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.

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