the refugees, who were absolutely delighted. The refugees who were previously frightened by the police support of the hostile landlord and the IC are now feeling a friendship with and trust of the police.

By the way, during this visit by the police an IC caseworker was there. Why would an IC caseworker be working on New Years Day? The refugees told me they had so much they wanted to tell the officers about what has been happening and how they have been treated but could not since the IC worker was there. They were so disappointed. They asked me why the caseworker, Tin Zar, was there when the IC was not involved in this event. This was a gift from the BGPD, not from the IC. Did the IC show up on New Year’s Day to monitor the refugees into silence? The IC uses Burman (Burmese majority ethnic group) caseworkers who the Karenni refugees say are abusive and who they are frightened of. The Burman are from the ethnic group that controls the despotic government of Burma.

The refugees also told me that they had only seen their caseworkers, Hein That and Tin Zar, at the Lovers Lane Apartments one time before the coat giveaway on New Years Day.   That was when they came on November 13th and told refugees not to talk to me or allow me into the apartments.

The incident has been a positive step forward for these refugees. Many of the refugees have been talking of fleeing to another state due to the lack of basic necessities, Medicaid, transportation, etc. I am trying to get them stay for at least their first eight months so they do not have any disruption in the little assistance they are getting. I have to say that this whole series of experiences has been a real eye opener for me. I never knew that refugees were treated so badly once they arrived in this country. I am amazed at the negligence and unethical actions that I have seen by the resettlement agency in this case. Nevertheless, the latest incident seems to have re-instilled hope in these refugees in Bowling Green.

Three Somalis murdered by cold-blooded killers in Minneapolis this week

Update September 12, 2011:  Trial opens today for one of the suspects, here.

Update January 16th:  Somali teens arrested in the case appear in court, here.

Update January 10th:  First arrest made in the murder here.

Update January 9th:  Vigil held, victim’s sister says they will get the murderers, here.

Several people sent me this story yesterday about another what is believed to be Somali on Somali crime in Minnesota where multiculturalism strengthens communities (yes, that is what we are told, so it must be so!).  I didn’t get around to posting it yesterday, now I’m behind on the story, so, readers, let me know if there is an update today.

Police continue to search for at least two suspects — Police Chief Tim Dolan called them “cold-blooded killers” — in Wednesday night’s shootings of three men at a south Minneapolis grocery store.

At a Thursday morning news conference, Dolan called the suspects dangerous and urged anyone with information about the killings at Seward Market and Halal Meats to come forward.

Police said they don’t know the motive behind the killings but believe it was an apparent failed robbery at a south Minneapolis market.

And, look who we have spinning the news again, why it’s Omar Jamal (who else!).  We first encountered Jamal making sure the media got the right angle two years ago and I’ve called him the Somali Jesse Jackson in the past.  Use our search function for ‘Omar Jamal’ and you will see what I mean!   And, heck, he was supposed to be working at the UN by now, what’s up with that?

“This is very, very tragic, and beyond my comprehension that there’s this level of violence in the community,” said Omar Jamal, a community activist who has overseen the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul.

“We don’t know what to make out of it,” he said. “Somehow, if it involved gangs, then people could somewhat understand this. But it now looks like … law-abiding Somali citizens are falling victim to this violence. … Makes me feel like no one is safe out there. … This is completely out of character for the community.”

Violence followed us to America!

As word of the shooting spread, Bihi said a woman called him to express sorrow.

“She said it’s unfortunate that we fled from violence and here we are trying to make our dreams come true. And then the violence follows us here.”

Note there is no clarification of what she is talking about.  They are always the victims and making it sound like somehow it’s America’s fault (maybe the reporter is doing that).  But, she must be referring to clan violence and warfare that we have brought to America right along with the tens of  thousands of Somali refugees the State Department has invited.*

Our friend Jerry Gordon at New English Review addresses that possibility here at his post on this case this morning.

*For new readers :

The US State Department has admitted over 80,000 Somali refugees to the US (this linked post continues to be one of the most widely read posts we have ever written) in the last 25 years and then last year had to suspend family reunification because widespread immigration fraud was revealed through DNA testing.  That specific program has not yet been reopened (that we know of), but will be soon.  Nevertheless, thousands of Somali Muslims continue to be resettled as I write this.

Clarification on the refugee angle involving Nigerian underwear bomber

I don’t have a specific article about it at the moment, but it’s been all over the news since the Christmas Day failed attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian, to blow up an American airliner over Detroit.   Witnesses in Amsterdam claim that the perp had no passport, but an “Indian” man told authorities that Abdulmutallab was a “Sudanese refugee” and that “we do this all the time” (presumably he meant that refugees travel with no passport).

Could one of our knowledgeable readers clarify this.  Even if refugees have no passport surely they travel with other official documentation—right?

