Refugee Resettlement Watch

Pennsylvania Refugee Conference was informative on so many levels

Posted by Ann Corcoran on June 13, 2013

Update June 15th:  Pockets of resistance have developed, here is Part II of my report on Lancaster.

As I mentioned a couple of times yesterday, on Tuesday I traveled to Lancaster, PA (a “welcoming” resettlement city) for the 2013 Pennsylvania Consultation, a joint meeting between the “Commonwealth’s” refugee program and its workers, the national refugee contractors and the federal government.

The Atrium dining area at the lavish Doubletree/Hilton Hotel in Lancaster, PA where “stakeholders” met (at taxpayers’ expense) to learn more about how to help refugees sign up for social services. What is wrong with this picture?

Representatives from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (Health and Human Services) and the State Department’s Office of Population, Refugees and Migration were there to fill in the Pennsylvania “stakeholders” about the latest trends in nationalities they would be resettling, refugee and asylee rights including rights to welfare goodies, the shortage of money for the contractors and the program generally (they had money to give attendees promotional ink pens!) and how to push-back against what they called “pockets of resistance against new arrivals.”   (That last is so good it will require a second post!).

Readers, I know this type of meeting can be boring and so might my reports on it, or at least this one might be boring, but it’s very important to see the kinds of people involved in refugee resettlement, listen to them and to basically become informed about the minutia of this or any government program you might have concerns about.

Your state (except Wyoming) has a Refugee Office (or an assigned state employee/private contractor) somewhere and I recommend that you visit them or their website often or get on a mailing list to receive information about upcoming meetings like this one.  We were told from the podium that Pennsylvania had no pockets of resistance, perhaps no organized pockets, but I learned of a couple of people who have problems with refugee resettlement in Lancaster who didn’t know this meeting was occurring at their grand Doubletree/Hilton Hotel.

By the way, I had several occasions to help put on conferences (not taxpayer funded) at a Doubletree Hotel in Maryland, not as grand a hotel as this one, and I know that use of their facility/meeting rooms and food couldn’t be done for less than $50 a head for a boxed lunch.  Based on the amenities at the Lancaster “consultation” where attendance was ‘free,’ this spread must have cost (state and/or federal taxpayers) about $100 a person.  Fortunately there was no line dancing that I saw.

Here are some nuggets I learned (in no particular order):

* PA resettled 3,022 in 2011-2012.  1,194 have arrived in 2013 so far.

* The largest percentage of PA’s refugees are the Bhutanese (Nepalese), Iraqis and a smattering of Somalis.  There will be Congolese coming to PA to add to their diversity.

* The refugee hot spots in PA are Pittsburgh, Lancaster/Harrisburg, Allentown, Philadelphia (the largest right now) and Erie.

* Major PA contractors are Catholic Charities, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Church World Service.

* ORR was represented at the meeting by former Ethiopian refugee, Mitiku Ashebir.  That is interesting because the present Director of ORR is Eskinder Negash, also from Ethiopia, who revolved into his government job from his perch as VP at one of the top  nine major federal contractors—USCRI.  Ashebir entered the government door through his former positions with contractors US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Ethiopian Community Development Council.  There really should be a law against the cozy contractor/government employee revolving door.

* There were lots of little nuggets about welfare that I noted.  One statistic of interest was that 2,550 refugees in PA are receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Income).  After all, the US State Department is admitting elderly and disabled refugees who have to live on something—right!

* There was discussion on possible reductions in TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) on the horizon.  And, eeek! drug testing too.

* There was this bit of good employment news (NOT!)—refugee employment increased by 3% over 2011!  It went from 50% to 53%.

* Also considered good news is that 67% of refugees in PA are self-sufficient at 120 days, and 75% at 180 days.  That does not mean they don’t get any welfare benefits—they still get food stamps for sure and likely Section 8 housing.  And, so 25% are in need of all services after 180 days—doesn’t sound so good to me!

* The anticipated national caseload for FY2013 breaks down like this:  70,000 refugees, 28,800 asylees, 21,000 Cubans and Haitians, 600 human trafficking cases, and 4,000 Special Immigrant Visa holders (those are the Iraqis and Afghanis who we are admitting for “helping” America).  The total is 124,400 and as we were told ALL of them are entitled to all the benefits—welfare, housing, food stamps, education, health care etc.

* On top of the 124,400 is an expected jump in unaccompanied minors that ORR is responsible for.  In 2012, 14,700 kids arrived in the US without parents and in 2013 the number is expected to be 20,000. Prior to 2012 the numbers were dramatically lower.  Sounds like an incredible scam on America as probably parents from south of the border are abandoning their children to the government in advance of the amnesty legislation.

* Then here is something I found very interesting and helps answer a question I get often from readers.  How do they decide to resettle refugees to a given town? The contractors and federal government have to continually look for fresh territory in which to resettle refugees and 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.”

