….. to establish a new resettlement hub!
It basically works this way: refugee agency wears out its welcome somewhere nearby (no more jobs or housing, or the public gets overwhelmed with the refugee overload of social or education services), then they quietly scout out another site and set up an office before the public fully understands what is happening (and usually with the help of local publications or media which help soften the message to the community. (Gee, sounds like Hagerstown, MD in 2007!*)
Below is a story (part of a long story) about Church World Service (one of the top 11 federal contractors) targeting State College, PA (I wonder if there are any meatpacking or warehouse jobs nearby?).
As I said, this is a long article in Voices of Central Pennsylvania but I laughed to see that the most provocative information is near the end, and I especially liked this comment from an unnamed commenter to a local paper. This is exactly how the majority of people in small town America feel about the refugee program (once they learn it is happening to them).
“Why couldn’t this Church World Service do something like this for a struggling American family?” asked one respondent to a Centre Daily Times article about the arrival of the Alshekhkders. [Iraqi family that just arrived]. “If they already do help American families, why not help more American families, until no more American families need help? When we get to that point, then they can go looking for publicity with a foreign family.” [Because they are not paid by us to do that, there are NO big bucks and federal grants involved when caring for Americans!—ed]
Church World Service picked Iraqi Muslims for State College—figuring that would be the best fit! They plan to resettle about 100 there this year.
Jones [Phil Jones, the newly-hired Director of the CWS refugee resettlement office of State College] began preparing for the arrival of refugees in February. One of his first tasks was to determine which refugees the State College community could best accommodate.
“The three main needs now [in terms of refugee relocation] are for Bhutanese, Burmese and Iraqis,” said Jones. “There’s a fairly significant Arabic-speaking population here, there’s a mosque here, there’s both Sunni and Shiite populations, and … Arabic language support, so it made sense that [Iraqis] would be the easiest population to start out with.”
Church World Service’s main office in New York told Jones that 50 Iraqi individuals, mostly young families, would arrive in July. According to Jones, the first family scheduled to come to State College in July was expecting a child in September. They had hoped to arrive before giving birth.
However, after this family and several others had passed all the necessary clearances and were ready to schedule their flights, the Dept. of Homeland Security added an additional security check which delayed their arrival indefinitely. That security check was a response to an incident in Tennessee [I think they mean the Iraqi refugees arrested in Kentucky on terrorism charges relating to sending bomb-making material to Iraq—ed] in which two Iraqi refugees were arrested for raising funds for Al Qaeda.
One group that plans to play an active role in supporting Iraqi refugees is the Islamic Society of Central Pennsylvania. Along with assisting in translation, members plan to help the refugees with many of the daily needs that arise as families learn how to navigate a new culture. [Church World Service got the Islamic Society of Western MD involved in the Hagerstown resettlement, but something went awry and they weren’t much help.—ed]
Another organization that will play a large role in helping refugees transition to State College life is Global Connections, a local nonprofit housed on Penn State’s campus that works to foster cultural understanding and exchange.
Some in the community are not happy, but this publication tells us that only after we have waded through many column inches of gushy stuff.
Some community members have expressed concerns regarding the arrival of the refugees, predominantly due to the lack of affordable housing in Centre County and the competition for jobs.
In response to a Centre Daily Times article in January on CWS’s refugee office opening in State College, one poster wrote, “I appreciate what might be commendable efforts to help people in need, but this will make the problem of providing low cost housing to OUR own people more difficult. While the cultural environment of the Centre Region is attractive, the cost of living may be out of reach for these folks.”
Colby Woodring, Centre County Housing Case Manager, echoed the concern about finding suitable housing for the refugees.
“I imagine it could be just as difficult for the families CWS is helping relocate to find affordable permanent housing as anyone else in Centre County,”she said. “[However] it is helpful when those in need of housing assistance have support. I think it’s wonderful that CWS can offer that support for the refugee families needing assistance.” [They only help until their federal money runs out, then it’s up to the local community to find affordable housing for the refugees—ed].
Other residents have publically voiced worries about the pressures refugee families will place on social service agencies.
* CWS is gone from Hagerstown now and it’s a good thing because Washington Co., MD has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.