Friday, July 20, 2007

Refugee Resettlement

Yesterday I spent some time adding links to my right sidebar. One of those new links is Refugee Resettlement Watch, a site which states as follows on its "About" page:
A few months ago it came to our attention in Washington County MD that a non-profit group (Virginia Council of Churches) had been bringing refugees into the city of Hagerstown (county seat) for a couple of years. Some problems arose and citizens started to take an interest. One of the most startling things we found out about this very quiet effort is that these non-profit groups bring to the US about 25,000 Muslim refugees from the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans, etc, almost completely funded by the US Government through grants and contracts with these non-government agencies. Of the 168 refugees brought to our county since 2004, 125 are Muslim. Although we all have sympathy for persecuted and suffering people there are real questions to be answered about the wisdom of this policy. It turns out that there are hotbeds of this controversy throughout the US. We have identified some of those. We set up this online community organizing center [HERE]. If you have information or questions from your communities about Refugee Resettlement please get in touch with Ann Corcoran at
From this page at Refugee Resettlement Watch, emphases mine:

Public benefits available to refugees and successful asylees include:
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) formerly known as AFDC


Food Stamps

Public Housing

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Social Security Disability Insurance

Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) (direct services only)

Child Care and Development Fund

Independent Living Program

Job Opportunities for Low Income Individuals (JOLI)

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

Post secondary Education Loans and Grants

Refugee Assistance Programs

Title IV Foster Care and Adoption Assistance Payments (if parents are “qualified immigrants”)

Title XX Social Services Block Grant Funds
Prior to 1980, refugee sponsoring agencies were totally responsible for all refugee needs, including housing, medical care and employment. Today they have virtually no responsibilities. A newly arriving refugee aged 65 can immediately retire on SSI/Medicaid never having worked a day in the U.S.

After 4 months the Volags [voluntary non-government agencies] do not even have to know where the refugees are located. Therefore they have no legal requirements to make sure the refugees are o.k. and are assimilating. One very interesting statistic I noted was that a few refugees actually return to their country of origin which brings up the question of how persecuted were they in the first place. In Washington Co. an Iraqi family left the area soon after arrival telling people the conditions were deplorable.

One area of change suggested by those advocating reform of refugee resettlement is to require Volags to identify sponsoring churches and organizations for each family and to be responsible for the family for a year before accessing welfare programs. Although not a legal contract requirement, VCC did not identify enough sponsors for refugees in Washington Co. and therefore many refugees were not adequately supported causing some of the political friction. Recently VCC stated that existing refugee families could sponsor new families which would not be a desirable solution.

The National Governor’s Assn. was critical of the program in its Policy Position on Refugee Resettlement on March 5, 2007. They are concerned about the lack of consultation by the Volags in placement of refugees and they are concerned about the cost of refugee resettlement (a Federal responsibility) being passed down to state and local governments. * This report is available.

It is often difficult to get accurate information from Volags about the numbers of refugees resettled in a community. VCC has stated publicly that they have resettled over 200 refugees in Washington Co. from Africa and Russia. In fact, the State Department places the number at 168 from 13 different countries. Of the 168, 125 are Muslim. Nationally about 50% of refugees brought to the US are Muslim. There are no Muslim Volags, most are various Christian faiths and one Jewish organization. * List of the major Volags is available.

Employment statistics vary from location to location, but in ORR’s 2004 Report to Congress only 16% of refugees find a job in the first 3 months and at 12 months only 62% nationally have a job. The average hourly wage in a 5 year population sample was $8.90. *This report is available.

The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for determining whether refugees pose any danger to the safety and security of the US, but this authority can be waived by the US State Department. For example, on May 5, 2006 Sec. of State Rice gave approval for the Burmese (Karen) people of the Tham Hin Camp in Thailand to enter the US even though some may be members of (or have given support to) the Karen National Liberation Army, considered a terrorist group by the US govt. Burmese (Karen) comprise the next group of refugees VCC would like to resettle in Washington Co. *Waiver is available.

Some states have another layer of bureaucracy, a kind of go-between office, that helps to facilitate Refugee Resettlement between the Volags and the Federal government. In Maryland, it is the Maryland Office for New Americans (MONA). Although listed as part of Maryland’s Department of Human Services it is funded primarily by grants from the Federal Government.

The cost of translation for such things as medical care, emergency response etc. is according to federal law the responsibility of the local government agency. In Washington Co., VCC says they are working with seven languages at the present time.

I have found no location where a Volag does any formal written reporting about their plans in advance of bringing refugees to a community, or any report to local governments during the program.

Other cities are having problems with Refugee Resettlement. Manchester, NH shut the program down completely after they had to build a wing on to the high school exclusively for English as a Second language students and had a problem with many refugee children having lead poisoning. Lewiston, ME tried to stop the influx of Somali Bantu but failed. Eastern Tennessee is having problems. Cayce, SC is the only town I have found so far that stopped Refugee Resettlement in advance.
Read more, especially the bulleted items at the top of the page for above-cited information.

So, what's going on in your neighborhood?

[Home page for Refugee Resettlement Watch]

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posted by Always On Watch @ 7/20/2007 07:32:00 AM