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International Institute of Connecticut had problems back in 2006

Posted by Ann Corcoran on March 6, 2008

 Update later today:  I just learned that there is an entire series of articles on the Burmese Karen refugees in Waterbury, CT at the Republican American here.

We have been following the case of the International Institute of Connecticut for a few weeks.  Most recently the volag was temporarily suspended from resettling new refugees stemming from complaints that Burmese Karen refugees had not been properly cared for.

Now it has come to our attention that this same subcontractor of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) had received a warning in March 2006 from the Office of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the US State Department.

In a summary of findings government investigators reported:

“……monitors expressed serious concerns regarding substandard housing and poor documentation of R & P (Reception and Placement Program) service delivery.  One housing complex frequently used by IIC (International Institute of Connecticut) to place refugees was in such poor condition that monitors strongly suggested the affiliate phase out the use of these buildings for refugee accomodation.”

The report goes on to document how large families, one a Meshketian Turk family of six and another Somali family of eight were living in two bedroom apartments.   And, although the families had been in the US for over 5 months at the time of the monitoring visit, neither had a family member employed.    A description of the living conditions of these families and a couple of others visited were shocking.  I want to remind readers that we have heard of this practice of placing refugees in substandard housing from other areas of the country as well.

The issue of lack of proper furniture is inexcusable because as we all know, furnishings are readily available through various charities and if the IIC just put out word they needed this or that, citizens would have happily donated the excess we all seem to have in our homes.

In its Response to PRM, IIC director Myra Oliver says the large families chose to continue to live in crowded conditions because they did not want to pay, or could not afford, higher rents.  That may well be so, but I suspect Connecticut has zoning laws that require a certain number of bedrooms for given family sizes as we have here in Maryland.  So, the refugees can’t choose to break laws, it’s up to the resettlement agency to figure out this problem.

In addition to zoning laws, the State Department sets certain guidelines for such things as appropriate apartment size as a condition for the non-profit group to receive federal funding.

In defense of IIC, it appears they attempted to find employment for able-bodied family members and a single Somali man, but the refugees themselves either refused the work or quit.    The Meshketian Turk refugees had been employed with the help of IIC at landscaping work, McDonalds, and a Holiday Inn.  They all quit their jobs.

The Somali family has employed members now after some initial fits and starts at various jobs.    The single Somali man, highlighted in the PRM report, had refused a job in a supermarket according to IIC’s response document which states:

“The PRM report inaccurately states that this client was offered two jobs as a butcher.  The client was actually offered two jobs at supermarkets–one was to clean the floors and the other to retrieve shopping carts. The client refused both jobs because there was pork present in the supermarket.”    [RRW: Muslim prohibition on eating pork, guess they can’t be within miles of it!]

What struck me as most interesting when reading through the complaint and the IIC’s response is that one got the definite impression (or at least I did) that the employees of the IIC were very annoyed to have been monitored, but more significantly I got the feeling that they didn’t really like the people they were responsible for resettling.  

I wondered if it’s possible that there is a disconnect of sorts.  People choose to go into this line of work—helping to resettle the Third World to America with this notion of how wonderful it will feel to see families with children working their way up the ladder of success in the United States.  You know–the image of the hardworking immigrant who betters himself and his family in the land of opportunity.  Then to be slapped constantly with the reality of  representatives of many cultures that do not, and never will have, the work and life ethic of Americans because they have come from a culture radically differant from ours.   It must be difficult because then resettlement work is just a job, just a federally funded pay check. 

5 Responses to “International Institute of Connecticut had problems back in 2006”

  1. […] to think of it maybe the UN Human Rights gang should be called in to investigate groups like the International Institute of CT?   Thanks to Richard for the tip.  […]


  2. […] that they have not received decent treatment from the International Institute of CT. Yesterday we reported on a critical report from the US State Department from a year earlier here.    It is that […]


  3. judyw said

    Chris, I have to agree with you in this instance. This man was not demanding that the supermarket stop selling pork, he just didn’t want to work there. It really is a case of incompetence by the agency.


  4. Christopher Coen said

    In fairness to the refugees who happen to be Muslim, they cannot be expected to be educated out of their attitude about pork because their religious beliefs (not attitudes) prohibit them from working in business that profit from selling pork – tainted dollars so to speak. It is not at all difficult to find jobs for them at businesses that do not sell pork – one just has to steer them clear of restaurant and grocery store jobs. That’s easy to do. Refugee resettlement agency workers should know the basics about the religion and cultures of the people they are resettling, and not place Muslim refugees in jobs at McDonalds. Refugees are also individuals like you and me who are happy in one type of job but miserable in another. It is the responsibility of the refugee resettlement agency employment managers to direct their refugee clients to jobs that they are able to perform, that pay enough to support a family, and that the refugee will be reasonably content at. That is not at all difficult to do if one simply assesses their individual needs – after all, that’s what the tax-payers are paying for. It’s called ‘case-management’.

    We have noted that in Fargo, North Dakota, which has plentiful factory jobs, the local refugee resettlement agency – Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSSND) – directs most of the refugees to just one employer that pays a very low wage. This employer accepts applicants who have limited English, yet LSSND even directs refugees with good English to these low-paying jobs, while other better paying positions go unfilled. A Liberian father of six complained that this $7.50/hr job was not enough to support him and his wife and children. LSSND officials, rather than simply direct him to higher paying positions at other local factories, called him in for a lengthy ‘discussion’ before three LSSND staff members and the director of the refugee program about his ‘poor attitude’. In North Dakota the population is declining and workers are needed by local businesses, yet the refugees have to get AROUND the refugee resettlement agency to find appropriate jobs. That’s our tax-money being used to neglect and abuse refugees – most of whom are hard workers and come to this country escaping brutal dictatorships.

    The US State Department is not adequately overseeing the private refugee resettlement agencies, to the detriment of the refugees, local businesses, and the U.S. tax-payers.

    Christopher Coen
    Friends of Refugees


  5. judyw said

    >>>”The client was actually offered two jobs at supermarkets–one was to clean the floors and the other to retrieve shopping carts. The client refused both jobs because there was pork present in the supermarket.” <<<

    If you contrast that attitude with the attitude of observant Jews, you immediately see the problem with letting immigrants like this into the United States. Observant Jews have restrictions on eating pork just as strict as Muslim restrictions. Yet you have never seen Jews refusing a job because there is pork present. Jews eat in public school cafeterias, and at ball games, next to people eating pork hot dogs. They pay no attention to piggy banks — they might even own them; contrast this with Muslims in Britain who have succeeded in banning piggy banks from advertisements. Pigs are as unclean in Judaism as in Islam, yet you don’t hear Jews going on and on about it. This is the model of how people live together in our society. We cannot accommodate the attitude of some Muslims toward pigs and remain the kind of liberal democracy that we have been. If Muslim immigrants like that man cannot be educated out their attitude, they should not be here.


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