If you don’t wish to comment at this post, e-mail me privately at


Sydney, Australia: Police not happy accused Iraqi refugee rapist released

In one more case of folks in Australia being challenged by the diversity-is-beautiful mythology, an Iraqi refugee charged with an alleged rape, and new to Australia, was released on bail despite pleas by the victim that she feared for her safety.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

An Iraqi refugee accused of dragging a woman from a Brisbane park into his house and raping her twice has been released from custody.

The 50-year-old Stafford man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, faced Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday charged with two counts of rape and one of deprivation of liberty.

The court heard an Indonesian woman had complained that the man had grabbed her on Tuesday afternoon from Stafford’s Gibson Park where she was sitting on a bench, talking on her phone.

He then allegedly took her through the park, through his back yard and into a bedroom where he sexually assaulted her.

The court heard the woman complained to police on leaving the house, later pointing out the address to officers and describing a computer in the bedroom where officers found the accused.

Police opposed the granting of bail too.

Police prosecutor Constable Sam Bopf, who opposed bail, highlighted the random nature of the attack.

She said a neighbour had reportedly seen the man approach other women in the park and police feared he would reoffend.

The complainant was terrified of her alleged attacker and there was a risk he would approach her if he was let out of custody because they lived in the same area, she said.

She also noted the accused had been in Australia just five or six months, was unemployed, spoke no English and had no strong ties to the community, making him a flight risk.

What is the deal with this last part?  We keep hearing that Australia’s refugee resettlement program is supposed to be a superior one—then why is this guy basically just hanging around parks?

Are taxpayer dollars (for refugees!) keeping the Episcopal Church USA afloat?

Your tax dollars

Here is an article yesterday on a site called Virtueonline that was brought to my attention by a reader.   The author of the article, Allan S. Haley, charges that the federal dollars for refugee resettlement at EMM (Episcopal Migration Ministries) keep the books for ECUSA in the black.   And, this is my big question, with refugees suffering throughout the US, how is it that EMM has a surplus of federal dollars?

The latest budgetary statement available from the ECUSA finance site is the (as yet unaudited) report for November 2009. With eleven-twelfths of the year’s income and expenses booked, the picture of ECUSA’s finances is becoming clear. ECUSA is no longer fulfilling its mission as a church. Its mission operations have been scaled back severely. The greatly reduced expenses help keep ECUSA’s deficit from being so large — and they help bury the unbudgeted drain caused by 815’s subsidies to the dioceses engaged in litigation over property. Meanwhile, ECUSA is able to show an operating “surplus” in part because — are you surprised? — its revenues from the Government are up.

ECUSA? Getting federal money? Yes — the Government is the second largest source of ECUSA revenues, after diocesan contributions, and is now even greater than ECUSA’s income from investments. They are called “EMM Revenues,” for “Episcopal Migration Ministries.” Essentially, the Government pays ECUSA to assist in finding homes for refugee families. ECUSA is one of ten* official “resettlement agencies” recognized by the federal Government, and accounts for settling between 2500 to 3500 individuals per year via a network of thirty offices in twenty-six of the 96 domestic dioceses.

The EMM operations for 2009 have helped keep ECUSA in the black (on paper, at least). Here are the year-to-date figures through November 2009:

EMM Revenues (Govmt.) $ 8,843,729
EMM Revenues (Non-govt.) + 517,852 Total, all
EMM Revenues $ 9,361,581

EMM Expenses (all depts) – 9,022,731

Operating Surplus $ 338,850

These actual figures may be compared with the budgeted amounts:

EMM Revenues (Govmt.) $ 8,238,420
EMM Revenues (Non-govt.) + 385,917 Total, all
EMM Revenues $ 8,624,337

EMM Expenses (all depts) – 8,374,545

Budgeted Surplus $ 249,792

Read on, the author explains more about the creative bookkeeping at ECUSA.  And, by the way, readers should know that the federal government does not do financial audits of refugee resettlement agencies, they do instead program audits.  Those are audits that only address whether the agency is getting refugees jobs etc. in a timely fashion.

Is there an EMM affiliate near you?  Are they doing a good job with their refugee caseloads?  Here are the affiliates.  Note that you wouldn’t know by their names that they are getting their funding as pass through money from EMM.  Some have “Lutheran” in their title so one would think their money would be coming through the major Lutheran volag (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services), and I note our friends at the Virginia Council of Churches are also an affiliate of EMM.  But, they are an affiliate of Church World Service too!  Can you see how complicated it would be to audit where your tax dollars are going!

Also, while you are at the EMM site, note the advocacy page, they are busy advocating for more refugees which in turn keeps the federal funding spigot open.  I sure hope they aren’t using tax dollars for support of amnesty legislation!

Here is the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s annual report to Congress for FY 2007, you can learn more about EMM in Appendix C-2.   Note that their affiliates resettled 2,296 refugees in that fiscal year.

Here are the top ten resettlement agencies.  I have never been able to get financial figures from USA on EMM.  Checking guidestar there is no Form 990 for EMM instead it appears each of their affiliates is listed separately and some of those do not file Form 990’s (presumably claiming they are ‘churches’ and don’t have to file them).