Former refugee worker testified last year; revealed serious flaws in refugee program

Editors note:  As I mentioned previously, I am going to re-post several significant comments that were sent (or delivered in person) to the US State Department for its “scoping” meeting in advance of fiscal year 2014.  This is the first in a series.  All other testimony we published last year can be found in this category (Testimony for 5/15/2013 State Dept. meeting).

Remember you have until May 29th to get your testimony submitted to the State Department.

 Re-post from here (one year ago today!)….

In a must-read letter to the US State Department a 25-year veteran of the International Rescue Committee (one of the largest of the top nine federal contractors) calls for a moratorium on refugee resettlement until the ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) and the volags (contractors) get their act together.

Boston on our minds. The IRC closed its Boston office in 2009. But, several other refugee contractors are still doing business there.

Consider this long-time Boston resident’s comments about fraud and lax security screening in the light of two posts we have written in the last two days, here and here.  It all rings true.

Editor:  This is one more, but, by far the most damning, of the testimony we have been publishing in advance of this Wednesday’s hearing at the US State Department.  All other testimonies we have received are archived here.

(Emphasis below is mine)

Ms. Anne Richard
Asst. Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration
US State Department
Washington, DC. 20520

April 27, 2013

Re: Federal Register Public Notice 8241 Comment Request

Dear Ms Richard:

I worked for the IRC in several capacities from 1980 until 2004 (caseworker, deputy director of the Boston office). In 2004, amid increasing budget constraints, I volunteered for a lay off. At the time, my heart was still into the work I loved and I continued to volunteer for two additional years, spending 3 days a week working on the family reunification program, in which I was considered an “expert.”

Early on, I grew familiar with the fraud that was rampant throughout the program, from the refugees themselves (sometimes forgivable), the overseas OPE’s (not forgivable) and on up to the UN (most unforgivable). Most of my colleagues were also aware of it, and while they often joked about it, almost no one did anything to change or challenge it.

In our work, it was all about “getting the numbers,” often at the expense of legitimate screening for “real“ refugees.

To be honest, I never turned a blind eye to obvious fraud, but had been instructed to give all refugee applicants “the benefit of the doubt.” Yet there were many applications about which I had serious reservations. Some of them were classically laughable ( “I don’t remember my mother’s name… let me make a phone call..”). There were more than a few applicants that I rejected (or referred to another Volag that might not have had the same concerns).

Being directly “in the field,” it’s often difficult to objectively see outside the perimeters of our day to day work.

My major concern was helping people re-unite with close and legitimate family members whose relationship I believed to exist in fact. I can’t tell you how many times, after resettlement that those relationships were revealed to be fraudulent. Sometimes the reasons were understandable from a human kindness point of view ( claiming an orphaned niece as a sister), but often those “relationships” were simple financial transactions.

In my long years at the IRC, I assisted many ethnic groups. I can say without reservation that the Somalis were among the most duplicitous. There was a time when I suggested that they swear on the Quran before signing the affidavit of relationship. Most of the time they would flee and not return. That practice was discontinued, being deemed politically incorrect.

All of us in the field know just how weak the “security screening” was. It’s mostly a very poor and ineffective system of simple name checks from countries that for the most part keep no records.

I personally had some concerns about some Iraqi refugees admitted in the mid 90’s.

One of them went on to become implicated in the Oklahoma City bombings. Being a volag worker, I was very protective of him but, having spent hours with him in the emergency room of a mental hospital.  I still have not been able to say to myself that he was not involved.

It is time for a moratorium on refugee resettlement until ORR and the volags get their act together.

Refugee resettlement affects every community it touches, from Lewiston ME, Minneapolis MN,  to Kansas City KS.

The Volags hide behind their time frame responsibility fences. While I agree that they do not have funding to do much beyond initial basic placement, this is hardly adequate for a successful program, when most refugees end up being on long term public assistance.

The present program is really a “resettle and dump on the community” thing. This is not fair to the communities, the refugees or the volags.

ORR has yet to release long overdue federally mandated reports that show welfare dependency rates or employment figures. Some people say that ORR may have something to hide. I tend to agree.

Refugees are not assimilating for the most part. (some argue that refugees should not “assimilate” but “integrate” but , to me, it‘s all the same, since the majority do neither.). The State Dept continues to fund MAA’s (ethnic based organizations) which only keep immigrant and refugee communities separate and ghettoized.

As someone who spent most of my adult lifetime working in this field, I ask for a serious second look at the current program.

