The Haitians are coming! Catholics will bring the kids

Update January 19th: This is one of our earliest posts on the Haitian refugee issue, see our whole new category here with many more recent posts.

Last night I reported that tens of thousands of Haitians illegally in the US have won the lottery—with the earthquake wrecking havoc on Haiti, they have been granted Temporary Protected Status meaning they will stay here indefinitely.

Now comes news that we are going to bring thousands of Haitian refugees to Florida!

From The Orlando Sentinel:

American Red Cross officials Thursday said more than 4,000 Haitian refugees could be coming to Central Florida soon.

The report shows the organization plans to bring the Haitian refugees, as well as more than 45,000 U.S. nationals living in Haiti, to Jacksonville and then divide them among other Florida cities, including Tampa, Miami and Orlando.

Earlier today I heard a discussion on the Laura Ingraham show about lifting the lid on the refugee issue.  Laura was interviewing a former (I believe former) ambassador to Haiti who said if the Obama Administration gives the slightest sign of agreeing to take more Haitian refugees, he predicted “millions” would jump into the sea in an effort to get here.

Governor Crist, not closing the door on the idea of taking in Haitian refugees, said it depends on the feds.  I think that means he wants to know how much money the federal taxpayer will put in the kitty to care for the impoverished refugees.

… Gov. Charlie Crist added that any plan to shelter Haitian refugees and U.S. nationals living in Haiti in several locations throughout Florida will depend upon the federal government.

Meanwhile Catholic Charities says it will bring “orphaned” children.  Does that mean they will do this with private charity or with a per-head payment from the US State Department just as they do with their normal refugees?

Catholic Charities and other South Florida immigrant rights organizations also are planning an ambitious effort to airlift thousands of Haitian children left orphaned in the aftermath of Tuesday’s horrific earthquake — a move mirroring Operation Pedro Pan in the 1960s.

“We will use the model we used 40 years ago with Pedro Pan to bring these orphans to the United States to give them a lifeline, a bright and hopeful future,” Catholic Charities Legal Services executive director Randolph McGrorty said Thursday at a news conference in the offices of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balrart.

With all the chaos, isn’t anyone worried that they will scoop up children who do still have living relatives but might have only become separated during the turmoil?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for Catholic Charities to establish some decent orphanages in Haiti for a year or so and try to find families of the supposed “orphaned” children.

There is more:

Warning of a Haitian exodus, here.

Lewiston, ME: Somali woman with no driver’s license runs down student

Boy, this is one strange story.   Here is how it begins at the Sun Journal (hat tip: Susan):

LEWISTON — A teenager was struck by a car and the driver was arrested Thursday morning after an accident at the high school.

Police said Lewiston High School junior Kelsey Cope-Norris, 16, was struck by a car driven by Bilow Farah, 33, of Lewiston.

Thursday night, Cope-Norris was being treated at Central Maine Medical Center for broken bones and other injuries. She was listed in good condition.

It happened at about 7:30 a.m. Police said Cope-Norris was walking on a path between the school parking lot and an access road when a Mercedes Benz SUV driven by Farah veered onto the path. [How on earth does a refugee have a Mercedes?  Is she in the convenience store business, or perhaps home health care?]

Cope-Norris was knocked to the ground and Farah’s SUV plowed into seven other vehicles parked in the lot, police said.

Farah was treated at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and released. She was then arrested on charges of driving without a license and driving to endanger. She was booked at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn and released on bail later in the day.

Detective William Brochu found that Farah was driving with an expired permit and had been dropping her sons off at the school. She was arrested with bail conditions that she not drive until licensed. She is scheduled to appear in court in February. 

Witnesses said Farah may have become impatient with long lines of cars as people waited to drop off their children at the school. She tried to drive around the line, according to several witnesses, before striking Cope-Norris.

A commenter at another site (I’m told here, but am not seeing the comments) says she was there when the accident happened and this is her account—a different and more frightening version.   From ‘Nancy’:

“I think it is important to know what actually happenned. I was in line behind the SUV that hit this young lady. The driver had just dropped off 5 young men at the high school. The vehicle then sat there in the driving lane while cars backed up behind us. The driver then put on her blinker as if to make a U-turn which would have brought her right into the line of busses and/or other students arriving by private car. Again she sat there waiting. The driver then decided to blast through the snowbank to her right and careened down the walkway that students use. The driver never faltered and continued to accelerate. She impacted with the student, continued on into a parked car, pushed that vehicle aside, and kept going until she impacted and was stopped by several other parked cars. This was not an accident caused by someone who “lost control” as stated by Channel 8. This was done by someone who CHOSE to ignore all traffic laws and common sense, and in doing so, endangered the life of a student. Maybe the laws are different in Somalia, you are here now….follow ours.”

