Refugee horrors in Houston!
Posted by Ann Corcoran on September 2, 2009
Here is a long investigative story that completely blew me away for a couple of reasons. First, the horrors these Burmese refugees are facing in Houston are beyond anything this critic of the program ever thought possible, and secondly, I am completely stunned to learn that a real investigative reporter still exists! Thank God for Mike Giglio of the Houston Press.
Early on reporter Giglio tells us that refugee workers say the program is entering a ”perfect storm.” No kidding.
They are entering what refugee workers describe as a “perfect storm” in the U.S. resettlement program. It is outdated and drastically underfunded, and the economy that for so long propped it up has sunk into a recession. At the same time, refugees are arriving in ever greater numbers — especially in Houston.
There is the usual litany of complaints by refugee personel who say they don’t have enough money to take good care of the large number of refugees. Of course NO ONE ever suggests slowing the flow of refugees into the US.
For years, agencies across the country have used private funds, unpaid overtime and volunteers to patch together a system that before the recession was typically able to find jobs for more than 80 percent of refugees after six months. Those numbers are plummeting — to as low as 20 percent at one national agency, the International Rescue Committee, which Bob Carey, its vice president of resettlement and migration policy, expects is more or less the situation at most. In some states, refugees are becoming homeless.
Regular readers know I have no patience for these complaints. Slow the flow of refugees or the agencies need to work harder and dig deeper in their own pockets to help the refugees in their charge. It is that simple—raise more private money, find more volunteers, or tell the State Department to turn off the spigot. By the way, there is no law that says an agency can’t help refugees after the federal money runs out!
There are 4 agencies with contracts to resettle refugees in Houston as this article points out.
To navigate this complex process, they depend on one of four major resettlement agencies in Houston to which refugees are assigned (the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, Catholic Charities, Interfaith Ministries and YMCA International).
When you read the whole article, and you must! ask yourself if some agencies are driven by humanitarian concerns or are serving as facilitators of virtual slave labor. Here is a portion of one story involving Alliance. Naing in this story is an Alliance caseworker. Refugee Phe Bu saw a sign advertising jobs at a Louisiana chicken plant and that is where this story begins. Gosh, what a coincidence another meat packing plant!
On a Tuesday afternoon, the Reh clan boarded a white van with a driver sent from the plant. Six hours passed, and Phe Bu says he asked if they were close. He was told there was still a ways to go. The men spent the night in a small town along the way and finally arrived the next day. Only they were in Alabama. A translator was waiting for them.
The men say they were told that since they didn’t yet have all their documents they were illegal (this was untrue), but the manager would allow them to work all the same. For Phe Bu, who had heard on the radio about illegal immigration and who comes from a place where police are dangerous and corrupt, this was a terrifying idea. The men say they were also advised not to go anywhere without their translator. He was their transportation to and from the two apartments the employer — East Coast Labor, which provides and manages the workers at plants like the one in Alabama — had arranged. As far as visits to Houston, the men say they were told one might be possible in a few months.
Naing insists the men knew where they were going. Alliance has placed 17 clients at a Louisiana plant run by East Coast Labor that Naing and Alliance’s job developer visited first. According to Alliance, those clients are treated well and return home every two weeks. Naing says the men chose the Alabama job for its slightly higher pay. Both the translator, Kevin So, and driver, Henry Naw Seng, say the men did not mention any confusion about their destination. The Houston Press interviewed seven of the men. All say they believed they were on a six-hour trip to Louisiana
It was Sunday night when the men found a small dead turtle on the side of the road and split it five ways with some rice at their apartment. Only some had brought food, and they wanted to save what little cash they had for emergencies. The next day they started work. According to So, the men were ill-equipped for the job, which involves rapid-fire labor on an assembly line. The oldest of the group, Shaw Reh, is 60.
Who sent these people here?” So remembers thinking.
The next morning, two of the men couldn’t get out of bed. All refused to return to work. So called Naing, who asked the men to stay at least a month. The men demanded to go home. So then called a manager, whom he claims told him to kick the men out of the apartment and tell them the police had been called.
“They were just trying to threaten them, trying to scare them a little, so they’d go back to work. The manager didn’t really call the police,” So says. “They were losing a lot of money.”
Ray Wiley, the owner of East Coast Labor, says his managers would never threaten workers and blames So, whom he says has been suspended, for trying to manipulate the men. Alliance staffers spoke several times with Wiley and So during the standoff and say only So mentioned anything about police. Wiley also says he employs refugees from around the country and that men of all ages work in the plants without issue.
The men ran into the nearby woods and hid under a tree while So waited in his car across the street. Nobody spoke. Phe Bu shivered with fear, and he tried to figure out a way home. He remembers thinking, “If he comes back, I will ask him to draw me a map.”
You will have to go read the whole thing and learn how these men got back to their families in Houston.
So much for humanitarians, sounds more like headhunters to me!
It’s not uncommon for refugees to begin questioning why they came here. Some feel trapped. And there are few resources available for counseling and mental help.
More on Texas meatpackers here and their refugee agency headhunters. I more fully understand George Bush’s pro-open borders stance. I suspect the bigwigs in the Meat industry and the ’humanitarian headhunters’ were all hounding him at once.
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