After 9/11, I was, as always, very vocal in defense of refugees and the US refugee program , convinced that no one admitted under the program could possibly be or become a terrorist. Regrettably, my mind has changed.

I now believe that we need a moratorium on continued resettlement until such time as ORR can get its house in order and present a restructured program that can provide safe haven for those truly in need and at the same time guarantee that this currently flawed program does not admit persons unworthy of our kind-heartedness or who are unwilling to become a positive part of our national fabric.

I do think the US should continue to receive some refugees, but it needs to be a much smaller and very carefully monitored program. The current one is a huge mess and a danger to our security and a detriment to our economy and society.


Michael Sirois

No need for me to say anything further, except maybe to remind readers that S.744 (the Gang of Eight bill in the Senate) provides more funding for resettlement contractors and makes it easier for a greater number and variety of refugees/asylum seekers to gain admission to the US.

About the photo caption:  We wrote about the closure of the IRC Boston office here in 2009.  Visit it!

Who’s new seven months into fiscal year 2014; Iraqis lead the pack

Every month the Refugee Processing Center reports on the number of refugees admitted to the US in the previous months of a given fiscal year.  Go here for the stats as of April 30th, 2014 (the fiscal year 2014 began October 1, 2013).

That testimony you are preparing for fiscal year 2015 is for refugees who will begin arriving this October first.

Below are the refugees numbering over 1,000 in this fiscal year (so far).   The total number over the previous seven months is 37,595, hereThe contractors and the Obama State Dept. are shooting for 70,000 by September 30th.

Iraq:  10,299

Burma:  8,207

Bhutan (really Nepal):  5,133

Somalia:  4,508  (this number puts us on target for a banner year for Somalis)

Cuba:  2,447 (yes, we are still bringing in Cubans)

Iran:  1,582

Dem. Rep. Congo:  1,558

Note to Wyoming:  You will not just be getting Congolese refugees, but most likely will be taking a lot of Iraqis, Burmese, Bhutanese and Somalis—the ones who are overloaded (jobless and receiving social services) in other “welcoming” states.


Lebanon: Syrian refugee camps the best solution

As is the case with all of Syria’s neighbors, the migrants pouring out of Syria are straining the economies and stressing out the citizens of those countries.  Now, some political leaders in Lebanon want formal camps built preferably in safe zones on the Syrian side of the border.   It strikes me as a good idea too!

Syrian families arrive in Lebanon.


Supposedly millions of mostly Muslims have left Syria and frankly it is silly to think that sending a few thousand to western countries is going to do anything to relieve the strain.  And, those who come here or to Europe, Australia or Canada will never go home. 

The camp concept would also allow the Syrians to stay in their own cultural zone until the war is over and they can go home.

From the Daily Star:

BEIRUT: Establishing camps is the only way to solve the refugee crisis in Lebanon, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said Monday, reiterating warnings that the influx of more refugees would have severe repercussions for the country.

“There is no solution to the continuous influx of refugees other than establishing refugee camps,” Abu Faour said during a conference about the economic repercussions of the Syrian refugee crisis.

“We’ve even decided on locations for such camps, but unfortunately, a number of political forces opposed this solution, arguing that [establishing camps] could destabilize the country’s security,” he said.

Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said over the weekend that the government and the United Nations had been mulling the possibility of establishing camps for refugees. The Cabinet is currently pressuring the international community to build camps in “safe zones” inside Syria or along the borders.

The United Nations has already conducted a technical survey of areas across Lebanon that could be amenable to setting up “modest formal settlements,” and presented its findings to the Social Affairs Ministry for approval. However, the government maintains that formal camps, if established, should not be entrenched within Lebanese communities.

Let the camps be built inside the Syrian border and the UN can protect the people.

Meanwhile in Turkey…..

The Syrians are wearing out their welcome.

From Time:

Turkey was home to less than 200,000 Syrian refugees at the start of 2013, but the patience of many Turkish citizens is running thin as that figure hovers around 700,000. With no sign of the conflict in Syria abating, that number is expected to more than double this year.

Read on.

And, here we learn that Turkey is building a wall on the Syrian border.

Still no sign of the thousands of Syrians that US resettlement contractors like the US Conference of Catholic Bishops are lobbying for!

And, none of them are beating up Obama as they did Bush on admitting Iraqi refugees.  Or, maybe they are behind the scenes and the lazy and biased mainstream media isn’t picking it up.