I don’t get it really, this is just one of many many stories we have had from around the country about Somalis driving recklessly and without proper driver’s licenses.  Does no one ever notice erratic driving (and report it) before one of these accidents occurs?

Finally the report at the Sun Journal adds a couple of nuggets of information that add some irony (humor!) to this story.

First, it seems that the girl who was injured and is reportedly (thankfully) doing well, organized a Lewiston High School “Diversity walk.”

Cope-Norris, an accomplished artist, was a nominee for the 2009 Lewiston Shining Star award. She was also one of the organizers of the LHS Walk for Diversity last April.

And, the woman charged had been featured as a successful Somali Bantu immigrant to Maine in a college report.

Farah has been featured in a series by Colby College in Waterville about Somali Bantus who immigrated to Maine from Africa.

Here is the website for the Colby College report. Taxpayers probably paid for this study and note there is a link for refugee rights and activism.  It is the same old gang!

We have written lots of posts about the on-going issues involving Somalis in Lewiston, ME.  This post from last November is a good summary of how Somalis came to be in Lewiston, the welfare magnet, Maine.  Use our search function to find the other posts.

UN releases odd report on Iraqi refugees

The UN this week released its  “Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees 2010.” The link is to the executive summary, where there is a link to the entire 99-page report (which I have not read).  Why do I call it odd? A few things:

1) The numbers given are an order of magnitude below the actual figures:

The number of registered refugees and asylum seekers has been roughly constant, with a slight decrease to 294,148 as of October 2009.

The usual number given is 2 million or so. The disparity is explained by the word “registered.” So the UN doesn’t deal with those who haven’t registered? That’s not the impression normally given. So the other numbers are also way off. But the report, or at least the executive summary, doesn’t mention this disparity.

 Though substantial numbers have been resettled – nearly 18,000 in 2008 and an equal number in the first nine months of 2009 – resettlement will, by its nature, be a solution only for a minority of refugees.

Glad they admit that. A couple of years  ago some reports gave the impression that all the Iraqi refugees needed to be resettled, preferably in the United States because it was our fault they were refugees.

2) The terrible problems previously reported in the countries where the refugees had gone seem to have disappeared, not only from the present but also from the past:

Governments in the region continue their generous tradition of hospitality, despite strains on national resources and infrastructure.

Maybe that’s Arab-speak. Arabs are said to be ultra-polite and roundabout in their way of speaking (unless they’re speaking about Jews, of course). Maybe it really means “Governments in the region have tried to get rid of these refugees but haven’t been able to so they’re accepting aid to help support them.” Actually, it has been a burden, and the refugees have remained, so they have been hospitable in their way. I’ve always wondered, though, why Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Arab countries don’t help support these poor people. However, there have been real changes:

Comparing the situation to that of two years ago, many gains are evident: Iraqis continue to have access to asylum and protection in their neighbouring countries; their risk of detention or deportation for illegal entry has been reduced; and the temporary residency of the majority is condoned in practice if not in law. In most though not all countries, Iraqi refugees have access to public services including education and health care. With donor support, targeted assistance – in the form of food, financial assistance, non-food items, school fees and payment for some medical care and psychological treatment – has provided an essential safety net for the most vulnerable individuals.

What about the future? As I said, the UN has given up on resettlement in third countries as the solution. But it doesn’t see them going home anytime soon.

Though substantial numbers have been resettled – nearly 18,000 in 2008 and an equal number in the first nine months of 2009 – resettlement will, by its nature, be a solution only for a minority of refugees. At the same time, conditions are not yet ripe for a voluntary and sustainable return to Iraq in large numbers. While security inside Iraq has been on a gradual path of improvement, it remains precarious and volatile. Because of this, as well as a deficit in public services and employment opportunities, fewer Iraqi refugees than expected have chosen voluntary repatriation in 2009: approximately 2,400 Iraqi refugees have returned with the assistance of UNHCR, including more than 1,000 who returned from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But there are more.

