Recap of the State Department meeting on refugee admissions for FY2013

I hope no one out there has been holding their breath waiting for my report from the May 1 meeting in Arlington!   Primarily I am delayed in writing this because I was so blown away by the large amount of testimony sent in by some of you and others (I’ve never heard of) that I didn’t know where to start this report!

Much to my surprise, critics of the program sent more comments, by far! than the professional resettlers looking for more business with the government.   We are compiling those comments in Pdf format and hope to have links for you soon (the State Department is not going to make them available, but we will since they were made public for the meeting attendees).   The Refugee Resettlement program has stayed under the radar for so long because of things like this—no reporters present and the statements not distributed to the general public.

Here is what I’m going to do.  First give you a little sense of the meeting now and then in the days and weeks to come I will report on the various testimony received.   This post and all posts on the meeting will be in the category on the side bar entitled, “Testimony for 5/1/2012 State Department meeting.”  At this writing there are four other posts there.

The meeting whose purpose is to begin to determine how many refugees would be “welcomed” to America in FY2013 by President Barack Obama (in a formal letter to Congress in September) was held in a small room on the 11th floor of an Arlington, VA high rise building.  The meeting is obviously geared to those who have salaried staffers working in the DC metropolitan area. So, guess how many average American taxpaying citizens might ‘find their way there?’    LOL!  Next year we should push for regional meetings around the country so certain Mayors of certain beleaguered towns and cities might be able to attend.

I would love to have asked those in attendance (maybe around 100 max) to raise their hands if they were paid to be there.  I would guess only three critics actually gave up a day from work and other duties to attend.  The others had some financial stake in the event.   Although in fairness there were some speakers representing small advocacy groups of certain ethnic peoples they would like admitted to the US and who surely aren’t making 6-figure salaries like the big contractor reps.   Of the contractor behemoths, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Kurdish Human Rights Watch and Church World Service gave testimony and had written statements available.

I can only assume the other biggies gave private testimony to the State Department.  The International Rescue Committee, one of the largest recipients of federal grant money, doesn’t need to present testimony when its Vice President has just recently been chosen by Obama and approved by the Senate to head the program, here.   Check out the IRC’s 2009 Form 990They received $200 million from the US taxpayers that year!  And, while you are at it, have a look at the 6-figure salaries of its top-grossing employees.  I wonder how they were able to exclude their President’s nearly $400,000 salary and benefits package of previous years on this tax return?

I’m digressing and that is one of the reasons I didn’t get started on this post earlier—I knew I would have too much to say!

Back to the meeting!

Sitting at the head table were the following:

Lawrence Bartlett

Director, Office of Refugee Admissions

Department of State

Barbara Strack

Chief, Refugee Affairs Division, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Department of Homeland Security

Eskinder Negash

Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement

Department of Health and Human Services

I’ll tell you more about the principals (above) in later posts.

No public record of the meeting will be available, nor was anyone permitted to videotape it.   Efforts had been made to urge certain Members of Congress to request that videotaping be allowed or that C-Span be invited in to film the event so that Congress (which holds the purse strings) might have some idea of the process whereby contractors ask for more immigrants (and more money!).  I doubt any serious effort was made by Members of Congress because it would have happened if someone, or several Members, had pushed hard enough (What is that I hear? click here!).    After all, this isn’t the Supreme Court!  It is a meeting for government officials to hear from contractors!

Each person who had signed up IN ADVANCE was permitted 5 minutes to make a pitch.  Most of us read from our previously submitted statements (mine is here).  There were no questions permitted and those presiding asked no questions (although I am told in the past there was more give and take).  The meeting concluded in about an hour and a half.

More Muslims please!

I can’t wait to tell you about the testimony.  I haven’t read all of it yet.  But, one thing that jumped out at me in what I’ve read so far (or heard at the meeting) is that no one spoke for Christians persecuted by Muslims!  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops never even mentioned them, but they sure asked the State Department to send more Muslims to the US, in particular, they want more Somalis and Rohingya* (Burmese Muslims)!   Several of those testifying also called for the prompt re-opening of the P-3 family reunification program that has been closed for nearly 4 years due to the widespread fraud uncovered involving Africans, mostly Somalis.  The State Department has reported that as many as 36,000 Africans entered the US fraudulently in a 5 year period after 9/11!

Perhaps my favorite testimony came from a citizen of Lancaster, PA who is helping refugees, but critical of Church World Service (the contractor).

Watch for upcoming posts on the testimony!

* Please take a few minutes and begin to familiarize yourselves with Rohingya Muslims.  We have a whole category (Rohingya Reports) with 100 posts in it on this group of “stateless people” that the US State Department initially resisted when the UN told them to start letting them into the US.  They have begun to be resettled here (although at the moment there is some bureaucratic snafu with Bangladesh where many are located).

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