Refugee Resettlement Watch

Answering Katie

Posted by Ann Corcoran on January 18, 2008

Yesterday we received a comment from Katie in Dallas critical of what we report at RRW.  It was posted with the fact sheet and so would likely not get very many readers.   But, because she raises some important issues I’ll respond here just as Judy responded to Will recently.

Katie says:

I have purposely chosen to live in an area of Dallas where refugees are resettled (going on 3 years in low income urban apts). My neighbors are all refugees. It seems that are some frustrations towards their resettlement in your article, but i would like to offer my experience. They are the best neighbors i’ve ever had.

She goes on to describe how wonderful, patriotic, generous and kindhearted one neighbor, a Congolese man, is and how much he helps her and her other neighbors.   I am sure that is absolutely true.  But, it’s funny she should mention a man from the Congo, because we had exactly the opposite experience in Hagerstown with a Congolese man.   He was recently evicted from his apartment because he refused to work.   Somehow he had gotten the idea that he would come to America and be taken care of.   As the police attempted to remove him to a homeless shelter he said he just wanted to return to the Congo.    So whose experience with Congolese men is more valid, Katie’s or ours?

The reason I mention this is not to get into a back and forth with Katie or anyone about our emotional feelings about individual refugees.   Do you think anyone revels in the misery that poor unhappy man is going through?  Hearing about it causes us all emotional pain.  But instead of brushing the issue aside we feel that our role at RRW is to get to the facts and address the policies and practices that placed him in that situation in the first place, and insist the program be reformed. 

Was our Congolese man properly instructed about what his life in America would be, before he arrived in our city?  Did he think people didn’t work here?   He spoke virtually no English but had been here for nearly a year (maybe longer).  Did anyone get him to ESL classes and make sure he went regularly?  Did he have a church or other organization sponsoring him?   I bet he didn’t, because if he had he would have had a roof over his head.    Did he have anyone like you, Katie, who cared about him and helped him become an American?

Whose fault is all of that?  In my view, it’s the fault of this entire refugee resettlement program from top to bottom.   Frankly, we are bringing too many refugees.  It has become a big business for volags—bring ’em in, get paid by the head, send them out on their own at 4 months and bring in the next batch.     Citizens in small cities and towns become overwhelmed and angry to see incidents like our Congolese man’s eviction and the result is your whole cause suffers.  

I say “your cause” because it isn’t my cause, one of the things people do who push refugee resettlement is to try to bully others into working on their personal charity.   I have lots of charitable things I work on, but I don’t guilt trip others into being involved in my charities and I don’t expect the taxpayer to support them either.

Then Katie wraps up her comment with a personal attack on us.   Somehow people like Katie think they can only make their point by calling us names and suggesting we are cheap, hard-hearted, evil people.  It won’t work, Katie. 

Chill out. I’m proud that my nation offers freedom to starving and endangered widows and orphans.

_____

So I apologize on behalf of my African and Middle Eastern friends for wanting safety and food- at the expense of a few of your cents each year…

Katie does also bring up ESL, but this post is getting too long already.    After what we saw in Hagerstown, I would suggest that ESL classes be mandatory and that refugees not be pushed out to work before they really learn some English.

Katie, if I have mischaracterized your comment or you have more to add, please comment to this post.  

We look forward to continuing this discussion with anyone who wishes to jump in!

For Katie’s full comment, go to the Refugee Resettlement Fact Sheets page.

2 Responses to “Answering Katie”

  1. […] Katie Mathis wrote above, Jesus was a refugee. There are so many Bible passages about welcoming the stranger. It is a […]

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  2. One of the worst things about the refugees I have worked with as an interpreter, is foreign television. Many would prefer to stay home and watch their stations in their languages, with their hostile, anti-American biases, and thus don’t bother to learn English. Why bother, when you can just talk to your community members all around you? So ESL is pointless, unless citizenship is linked to it and it is made mandatory.

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