Ft Wayne health commissioner: greatest fear is increasing generational poverty

This is a story from the week the Boston terrorist attack happened and like so many it became lost in my stack as all of my attention became fixated on the fact that “refugees” were responsible for the marathon bombing.

The US State Department Director of Admissions, Lawrence Bartlett, visited Ft. Wayne, the Burmese capital of America (where they produce diversity wheelbarrows), along with a UN Representative to assess the damage there.  LOL!  that last part is my assertion!   However, I have noticed that the State Dept. does send out people when cities have problems, it must be to smooth feathers.

Lawrence Bartlett, State Department Director of Refugee Admissions visited Ft. Wayne, Indiana last month.

In this case, I felt sorry for the mayor who has blinders on to what this refugee overload has done to his “welcoming” city.

Here is the story from the Journal Gazette (emphasis mine):

Burmese refugees will continue to resettle in Fort Wayne, although in smaller numbers, an official for the U.S. State Department predicted Thursday.

The decline might be offset by an increase in refugees from Congo and Iraq, according to Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for the State Department.

About 60 Congolese refugees have arrived in Fort Wayne in recent years.

“I would expect the program in Fort Wayne to remain strong,” Bartlett told a gathering of local, state and federal government officials at Citizens Square. “We certainly do not want to overwhelm a community.”

Mayor Tom Henry said that “for a while, we were being overloaded. … We just did not have the resources.”

Henry was referring to 2007-08, when Catholic Charities of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese resettled more than 1,400 Burmese refugees in Fort Wayne.

This year’s local cap for refugees is 170.

Bartlett acknowledged that the 2007-08 influx “probably is not the right model for how we manage a program.”   [Excuse me!  The State Department could easily have reined this in, there was plenty of controversy in the newspapers in Ft. Wayne at that time.—ed]


More than 2,700 Burmese refugees have come to Allen County since 1993 to escape military rule in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Democratic reforms taking shape in the Southeast Asian country are expected to slow and perhaps reverse the exodus.

Fort Wayne is home to at least 5,000 Burmese, Henry said.

“To me, it’s a good problem to have,” the mayor said about challenges to both the city and its refugee population. “They wouldn’t come here if we didn’t have something to offer them.”

Henry said Fort Wayne adheres to a “welcome mat” philosophy. In addition to Burmese and Congolese, the city is home to refugees from Bosnia, Darfur and Somalia.


The new arrivals tend to lack the education, job skills and English-language proficiency needed for quick assimilation and advancement, service providers said. Some have to travel out of state to find work. There are Burmese mothers who are raising children while their husbands remain in overseas refugee camps.

I think they call this “burying the lead!”

“My greatest fear is that we are increasing the generational poverty,” said Dr. Deborah McMahan, city-county health commissioner.

Read it all.

Don’t forget!  You have until 5 p.m. today to tell Lawrence Bartlett what you think about refugee admissions for fiscal year 2014 because he will likely be presiding over the hearing on May 15th.  Go here for instructions.

Testimony already submitted by others is archived here.

Almost forgot, former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar is responsible for getting this critical GAO report done on the Refugee Resettlement Program because he saw what is happening in Indiana.

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