Update July 26th: Friends of Refugees has more commentary on this story, here.
Update July 25th: More from Ft. Wayne including shocking statistics about the number of refugees arriving there with TB, here.
Well finally someone in Congress has noticed. Senator Richard Lugar, the US Senator for Indiana, home to one of the most stressed refugee resettlement cities in the US—Ft. Wayne—has taken action with the release of a report this week and a request for a GAO investigation of the program!
From the Journal Gazette:
The federal government must do more to help communities like Fort Wayne that are home to thousands of refugee immigrants, according to a report released Wednesday by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
The report, given to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, cited Fort Wayne numerous times as an example of the challenges facing cities that receive large refugee populations. It said many refugees have no English knowledge, many are illiterate even in their native languages and many arrive with numerous health concerns – all of which put a financial burden on the new community.
“Staff found that resettlement efforts in some U.S. cities are underfunded, overstretched, and failing to meet the basic needs of the refugee populations they are currently asked to assist. Especially in a difficult economic climate, the current structure of the U.S. resettlement system is proving a strain on local resources and community relations,” Lugar wrote in the report.
For example, Lugar listed how local health officials in Allen County “stumbled upon” increased rates of hepatitis B among the Burmese refugee population. Treating the lifelong condition added further cost to the community, according to the report. [We told you about this and the TB rate in Ft. Wayne as early as 2007, here, in ‘Ft. Wayne freaking out!’]
Thank goodness someone in a position to do something has taken notice of the unfunded mandates the refugee program places on communities. Hopefully the answer from Washington won’t be, let’s just throw more taxpayer money at the problem. Maybe finally there will be a discussion about why we are importing poverty!
Toward the end of the Journal Gazette story, we see this interesting information, and something we have been wishing for too—a request for a GAO investigation.
“In the future, the administration may determine that an increase in Federal funding or decrease in refugee admissions is warranted. But the practice of passing the costs of resettling refugees on to local communities should not continue,” Lugar wrote. “The administration and Congress must ensure that the refugee resettlement system is properly structured so that it continues to be perceived as a benefit and not a burden.”
In addition to releasing the report, Lugar asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive review of the U.S. refugee resettlement system.
For Senator Lugar’s press release that includes a link to his report, go here.
We have written dozens and dozens of posts on Ft. Wayne and its refugee problems, use our search function for Ft. Wayne to learn more.
Note from Ann: I know I’m missing some really good stories and wish I could post more at RRW, but am really busy in Maryland for the election season, see for example, here.