One of the most frustrating things about writing about the US State Department’s Refugee Resettlement Program is that the same stories cycle around from month to month and year to year (each new young reporter thinking they have a cool story).
This morning I see that lo-and-behold Boise, ID can’t support thousands of refugees, as if they have just discovered this problem. I immediately had a look at our Boise archives and sure enough we’ve been reporting on the Boise overload since 2008!…and, about the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) whining about it!
From NPR in Boston (reporter Molly Messick):
In the last few years, more than 4,000 refugees have found their way [Dear young reporter, they don’t “find their way,” they are taken there by a federal contractor–ed] to a far-flung spot: Idaho. Most of the state’s incoming refugees come to Boise. For years, the city’s strong economy, good-quality affordable housing and supportive community created an especially favorable environment for refugee resettlement. The recession has shifted that picture.
“Three years ago, we were just seeing a few extreme cases of refugees that had consistent difficulty with integration, and then it really happened very suddenly, where there were 50, 60, 100 families really struggling,” she says.
She says, “for years” Boise was a favorable environment for refugees—heck, as I just mentioned, I have stories from 2008 where the overload was already evident (and the IRC’s Boise program only started in 2006)! Here is one where the IRC Pres. George Rupp is bawling in Boise for more government money because the refugees aren’t finding work.
IRC says they are NOW slowing the flow (remember in 2008 they already knew they had problems):
The recession has complicated the hard task of refugee resettlement nationwide. The shift is especially stark in Boise, because the city has long been regarded as a good place for refugees to put down new roots.
“Boise was particularly favorable, yes,” says Bob Carey, who oversees resettlement and migration policy for the International Rescue Committee. Carey’s based in New York, but the IRC has a Boise office, too, opened in 2006. At that time, Idaho had the fastest growing economy in the country, and unemployment in the Boise area was under 3 percent.
“It was a very strong employment market, and there were certainly many jobs available for refugees at the entry level when they arrived in Boise,” he says. “So for those people who were able to work, we could generally find them jobs that would allow them to support themselves within 90 days.”
Now, Boise is one of the places where the IRC has reduced the number of refugees it aims to resettle each year, cutting back by about a third. In addition, it and other local agencies that help refugees find work have adopted new strategies.
Let’s take a little side trip to the IRC’s most recent Form 990 (I haven’t looked at one of their financial reports to the IRS in awhile). The organization had an income stream in 2010 of $316 million—-$200 million came from you, the taxpayer. Former Columbia University President*and now IRC President George Rupp took home $428,571 in salary and benefits putting him surely in the 1%. More then ten employees took home six-figure salaries and most of those topped $200,000.
It is classic doing well by doing good! Maybe they might want to share some of their good fortune with the now unfortunate refugees like Rwandan mother of two,Virginie (the star of this article today). But, no, foisting her on the taxpayer is what this is all about.
Despite the clear difficulty of Virginie’s situation, there’s room for hope. Virginie and her daughters have been lucky to get subsidized housing, at a moment when many waiting lists are closed.
How many times now have I had reports that refugees are getting subsidized housing as American citizens including the disabled wait on the list (if they can get on the list).
* I wonder did ol’ George know Columbia professors Cloward and Piven and was he a supporter of the Cloward-Piven strategy to create chaos by overloading the welfare system (under the guise of helping the downtrodden).