A note of caution:  they will bring in a small number of refugees and see if there is going to be some resistance.  If there is none, then they will proceed with the assumption that yours is a “welcoming” community.  I call this the squawk factor.  I think this is one of several reasons why the contractors resettle refugees in city slums—there will be no organized community resistance from people who don’t know their neighbors anyway and are just trying to survive day to day.

One final thing.  I bet if attendees at the conference were asked to raise their hands if they were there simply as volunteers and not receiving a salary or travel expenses, the number of hands raised would be less than ten, maybe less than five of the approximately 130-150 attendees.  (I’m guessing on the number in attendance).

Lancaster gave birth to RRW!

To learn the role Lancaster played in the birth of this blog, visit this post from 2012So what is going on in Lancaster, PA?

More later…..”Welcoming America” combating pockets of resistance!

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10 Responses to “Pennsylvania Refugee Conference was informative on so many levels”

  1. […] Last month I attended an ORR meeting in Lancaster, PA and Mitiku Ashebir referenced a meeting in July between the US State Department and the ORR and he called it a “joint quarterly placement meeting.”  I said this in my post: […]

  2. […] Nearly two weeks ago I was in Lancaster, where the ORR representative predicted the number of unaccompanied kids would sky rocket this year and I wondered how they were making that prediction.  Here is what I said in a post twelve days ago: […]

  3. […] this week in Lancaster, PA.  If you haven’t read my earlier report it might be useful to check it out and then come back here for part […]

  4. […] when I told you about the breakdown of who we would be bringing as “refugees” for 2013, here.  SIVs were expected to number 4,000.  Doesn’t that sound like an awful lot of people […]

  5. Jewel said

    One of the reasons that so many are flooding into Lancaster is because of the many organizations that just love to help.
    And the local press is just swell with that, too: http://bit.ly/12rj9OL

    As you said, there are no horror stories about what happens to refugees who settle into slums peopled by hate-filled criminals and predatory gangs. Check out any of these stories about this problem: http://bit.ly/14zDuRf

    My own experiences with refugees and asylees have been eye-opening. Most of the problems that I have dealt with just as an interpreter involve severe mental illness. And criminal insanity. I could write countless stories, but I would be violating my contracts.

    We are dealing with people who can’t speak English, who must hide from their drug dealing neighbors, whose children have been exposed to lead paint and are now dealing with the aftermath of lead poisoning, from the vendettas that erupt in families in small communities, and other problems brought with them to an American that was promised as a land of plenty, they have had plenty all right.

    True, there are the success stories. I have seen them, too. But the casual disregard for communities’ concerns by these social engineers is hard to stomach.

    How long til we see the kinds of problems they are having in Europe? We aren’t seeing them yet in Lancaster, but we are seeing them in other parts of the country. Who is responsible for cleaning up their messes, when they don’t ‘work out’?

  6. tomasrose said

    A refugee can be on all welfare programs ( except for TANF) , including cash from SSI – and all the same time – and can be still be considered ‘self-sufficient’.

    see definition of terms from GAO report below.

    http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-729

    “ORR considers refugees self-sufficient if they earn enough income that enables the family to support
    itself without cash assistance—even if they receive other types of noncash public assistance,
    such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits or Medicaid. (43)

    43
    Cash assistance includes both refugee cash assistance and
    payments received under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.”

    note, SSI is not included in ‘cash assistance’

    • Ann Corcoran said

      Thanks for giving us the precise information on welfare use and self-sufficiency!

  7. Ann

    Since I do not have your email I am posting here on another subject.
    Recently 7 refugees admitted to Berry College as an outreach experiment in 2009 graduates , They were from Burma, Afghanistan, Burundi and others. Most were Muslim. CNN did a beautiful piece on them , I personally volunteered with two of their families. I know that you are not in the business of putting in feel good pieces, but the piece from CNN is worthwhile and I would ask you to share it. Just google “Berry College Refugee Graduation” to find the piece from CNN living. This coupled with the 2 Bhutanese brothers who received Gates Foundation full scholarship despite living in Clarkston are an inspiration.Only 1000 of these are given out each year and now 10 Bhutanese nationally have received them.

    I just want your readers to see some of the other side of the issue. Yes there are huge problems in the program, but we cannot stereotype given the number of good things some refugee do and accomplish

    • Ann Corcoran said

      Ralph, you have made my point for me about why RRW is important! No doubt CNN (other media reaching millions of people!) does lovely shows about the good things that refugees bring to America and the success stories, but NEVER about any of the horror stories, the crimes, the government mismanagement, tension in communities etc. My job is to balance the mainstream media so that Americans have a complete picture of the good and the bad! When CNN writes and presents on TV programs about the flaws in refugee resettlement I will be able to give up this charitable work of mine and do something more enjoyable with my time.

      Tell me, do you have conferences like this one in Georgia???

  8. Brittius said

    Reblogged this on Brittius.com.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

 
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