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Burmese resettled in crime-ridden neighborhoods in Oakland, CA

Posted by Ann Corcoran on February 18, 2010

Same old story!   Naive refugees who have lived sheltered lives in refugee camps are dropped off by federal contractors (kind of  like Haliburton!) and expected to survive in mostly black (and probably Hispanic) neighborhoods in places like Oakland, CA.  Hat tip:  Federale (see his website here)

From the East Bay Express:

Ale Sho had been in the United States just three weeks when he and his neighbor were accosted while returning to their apartments from an Asian grocery. Ale Sho was carrying two bags filled with fruit juice and wearing a produce-stuffed backpack that also contained a benefits card loaded with enough credits to sustain him and his family for a month. As the two friends neared to their Eastlake district apartment, three young men who had been eyeing them crossed the street and began to follow. Walking the last two blocks more briskly with their heavy groceries, Ale Sho told his neighbor, “They do not look nice.”

Just as they reached the gate of their complex, one of the young men grabbed Ale Sho’s backpack. Although his neighbor had already run upstairs into the complex, Ale Sho refused to surrender the pack. After a short tug-of-war with the robber, he saw one of the young men pointing a gun at him. Miraculously, Ale Sho was able to get inside the gate and shut it with himself and his groceries intact.

“We had many, many hard times in Burma,” said Ale Sho, a lanky man in his thirties who spent the prior fourteen years in a Thai refugee camp. “When we came to the US we thought it will be free, so we feel more upset about [the robbery]. We thought we would be released from the hard times, but we are still unsafe.”

Nothing was stolen from Ale Sho, who like many other Burmese immigrants uses no surname. But the attempted armed robbery left him with a mental scar. Through a translator, he said he’s afraid he will run into those young black men again.  [Gee, IRC, do we have another failure of the magical melting pot!]

As usual the federal contractor, in this case the International Rescue Committee, makes excuses.   It is the usual litany: times are tough and this particular group is harder than most to resettle (I heard that same story with the Iraqis!).   However, even if times are tough, the IRC continues to call for MORE REFUGEES TO COME TO AMERICA!  I suppose that is because now the contractors (volags) are going to receive double the amount (per head) they were getting to resettle refugees, here.

Resettlement workers find the task of assisting these refugees, particularly the Karenni, one of the most challenging they have ever undertaken.

“When I compare them in how prepared they are for American culture, I’d say they are the least prepared,” said Don Climent, the regional resettlement director for the International Rescue Committee, who during the past thirty years has helped to resettle refugees from as far afield as Bosnia, Iraq, and Bhutan. “They have more things to learn and more things to accomplish before they can fully participate in American society.”

For the East Bay’s growing Burmese refugee population, it is a particularly bad time to be embarking on a new life.

But, nevertheless, inspite of previous stories about crime against refugees in Oakland I don’t see the US State Department cutting off the IRC’s flow of refugees to that crime-ridden city (and no jobs to boot!).

For more on Burmese refugees struggling in the US or cities struggling with an overload of refugees and ethnic tensions, use our search function for Bowling Green, KY, Ft. Wayne, IN, Greensboro, NC, Houston, TX, Pittsburgh, PA and the list goes on (I can’t remember all the cities anymore!).

3 Responses to “Burmese resettled in crime-ridden neighborhoods in Oakland, CA”

  1. Thiru said


    After several decades of facing war and hardship in their homeland, several families have moved to the bay area, especially to Oakland, California. These families were separated from friends and families and spent countless years in detention camps and prison until resettlement efforts start taking place though the assistance of UNCHR. UNCHR heard the case and provided asylum to these families in Oakland. The local chapter – International Refugee Committee (IRC) provided these families a chance to come and live in the bay area, through the Refugee Resettlement efforts. They have now settled in Oakland, California – Bay Area which they call home. Mr. Ryan Nathan befriended the family and provided encouragement, morale support and housing to these individuals. Mr. Nathan took these families under his wings and provided Housing, Counseling and Morale support in their found land that they call home.

    Today earmarks a monumental day in their lives, as Mr. Nathan and the refugees have embarked and opened the 1st Grocery Store in Oakland, California – DURGA ENTERPRISES. This store was found under the premise of operating the store for and by the refugees. Today Oakland boasts about 1,500 refugees settled from different parts of the world. There is an acute need for much needed Support and Services for the community. Durga Enterprises was opened with this in mind to help provide Refugees who are coming to Oakland with ethnic groceries and services that they are accustomed to from their homeland. The store is located in Oakland – 803 -805 Foothill Boulevard, Oakland, California 94606. The email address is and contact: 510-922-1633. Countless volunteers and Support from the community has made this dream a reality. We sincerely hope that we can create an enterprise zone for refugees to help the community to strive economically in this new found land.

    For Further information, please contact:

    Thiru Kurusamy / Ryan Nathan
    Address: 803-805 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606
    Tel: 510-689-7918
    Tel: 510-922-1633


  2. B said

    Instead of writing pathetic critiques about difficult work you know nothing about, why don’t you get off your blog, turn off Oprah and go work for a resettlment agency like the IRC. Go work 70-80+ hours every week for little to no pay. Be forced to move in families into poor neighborhoods because THERE IS NO MONEY dispite persistent struggles to obtain more. Fill out application after application for housing programs and jobs to bring relief to your clients. After working those 80 hours, sit in an office and have people yell and scream at you for not doing enough for them. Also, why don’t you do all this work and see the smiles on refuugee faces. Enroll kids into schools and enjoy a hug from a thankful mother. Watch as people go from living in a low income apartment to their own house. Enjoy a wedding celebration or birth of a child with a refugeee family. It is a shame you will never enjoy those beautiful experiences because you are busy writing angry words alone rather than working WITH these incredible people. Where there is darkness there is also light. Shame on you for assuming that IRC motivations are based on greed. Shame on you for being so disturbingly ignorant of reality…and how sad. Earn some credence to your opinion by going out and working “in the field.” GO to Oakland…..or are you too scared?

    Furthermore, as someone born and raised in Oakland CA, I can assure you it is not a crime ridden cespool as you have painted it to be. Like other cities there is crime, but I love my hometown for the culture, beauty, and friends it offers.



    • Kat said

      Thank you B for your comment. I am too allttle upset with the article as well. There is crime and hardship every where. I have lived in Oalkand my entire life and I am sadden to read the statement above ” Naive refugees who have lived sheltered lives in refugee camps are dropped off by federal contractors (kind of like Haliburton!) and expected to survive in mostly black (and probably Hispanic) neighborhoods in places like Oakland, CA. ” How ignorant does this statement sound? Places like Oaland? Probably hispanic? Oakland has a lot of issues but it also has a lot of love and compassion for people. Black people are not the problem. So if those same people were dropped off in Berkeley or Hayward , will they have a better chance??? Further more this article is discriminatory towards Black people. Are you saying were there is crime you will find Blacks and Probably Hspanic? Racism and Fear at its greastest moment.


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