Episcopal Migration Ministries lobbies for more money, forget meaningful reform

Episcopal Migration Ministries held its annual conference in Washington, DC recently so that they could lobby Congress for more money for the refugee program.  They call it “reforming” the program but I have doubts we will see any meaningful reform anytime soon—it’s all about the funding stupid.

Before I proceed with more of this recent news about the lobbying campaign, I remind readers that critics of the financially struggling Episcopal Church USA claim the church is staying afloat with the money it receives for refugee resettlement.  See a post here, in March, that is the second post we’ve written on the subject.  I don’t know if its true, but it warrants looking into.   The first reform we should be demanding is that the volags (supposedly voluntary agencies) undergo regular rigorous financial audits.  Readers are probably surprised to learn that there are no financial audits required at this time.

From Episcopal News Service:

The U.S. Department of State works with and funds 11 volunteer agencies — five of them faith-based, including EMM — and the State of Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services to resettle refugees in the United States. Each year, Congress and the president determine the number of refugees permitted to resettle in the U.S.; for 2010 they set the ceiling at 95,000.

What?  Where did we pick up an extra 15,000 refugees for FY2010?  The Presidential Determination letter for 2010 put the ceiling at 80,000 (the highest number since before 9/11)!   And, by the way, the State of Iowa has dropped out of the refugee program and a Kurdish volag has stepped in to bring refugees to your town (see links in this post).

Throughout the four-day conference, EMM offered training for its frontline staff, including job development in today’s economy and church co-sponsorship, and in areas specific to its partners, the Department of State and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric P. Schwartz gave the conference’s keynote address April 14 and praised EMM and its affiliates for their work.

“Your ministries and your network are important partners in refugee protection,” he said. “In the last fiscal year you resettled some 5,000 refugees through 31 affiliates in 21 states, which is a marked increase from previous years, and you are managing your network responsibly through opening offices in new locations, all during a very difficult economic period,” he said.

Schwartz also talked about the doubling of the reception and placement grant — $900 to $1,800 — passed by Congress for 2010. But, as important as the funding increase is in addressing refugees’ immediate needs — a roof, a clean bed and basic assistance — more still needs to be done for refugees. To that end, Schwartz said, it’s important for the State Department and resettlement partners to “stay the course.”

“The White House is leading a comprehensive effort to review the resettlement program and we will remain deeply engaged in this enterprise,” he said. “We will be working closely with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to secure additional job training, education, cash and medical assistance in the months that follow reception and placement.”

The White House reform is a joke!

There isn’t any real reform coming from the White House whose main mission is to make it easier for more refugees and asylees to get into the US (more voters!) and to redistribute wealth.   They don’t care about the biggest problem they have—too many refugees (immigrants) causing stress for communities and potentially social unrest (remember crisis brings change!) like the extreme kind in Los Angeles yesterday (here too) and resettlement agencies running amok mostly because they are overloaded and unmonitored and simply demanding more money, more money, more money!

Cities have reached their capacity to absorb more needy people and the powers that be have no way of knowing what that capacity is.  Rumors are circulating that some locations have told Schwartz’s shop in the State Department to stop sending refugees.  We know for sure that Fredericksburg, VA is one of those and San Antonio, TX  and Boise, ID officials were expressing the same concern just in the last few weeks.  How many more are there?

So how do the powers in Washington assess a community’s capacity to take in more refugees—they don’t, and they don’t have a clue how to go about it.  I do!

Reform suggestions from me

Regular readers know that this is a reform proposal I’ve been harping on for years.  We need social and economic impact studies done for each city or town that is, or is proposed to be, a resettlement city.   This federal study would be patterned after the Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) required by the National Environmental Policy Act which requires that when a major federal action is proposed for a location a public hearing is held and all pertinent information is reported to the public.  A finding is made as to whether the impact on the community is significant.  In the case of the EIS a determination might be made to not proceed with the project.

I envision a similar study for resettlement cities.   Economic factors such as job availability, housing, medical care, schools etc. would be incorporated in the study.  Public input would be obtained.  Contrary to the present view that resettlement should be done in secrecy so that citizens won’t be able to object, a full public debate on how many refugees will be brought to a community and from where they might originate will cause less social unrest then the sneaky strategy employed today.

I repeat:  if the State Department and the volags cannot sell the program to the community with all the facts on the table then maybe it’s not a good fit for the community!

The strategy employed obviously since the inception of the Refugee Act of 1980—keep pouring refugees into certain cities until people scream—stinks!    It’s not good for the refugees and it’s not good for social cohesion.

If at the conclusion of the initial Social and Economic Impact study it was determined how many refugees a city (town, county) could manage, only that number would be resettled.  After a given period of time —three years, five years(?)— a new study would be ordered that would determine whether the city had the capacity to continue at that level or be increased or decreased based on changing economic and social conditions.

And, of course, I continue to suggest we remove all the middlemen volags from the program—-it should be run through the State Department and each State’s refugee agency.  All the churches and other caring groups could provide true charity by giving their own time and private resources to the refugees.  They just would no longer handle the taxpayers’ money.