Many Iraqis who return to Iraq prefer not to seek assistance from UNHCR for their return (and deregister in their respective countries of asylum), in case they later need to again revive their asylum status. According to the UNHCR Representation and government sources inside Iraq, a total of 32,500 Iraqi refugees had returned in 2009, as of October

Actually we have no idea how many have returned. I’m sure many have gone home on their own and haven’t been tracked by the UN or the Iraqi government.

And conditions are not good in the countries where the refugees live, despite all the improvements the report notes.

As the majority remain in legal limbo in their countries of asylum, more and more have depleted their private resources and are dependent upon UN and NGO partners to meet their basic needs. What is more, protection risks due to this destitution are evident: school drop-outs, child labour and even early marriages as coping mechanisms, along with exploitation in the informal labour market and increases in domestic and sexual or gender-based violence.

So would it actually be worse to go back to Iraq? I’ve thought all along that there is pressure among some to keep the refugees out of Iraq just to show the world what terrible human damage President Bush caused. We don’t hear about that now; in fact, that’s no doubt the reason there’s been so little in the media about the Iraq refugees in the past year compared to previous years. It would be good for someone in our government to state unequivocally that our policy is to work with the Iraqi government to help all the refugees to return to decent conditions. That would be Hillary Clinton’s place, I believe, if President Obama thinks the issue beneath his notice.

And that’s the third thing I find odd about the  report. Okay, it’s not that odd considering it’s a UN report, but it’s odd if you’re an ordinary person reading it. It doesn’t emphasize returning the refugees home. And shouldn’t that be the goal?

See our category “Iraqi refugees” for all our posts on the subject.

Comments worth noting: resettlement agencies get cut of airfare loan repayments

Your tax dollars:

Here are a pair of comments that are worth highlighting because most people just learning about refugee resettlement don’t know that refugees receive loans for their airfare to the US and then must repay the loans.  All of the repayment does not go back to the taxpayer though; the refugee agency gets to keep a cut of the money they collect.   So every time you see a news story about the pittance the agencies get from the government remember there are myriad sources of other money they receive—grants and contracts for all sorts of programs and even a cut of the airfare loans.

I would like to find a government link that explains how this works, but haven’t been able to, so if someone knows of a State Department, International Organization for Migration, or Office of Refugee Resettlement official explanation, please send it.

In a public meeting in Hagerstown in September of 2007, a State Department representative told the audience that if the refugee agencies didn’t collect the loan money, they would have to hire a collection agency, so why not let the local resettlement agency get a piece of the pie (that’s me saying ‘piece of the pie’, not the State Department). 

The general taxpaying public is always interested to learn this information.

Here then are the two comments I want to highlight at the Houston story that are among those generating lots of discussion.

Nicolinahawaii said:

oh wow. I didn’t know they pocket 25% of the funds. Hmm.. that does change things.

Dar_Al-Harb responded:

Yes, and, as usual, it is even worse than that.

One example: The following letter is a recent attempt from the Controller’s Office of the Episcopal Church to collect on a $5,000 travel bill from a Somali Bantu family of 8, in the country for about a year. The father has a part-time, near minimum wage job and is the only family member with a job.

“The deferment granted to you expired…. However you did not resume payments as agreed. We, the travel loan staff, are dedicated to assist you as much as possible. In turn, we expect your honest cooperation… Unless we hear from you in the next 3 weeks, your account until now reported as ‘good’ will be reported as ‘delinquent’ to TransUnion, a national credit bureau. Your failure to contact us and honor your obligation will affect your credit rating. To protect your credit, please resume payments by sending regular and monthly installments…”

These threatening letters, in English with the heading “Protect Your Credit”, now arrive regularly from the Episcopal Church for this illiterate family—which prior to arrival in the U.S. may never have even seen a clock or operated a door knob, let alone worried about a credit rating.

To pick just one of the many ironies in this story:

First of all, Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), the contracting arm of the church, is part of a lobbying consortium which lobbies (from offices partly paid for by the US taxpayer) for enforcement of Executive Order 13166, requiring all federally funded services to be provided in the language of the service recipient.

Secondly, The U.S. government pays EMM to translate its brochures into the Bantu’s language.

Therefore, the Episcopal Church’s English-only dunning letters may be in violation of civil rights law, not to speak of human decency and common sense. And, of course, hypocritical.

Note that the Episcopal Church is dunning these refugees for its own benefit. If the refugees pay, the Church gets its cut. If they do not pay, the taxpayer gets to eat the whole bill.

Readers may be interested in this post last week about the Episcopal church having money problems and an investigator suggesting they are using refugee funds to stay in the black.