Church World Service sets its sites on State College, PA….

….. 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.

Comment worth noting: Olive Branch we differ over who pays

Here is a rare comment—someone who supports refugee resettlement and thanks us for raising the issues we raise here.  That is refreshing.  Usually we are told we are racists and xenophobes for even talking about it.  Thank you Olive Branch for being willing to discuss what really is a difference in how we view the US government’s role in bringing more people to the US and then expecting citizens to pay for their resettlement through their tax dollars.  Ms. Branch was responding to this post.

Here is Olive Branch (my comments are in red, and I could have gone on and on, but I have more posts to write and one is about Church World Service):

Thanks for writing this blog – I think it’s really healthy to have this debate. [Thank you! for not going on the you-are- a-racist attack!—ed] I spent the last 2 years living in a Burmese refugee camp preparing Burmese for resettlement or integration into Thai society. Before that, I spent about 5 years working for 2 VOLAGS (LIRS and CWS*). Because of that experience, I do not think it is fair to place all the blame for what you see as poor living conditions or lack of integration of refugees in US cities on the resettlement agencies.

The majority of VOLAG employees DO have good intentions and most of the individual agencies are faith-based. [I am all for private good intentions, but since when do faith-based agencies get to use other peoples money against their wills to do their good works?—ed]  They really do believe they are doing the work of “welcoming the stranger.” However, they become yet another cog in the wheel of our inept and inefficient government [Then I say do the work without the government, you can’t have it both ways—taking government money then complaining about government inefficiency–ed], and many staff members are too over-worked and under-paid to do everything they would like to do to help new arrivals [then get more volunteers, if you can’t find enough, slow the flow of refugees–ed]. For example, in my first month as a Case Manager, I was assigned 76 individual new arrivals. That means that in a month, there were 76 people that needed to be picked up at the airport, moved into their apartments, given cultural and agency orientations, taken to get shots, health screenings, dental screenings, and eye check-ups, as well as taken to the clothing bank for clothes, to the welfare office for food stamps and medical benefits, to the food bank for boxes of food, to the SSA for their social security cards. About 50 of them were children who had to be enrolled in school and taken to get backpacks, underwear, shoes, and all the other things they were lacking. The 20+ adults had to be taken for enrollment in our jobs program and Match Grant. These cases were my responsibility alone – racing around town in my agency minivan like a mad woman.

However, I soon realized that I was doing more than was required of me. You see, if you read the Reception & Placement contract that VOLAGS sign with ORR, they are not contracted to “take care” of refugees. They are contracted ONLY to connect refugees to resources in the communities [This means to find the social welfare and education programs provided by taxpayers.–ed]  Of course, there are VOLAG employees who care and do more, and there are additional ORR grants for Healthy Families, Preferred Communities, etc. But R&P, as well as MG, only exist to connect refugees to resources that move them toward self-sufficiency. The resettlement program was set up to place all the responsibility of resettlement ON THE REFUGEES. If you think about it, this is the way immigrants have been arriving in the US since the beginning – with the responsibility for success or failure on their own shoulders. [Yes, and the original immigrants, our ancestors, had no social welfare like food stamps, health care, job training and subsidized housing, they had to make it on their own.  Some did and some didn’t, those who didn’t returned to their home countries.  We also realized we were taking too many early in the century and had a moratorium on immigration.  You simply can’t have high numbers AND welfare, our system will crash (and it is!)—ed] I think this is the way it should be. However, the inefficiencies of the big bureaucracy, combined with public perception (and some refugees’ mistaken expectations) that resettlement is more like a baby sitting job, make for a lot of disappointment for both refugees and the host communities.

I recommend that all of you who think you want to help the world get to the US should do it with your own private funding and take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for anyone you bring until they are completely on their feet and can provide for themselves and their families.  It is not the responsibility of some middle class family which is barely able to raise their own children to be taxed to help others feel good about themselves.

Thanks Olive Branch for your comments, they were very illuminating.

* Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Church World Service.

US immigrant population at 40 million….

…..and the last decade saw the largest increase in US history.

Steven Camarota at the Center for Immigration Studies released his latest findings in a new report today.  (I heard him present these numbers at immigration meetings in Washington, DC this past weekend).

From CIS:

New data from the Census Bureau show that the nation’s immigrant population (legal and illegal), also referred to as the foreign-born, reached 40 million in 2010, the highest number in American history. Nearly 14 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the country from 2000 to 2010, making it the highest decade of immigration in American history. This is the case even though there was a net decline of jobs during the decade. In contrast, from 1990 to 2000 job growth was 22 million and 13.2 million new immigrants arrived. Immigrants come for many reasons, such as a desire to join relatives or to access public services. As a result, immigration remains high even during a prolonged period of economic weakness.

I recommend that readers check out the charts and see how your state is doing.  I notice that Wyoming remains the state with the lowest immigrant population and not surprisingly it is the only state in the Nation that does not accept refugees and participate in the refugee program with the US State Department….hummm!

New readers might wish to visit our “where to find information” category for other documents, reports, statistics.