Comment worth noting: large contractors like ECDC monopolize refugee funding

This is a comment I received in response to my post last week about how the Ethiopian Community Development Council (one of the big nine cabal of federal refugee contractors) testifying at the US State Department May 1 meeting, here, asked that the funds keep coming even if the refugees aren’t.

Readers not familiar with the situation in St. Louis with the African Mutual Assistance Association of Missouri, might wish to first read this article (for background) in St. Louis Today from earlier this year.

From Gedlu B. Metaferia (emphasis mine):

Although I differ in views from you [at RRW] because of my former status as a refugee with liberal background I still appreciate your blogs because you expand our horizon of dialog and understanding from various angles. I know where you are coming from.  I am with you on many posts of waste of Government use of tax payer dollar. I was sick to the stomach when I saw the $13-14 million ECDC 990 to resettle less than 300 refugees every year.  I am not envious person by nature, and I expected honesty from non-profits, foundations and our government. Now I know better.  I did not want to write this post because I have stopped writing on ORR-“VOLAG” related issues temporarily because I do not want to offend very few genuine contractors who help refugees, although I believe that change is coming soon.  I am also outspoken on ORR and the crony like racket because the grant (contract) awardees are always the same personalities and organizations. I have also stopped writing temporarily because I believe that the worst offenders of a malfunction of a system are those refugee workers who keep quite and turn their just eyes the other way instead of fixing it.  I will be having a web site of advocacy in refugee issues pretty soon.  As you may probably know ECDC has given me hard time by cropping ad helping another agency (AIRS) in St. Louis, the effect has contributed to AMAAM [African Mutual Assistance Association of Missouri] to close early. We were beaten hard here in St. Louis by ORR money which was obtained on behalf of AIRS by ECDC from 2002-2004.

ORR does not consider million of resources that VOLAGS have before distributing $600 million- $1 Billion a year.  This why small genuine organizations are wiped out  especially in this recession.  One refugee  specialist friend made me laugh when he commented that ‘If some of these rich share volags  contribute at least 1% of their net income  for agencies like AMAAM life will not be difficult for many”. I know that this will not happen. The resettlement lobby is very strong. It does not tolerate differing opinion. It is a kingdom  that uses refugees to enrich itself. I am not writing as a self-serving issue, but I was providing services for more than 500 refugee families without including other categories of legal immigrants for less than $100K with 3-7 employees.  These refugees are often given support 2 years after arrival because resettlement agencies have to concentrate on new arrivals. There are also secondary migrants (who stay in St. Louis from 1 week to 5 years). It is not self-serving to say that I have the blessing of respect, well wishes and love as I walk on the street from African immigrants. That is the only beautiful capital and gratitude I get and it is a blessing from God.  When I saw the $14 million figure in the 990 of ECDC it just makes me sad.  I am not against making wealth. I strongly believe that tamed capitalism is the best system because I had seen vestiges of 3 systems in Ethiopia which are very horrible. I am not against if VOLAGS make billions by their hard work. But this one is not right by capitalisms standard, by Gods standard, by true charitable standard, by any standard, by conservative standard, by liberal standard, by American standard.  There has to be a way to reform refugee resettlement, non-profits and foundations. I do not want the name refugee to be associated with making profits, it is immoral and unjust.

Well said!

International Institute of New Jersey will file for bankruptcy

“Nowadays nonprofits have to rethink their strategy”  (a soon-to-be former staff person at this resettlement agency).

I couldn’t agree more!

The International Institute of NJ (IINJ) is an affiliate of the resettlement contractor, one of nine volags, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) headed by Lavinia Limon* former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Clinton Administration (the revolving door at work again!).  By the way, if you are new to refugee industry-speak, VOLAG stands for voluntary agency, but there is nothing much voluntary about them anymore—contractors like USCRI are almost completely funded by tax dollars.  Now it is crunch time—the tax dollars are running out and so agencies like IINJ are closing their doors.

Here is the story Monday from the Jersey Journal:

A Jersey City-based nonprofit that provides immigration services is drastically downsizing because of cuts in government grant funding.

Employees at the International Institute of New Jersey (IINJ), a nonprofit located at 1 Journal Square Plaza in Jersey City, spent today packing boxes to move to a smaller office because of a $800,000 cut in federal and state aid, IINJ Executive Director Catherine Tansey said.

The organization’s overall yearly budget had been $1.8 million, Tansey said.

The organization had also fallen seven months behind in rent, owing its current landlord more than $46,000, officials said.


“Nowadays nonprofits have to rethink their strategy,” said Sophia Rossovsky, 53, director of IINJ’s training center. Rossovsky said IINJ needs to improve its fundraising efforts among private donors.

Ms Rossovsky probably doesn’t understand that it was supposed to be that way from the beginning—-the resettlement agencies were supposed to be using large amounts of privately raised money, but have over the years drifted into simply reaching into the US Treasury’s pot of gold.  You can see from the most recent available Form 990 for IINJ (here) that they were almost completely dependent on your money.

INJJ that year received $2,435,781 from state and federal government coffers while only raising $44,000 from private sources.  What is that —something like 2% came from private money?

A day after that report above, the Jersey Journal reports that the International Institute is in even worse shape.  Now they are closing completely and filing for bankruptcy.  I’m not a lawyer but I wonder how a non-profit that was almost completely funded by government could actually file for bankruptcy?

Reversing comments they made yesterday, officials with the International Institute of New Jersey (IINJ), a Jersey City-based nonprofit that provides services for immigrants, said today the organization will be closing by mid-June and declaring bankruptcy.

* This isn’t the first of Lavinia Limon’s subcontractors to have problems, in 2008 we reported that the International Institute of Connecticut was closed (at least for a time) due to media reports that refugees were not being properly cared for.  You can visit the most recent Form 990 for USCRI here.  They received $27,857,423 from the US taxpayer and privately raised $321,530 (about 1% raised privately? check my math!).  $749,900 went to the International Institute of NJ.   Ms. Limon’s pay package that year was just over $200,000.

By the way, here is the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s payout to New Jersey resettlement agencies for 2009.

Hey, here is a thought!  Maybe the city of Manchester will get lucky and the International Institute of New England will go broke too!