Update August 27th: Mayor Sarno holds press conference with disgruntled Somali, here.
Update: Lutherans respond to criticism, here.
Reader ‘pungentpeppers’ alerts us to a new “pocket of resistance” to refugee resettlement and it’s in the ‘Peoples’ Republic of Massachusetts’ of all places!
Here is the stunning news. I say stunning because very few Mayors or local elected officials have the guts to do what Mayor Sarno has done. There have been a few others, most notably Mayor Gatsas from Manchester, NH, but most local officials believe they have no recourse against the federal government and the contractors—in this case Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and Jewish Family Services—and just have to take it!
Most also fear the political ramifications of being labelled a “racist” for saying they are overloaded.
One reform we should all be pushing for is to legally enable cities and states to say NO to the feds!
Note to the Mayor: I see you supported Ed Markey for the US Senate, you need to ask his office for help!
The State Department ( Office Population Refugees and Migration) is very aware that they have a problem finding “welcoming” communities for the growing number of refugees AND asylees they are trying to place. Earlier this summer we learned they and the Office of Refugee Resettlement were having secret pow-wows (ORR did not answer several requests from me to learn of the location of the July “placement” meeting) to jointly agree on what communities might be welcoming. This is what I learned in June (see Lancaster meeting):
….apparently in light of failed attempts to get new seed communities established, the feds are having ORR-PRM joint quarterly placement meetings. The next one will be in July. Before any new site is opened (usually because some contractor thinks it would be a good place), ORR-PRM will visit the site together and decide if it will be “welcoming.”
By the way, when you read the whole Springfield story, note that one contractor says they aren’t resettling so many in Springfield directly, but are spreading them out throughout the county—this is one of their tricks when they start getting heat.
From The Republican (emphasis is mine). We have seen this before—refugees placed in slums!
SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Domenic J. Sarno on Tuesday urged federal officials to stop the flow of refugees into Springfield, saying the influx has become “a pressing issue of public safety.”
Sarno, in a letter to the U.S. State Department, said Springfield has “a long and successful history” of taking in refugees, but the growing numbers have led to his concern “for the safety of both our citizens and the refugees themselves.”
Many of the refugees are being placed in substandard housing, and are placing burdens on the Code Enforcement, Police and School departments, Sarno said.
The Police Department has reported an increase in fraud, robbery and property crimes committed against refugees, Sarno said. In addition, the refugees are placing a strain on the school system, coming from around the world,*** he said.
In his petition, Sarno said he has become aware of “some startling facts” from reports he has received from city departments. That has included housing with “significant life safety violations” of the state building and sanitary codes that have included “rampant insect and vermin infestations, the absence of any smoke detectors,” and illegal wiring, broken doors, and blocked exits, he said.
“The fact that refugees are being placed into properties containing the reprehensible conditions, cited above, is compelling evidence that local agencies are not employing people with the necessary qualifications to conduct adequate safety and habitability inspections for potential settlement units, and are not properly utilizing the funding being provided by the Federal Government,” Sarno said.
Sarno’s four-page letter was sent to Barbara Day, chief of domestic resettlement, refuge admissions for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
“We have done more than our fair share,” Sarno said Tuesday in an interview. “It’s not fair to the refugees or Springfield.”
“I have to draw the line,” Sarno said. “The number of refugee children who have little to no English language skills has overwhelmed the very limited interpretation capabilities of our public schools, and funding that was intended for use in assisting existing pupils.”
The mayor and some of his department heads met in July with organizations involved in the refugee resettlement efforts — Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and the Jewish Family Services.
Read on to hear what Jewish Family Services said about shifting refugees to the county. There was no comment from the Catholics or the Lutherans.
***I don’t have time to do a thorough analysis, but you can go here and check out Springfield, Massachusetts’ numbers (or your town’s numbers) and the nationality of its/your resettled refugees. Open the file entitled: Arrivals by Destination City by Nationality by FY as of July 31, 2013.
The numbers do not represent those who might have come to a town or city as ‘secondary migrants’ (refugees resettled elsewhere but who have gone to certain cities to be with their own kind of people).
Springfield has “welcomed” 1,712 refugees since 2001 from the following countries:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dem. Rep. Congo
An afterthought: I wonder does the Mayor know that the Refugee Resettlement Program run by the State Department was the brainchild of former Mass. Senator Ted Kennedy?