Update: I see that Christopher Coen at Friends of Refugees has also posted on this Idaho Statesman article, here.
That’s a question a Congolese refugee who is on the verge of being evicted from his apartment asks in the story in the Idaho Statesman on Sunday. (Hat tip to a reader who spotted it. ) Just now I see we have passed the 3000 posts mark since we began writing Refugee Resettlement Watch in July of 2007 and I will bet we have written hundreds of stories just like this one—refugees left in the lurch, fearing eviction and wondering why on earth the refugee program is run this way by agencies apparently unaccountable to anyone! [Emphasis RRW’s]
The Mpalirwa clan is one of many refugee families who fled trauma and war with hopes of building new lives in the U.S. But those dreams have come up against a bad economy that has left even longtime, middle-class Idahoans without jobs and homes.
Finding security is exponentially more difficult for refugees who don’t have the advantages of a familiar language, culture or family, and who must rely on a system that many refugees and their advocates say does not work and needs serious reform.
“I’ve had to wonder if we’re taking families out of unacceptable situations and putting them into poverty in the U.S.,” said Zoe Ann Olson, a lawyer with Idaho Legal Aid Services in Boise who has worked with 50 refugee families in the past year on the verge of losing jobs, homes and benefits.
Refugees also are required to repay their travel loans, an additional and daunting expense for the jobless. [Agencies that resettled them get a cut of the airfare money they collect—ed] Idaho will receive more than 1,100 refugees this year. Most will settle in Boise.
If his family can’t pay its rent for March and April, they’ll have to leave the apartment. Mpalirwa said he doesn’t know where they’ll go.
Until a couple of years ago, it was unheard of to see refugee families in Salvation Army shelters, said Amber Young, social services director for the Salvation Army. Since then, four or five families have come to the shelter seeking emergency lodging after losing their apartments. Many more have called to ask about getting help, she said.
Young credits “aggressive” work by Salvation Army staff to find low-income housing for refugee families when they’ve used up their maximum 90-day stay at the shelter.
“If they know there are no jobs, why do agencies bring refugees here?” Mpalirwa asked through interpreter Yves Ndayi.
Read the whole article to hear the litany of problems—the same problems we hear are happening in Fredericksburg, VA, Kansas City, Missouri, Manchester, NH, Greensboro, NC, Pittsburgh, PA, Bowling Green, KY, San Antonio, TX and the list goes on! (Search RRW for those cities and you will see what I mean.)
The federal refugee contractors working in Boise are the Agency for New Americans, International Rescue Committee and World Relief.
The refugees in this story place the blame for their unhappy situations squarely on the agencies that resettled them.
Ndayi, Mpalirwa and others are critical of resettlement agencies.
“Agencies take advantage of refugees,” Mpalirwa said. “They play with them until the money’s gone, and then they go away.”
An Iraqi refugee whose situation is now improving told the Statesman:
Ali regrets that her first encounter with the U.S. was through a resettlement agency.
I am sick to death of reading these articles where the story is always the same. Where is the oversight from the US State Department and the Office of Refugee Resettlement? Isn’t the definition of insanity when one does the same thing over and over again expecting a differant result?
My suggestion for reform continues to be—-get these middlemen contractors out of this program! Let the state governments run the refugee program. Those who criticize that suggestion don’t want more government, but with these contractors that apparently run the show we have a shadow government that is not accountable to anyone. At least if state governments were responsible there would be local political accountability and I doubt it would cost the taxpayers as much!
As for Mr. Mpalirwa’s original question. The only answer is that this is a Cloward-Piven strategy to overwhelm the welfare system and bring cities to a state of crisis which in turn drives citizens to demand the federal government step in. If you think that is a wild suggestion, then the only other explanations are that do-gooders are so self-absorbed and think it’s all about feeling good themselves that they can’t stop or the program is corrupt through and through. Pick one! Or, all three!
Note to Boise, Idaho: You can say NO to more refugees until the economy improves.
We have written a lot about trouble in Boise with refugees so just use our search function for those older posts. Type in ‘Boise.’