Iraqi Palestinians suffer in Chicago; mental illness is one major problem
Posted by Ann Corcoran on December 27, 2012
This is a very interesting article about a Palestinian family (from a camp on the border of Iraq and Syria). I am posting a lot of it because it in so many ways summarizes many different topics we discuss here daily.
A little background: We don’t normally take Palestinian refugees (or at least we haven’t) because they are needed to keep the pressure on that evil Israel. If they are resettled and scattered around the world, Arabs wouldn’t have anything to complain about and no reason to continually send rockets into the state of Israel (just call me cynical!).
However, Palestinians were welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein, one of the few Arab countries that wanted them. When the war came in 2003, ol’ Saddam went into his ‘spider’ hole, and the new Shiite government didn’t like those Sunni Palestinians and so many Palestinians (34,000 we are told in today’s article) tried to get into Syria, another Muslim country that didn’t want them. They ended up in a refugee camp on the border and we decided to take a thousand or two of them (numbers vary). That is where we pick up our story from Chicago.
From New America Media:
CHICAGO — A fragile sense of security often robs Zuhair Sulaiman of the luxury of a good night’s sleep. “The fear is embedded inside,” he said in Arabic at a meeting at Arab American Family Services in Bridgeview, Ill., just outside Chicago.
Along with more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs, who abandoned their homes, his family fled to Iraq when Israel was born in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He lived in Iraq as a Palestinian refugee with no citizenship papers for 54 years before applying to come to the United States as a refugee.
Now, living in Chicago as an Iraqi refugee, Sulaiman, 58, is grateful to be in a safe and secure country, but nightly dreams of death, and fears for his children when they leave the house. “I saw too many things in Iraq; too many dead bodies, too many dead children, too many heads cut off in the street and too much blood.”
But here he faces new struggles—many of them not unlike those faced by others seeking sanctuary in America. He struggles with poverty because of the limited help offered by the U.S. government. He struggles to pay the government back for his family’s flight to America. And he struggles to find his feet in a place that’s so different from what he’s always known.
Living in the Al-Waleed refugee camp in Iraq, near the border with Syria and the Al-Tanf crossing, Sulaiman applied to come to the United States through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). With the help of World Relief-Chicago, Sulaiman, his wife Allaay, and their five children, who were born into refugee status in Iraq, were relocated to various areas of Chicago in 2010. Sulaiman now lives with his wife and three of his children in the North Side Chicago neighborhood of Albany Park.
US government not doing enough for refugees!
As refugees, he and his family received assistance from the U.S. government when they arrived, but were eventually forced to seek aid on their own. Sulaiman found help at the non-profit organization Arab American Family Services, but he says more could be done to assist the refugees.
Resettled by World Relief,* one of nine primary federal contractors (they have spun off hundreds of subcontractors) which is almost completely funded with your tax dollars. Here is a succinct little summary of what refugees get from you managed by World Relief:
For the fiscal year 2012, the State Department provided a one-time payment of $1,100 per refugee upon arrival in Illinois. Refugees arriving in the U.S. are placed with a resettlement agency, such as World Relief-Chicago, that has signed a cooperative agreement with the State Department. The affiliates are responsible for assuring that the refugees receive aid for the first 30 to 90 days after arrival, arranging for services such as food, housing, clothing, employment services and follow-up medical care.
Income eligible single adult refugees, and married couples without children, are eligible for Refugee Cash and Medical Assistance, from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Department of Health and Human Services (ORR), for eight months from the date of arrival. Families with children are eligible for Transitional Aid for Needy Families (TANF) for up to five years. Eligibility criteria for these services often parallel the state’s Medicaid programs.
Refugees must pay for the cost of their plane ticket, though. The U.S. government is reimbursed for the costs expended of the refugees’ flights by the refugees’ sponsor agencies. These agencies then set up payment plans for the refugees. Sulaiman said when he resettled in Illinois in 2010 the U.S. provided every member of his family $900.
On this plane ticket repayment business, keep in mind that World Relief, in this case, gets a cut of whatever money they collect from the refugees for the plane ticket loan. The full repayment, if it ever happens, does not go back into the US Treasury (which originally supplied the plane ticket funds).
World Relief “took their hand away,” said Sulaiman:
He received two months of aid from World Relief-Chicago before they “took their hand away.” Now he pays about $50 a month to cover a $5,000 debt for the plane tickets that brought him and his family to Chicago. Once World Relief-Chicago stopped supporting Sulaiman and his family, he had to seek out aid from a social service agency. One of his married daughters was resettled in Bridgeview, Ill., just outside Chicago, and through word-of-mouth he was able to reach out to Arab American Family Services, for services such as English-language tutoring.
He and his wife are also seeing a therapist through Heartland Alliance.
Although this reporter is trying to make it sound like these good-hearted charitable organizations like Heartland Alliance are picking up the slack where the bad US government has dropped the ball, know that Heartland is largely funded with taxpayer dollars too. See their recent Form 990 (here) (page 9). It is a $20 million organization which gets over $13 million from GOVERNMENT GRANTS.
The article continues:
Shalabi said the resources available to refugees are often good in theory, but executed poorly. “Refugees’ expectations are very high based off what the American government promised them, but the response is not always as dignified as it should be; a lot of them are left to fend with inadequate furniture and clothing, mental health issues, children trying to adjust to new schools and parents who don’t know their rights because they come from countries where they had none.”
“Things are given to refugees when they first arrive, but often they are given fish and not taught how to fish,” said Shalabi.
The US government made no such promises! And, frankly the federal contractors, World Relief is one!, were supposed to be in a PUBLIC-PRIVATE partnership to care for the refugees. However, when the government money runs out it’s bye-bye to the refugees, you are on your own now while we (World Relief) “welcome” our next batch of new refugee clients who still have government ‘resources’ attached to them.
* World Relief (Corporation of National Association of Evangelicals) also headquartered in Baltimore is not as rich as the IRC I reported on yesterday. According to its most recent Form 990 (here), it is a $53 million a year federal contractor receiving $31 million from YOU, the taxpayer. World Relief Chicago is a subcontractor of contractor World Relief. No separation of church and state when it comes to your tax dollars flowing to “non-profit” “charitable” religious organizations!
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