Don Barnett, an expert and longtime critical observer of the US refugee program, writing yesterday at the Center for Immigration Studies, wonders whether any of the so-called reviews of the program will improve conditions for refugees or for the communities in which they are placed. Or (in my words) is it just one more federal boondoggle with no hope of reform?
A non-profit nation of hundreds of taxpayer funded 501(c)(3)s has grown up around refugee resettlement in the U.S. A recent government-sponsored study finds “U.S. resettlement communities are awash with ECBOs that exist in name only but provide little meaningful assistance.” (“Practitioner Lessons from Ethnic Community Self-Help Programs,” ISED Solutions, August 2009) Some of the ECBOs (Ethnic Community Based Organizations) apparently exist only to bring in grants and contracts for themselves.
But this will not be mentioned in the flurry of meetings, memoranda, and recommendations around an initiative to “help restore the capacity of the US Refugee Program to serve increased numbers of refugees with increasingly diverse needs, without overwhelming the resources of local receiving communities.” (The quote is from a memo to Scott Busby, Director for Human Rights for the national Security Council, from State Coordinators of Refugee Resettlement, August 26, 2009.)
The initiative, a review of refugee resettlement, involves the 10 refugee contractors such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB ), the departments of HHS, State, and Homeland Security, as well as the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC), the National Security Council (NSC), and the OMB. The UNHCR is also making its recommendations. In recent years up to 95 percent of the refugees coming to the U.S. were referred by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or were the relatives of UN-picked refugees. Until the late 90s the U.S. picked the large majority of refugees for resettlement in the U.S.
The transformation of the original civic organization- and religion-based refugee resettlement program into a fraud-prone federal contracting business has given birth to a global refugee industry and set off wildly escalating expectations around the world about opportunities for coming to America, bringing in its train more legal and illegal immigration. With much of the program looking like ACORN globalized, its intrusion in cities around the U.S. is raising its profile to the point where it can no longer be ignored.
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