Answering Mike: Volag employee sends a comment worth talking about

This is a comment we received last week (before my lengthy power outage) from a reader named Mike who says he is a convert to Islam and works for a refugee agency.  He posted it at the Fact Sheet at the top of our site where it wouldn’t get many readers and I thought it was important enough to put up as a post and answer his allegations and questions.

Mike begins:

I work in refugee resettlement. I’m a born American (white) and a convert from Christianity (Protestant) to Islam. I served in the US Air Force as a linguist during the first war in Iraq. I’m married to an east African woman.

After reading much of this site, I can’t tell exactly what the point is. Refugee resettlement in the US is undoubtedly flawed. You will get no argument from me on that.

Mike says that Refugee resettlement is flawed but he doesn’t see the point of our blog.     The point, Mike, is that because it is flawed the program must be discussed.   If people can’t openly talk about the flaws, then they will never be rectified.    The program has existed under a sort of halo.  Just because some say they are doing good works— discussing the programs flaws, especially in the mainstream media, has become taboo.

Mike goes on:

But is what upsets you so much the fact that many families being resettled in the US are Muslim? If you are against Muslims and/or Islam, that is your right but there would be no reason to argue about it. You must judge an individual and, if you’re Christian or Jewish, you have more than enough of your own issues to confront.

We have no problem with Muslims who want to accept American culture and government and have no desire to bring Shariah law to the US.    As for your statement about judging people, it doesn’t fit with another comment you sent us.  I gotta be honest this (from Mike!) sounds a tad bit prejudiced (in response to Judy’s post about Germany taking Christian Iraqis):

Iraqis, whether Christian or whatever else, do not have a European mentality. They still sit on the floor, eat with their right hand and wash their butts with their left hand. Iraqi refugees, no matter what religion, will still be spoiled and expect too much. They’ll yell a lot, smoke a lot, and want to hang out with each other only. They’ll take up German real estate to build a church of their own so they can have sermons in Arabic or Assyrian, so they can marry each other and not assimilate with Germans. Don’t kid yourselves.

Back to Mike’s first comment:

The reformation of resettlement in the US is something that should be discussed openly, as it is incredibly flawed. Contrary to what many think, the US gvt should not resettle people for purely humanitarian reasons. There must be some economic benefit to us as a nation or we’re waisting time and money.

So Mike agrees that we should discuss reform of Refugee resettlement.  Good!  We are on the same wavelength.   Then Mike tells us something we have been guessing at—refugee resettlement is not all about America being a humanitarian nation—it is or should be about economics.   I think Tysons Food agrees there.

This from Mike is all very revealing:

The problems are, of course, rooted in policy at the highest levels of federal gvt. Current policy states that factors such as age, physical/mental disabilities, education, and work experience should not be considered when considering an individual for resettlement. I don’t think this is wise.

Recently the agency I work for resettled a single Burundian man, 74 yrs old, without relatives or friends in this area. He had health problems and couldn’t speak a word of English or Swahili (a common language among east and central Africans). The man died alone in his apartment less than two months after being resettled. It was a tragedy, first and most importantly, on a human level, as he was alone and far from anything familiar. It was also tragic that so many people spent so much time and money to fly him tens of thousands of miles to die alone. One example of how age and health should be considered when processing (the term used) a refugee for resettlement.

This sad story reminds me of the refugee from Africa who came to our county and was profoundly unhappy, didn’t want to work, was evicted from his apartment and only wanted to go home to Africa.  I don’t know what happened to him, but I think the volags should be required to buy plane tickets home for these sad displaced people.

Mike then says he could speak for days on what we write about.  Mike we welcome your comments to our posts.

I could speak for days on some of the issues raised on this website, some of them I agree with. My last word here, however, is to implore those who are angry and resentful not to be angry at those who are being resettled. They are men and women, like ourselves, with children and a profound hope for a better future in the greatest country on Earth. If we encourage them, welcome them, and HELP THEM TO ASSIMILATE many of them will become great contributers to our local communities and our greater society.

As Katie Mathis wrote above, Jesus was a refugee. There are so many Bible passages about welcoming the stranger. It is a Jewish, Christian, and Muslim (believe it or not) tradition and a basic human virtue that we should all strive for.

Mike, when individual refugees and families are not treated compassionately in a community, the blame rests on the volags and the federal government for not preparing communities, for acting secretively, for treating communities as potential redneck (no offense to rednecks!) enclaves, and for generally not explaining to citizens the refugee programs and perks so that resentment builds. 

Finally Mike ends with these thoughts:

By the way, resettlement agencies usually do not know that a family will come to them from one of the ten volags until a month or so before that family comes. That’s when we get what’s called an Arrival Notification. We would love to have more communication with local communities where the families will be resettled but most of the time it simply isn’t possible – at least for us here.

I think a reform of the program could solve the problem of springing this on communities.  And, to Mike’s very last comment, I hope you are right and if you aren’t —I’ll hunt you down!  (Just kidding!)

 And there’s no grand scheme for Muslims to take over the country. Funny thought because we can barely organize our own mosques. As a Muslim I can promise you it’ll never happen.

5 thoughts on “Answering Mike: Volag employee sends a comment worth talking about

  1. @Sadia. hope that “shocked … you’d post such a thing” wasn’t directed at me–my point was simply yours; “this is a country of refugees and immigrants,” and therefore there is simply no way to determine whether one has “assimilated” (because it is a wrongheaded thing to ask of people, or a way of marginalizing people, etc). I am also a (former) volag employee and, like you, I think that this blog reflects a decidedly anti-refugee and -immigration perspective (and anti-muslim). And I happen not to think that the key is that “the blame rests on the volags and the federal government for not preparing communities”–it is much wider.

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  2. “Assimilate to American culture”? What is this? I’m shocked at the fact that you’d post such a thing. I think this whole website is dispicable (ha, i dont even know how to spell that and I dont give a shit!). How dare you? you were all immigrants. this is a country of refugees and immigrants. do you not know ur own history of poverty at eating-patato-skin levels? do you not know about the prosecutions your ancestors escaped? I think you people are full of yourselves. you’re all are ignorant redneck republicans with nothing to do but instill fear in your neighbors and all the people you know so they can “assimilate” into your fear of anyone whose not blonde and blued eyed!

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  3. Discussions of immigrants’ failure to assimilate or to “accept American culture” come up a lot on this site’s postings and comments. I wonder if any of the principle authors would be willing to define how, exactly, one is to determine whether a particular immigrant has come to “accept American culture”?

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  4. What you are doing here is highly valuable, especially because no one else is doing it, in the sense of trying to cover the ‘beat’ and without proceeding as if refugee adovcates could do no wrong. Although I don’t believe in rarity value as such, if I did, it would apply here.

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