LEWISTON — Federal immigration and refugee resettlement policies will continue to be felt by local communities, federal officials told a roomful of city and social agency representatives Wednesday.
Eskinder Negash, director of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, and Larry Bartlett, director of the Office of Refugee Admissions, discussed immigration policies at Lewiston City Hall.
It was part of a two-day trip through Maine, one of many similar meetings held around the country* throughout the year. A similar meeting was held Tuesday in Portland.
Desired by whom?
Immigration policy is shaped by two factors: a desire to help less fortunate people and fiscal realities at home.
The humanitarian industrial complex wants more refugees, but it’s up to local folks to pay for it and tolerate the cultural upheaval! That is not exactly the words used, but that is what they are saying! To me, the “humanitarians” are like little children who want more stuff regardless if Mommy and Daddy have the money to pay for it.
When the “humanitarians” say jump, the feds ask, “how high?”
“There is no greater responsibility than that (which) we get from community leaders to make sure refugees get the support they deserve,” Bartlett said. “But there are many pressures from the humanitarian side of our country to grow this program.”
Too bad that some cities “find themselves” in a tough place! We are willing to listen but that’s about all we can do!
Cities such as Lewiston find themselves in a tough place with little federal support when refugees begin calling it home.
“In some ways, we have a challenging program and you feel the effects on a community level, and we have to thank you for that,” Bartlett said. “We don’t have all the answers and that’s why we have these discussions to hear what the problems are.”
For local officials, the biggest problem is a lack of federal aid for education, English language and other resettlement programs.
Heck, the State Department doesn’t have money to give to communities (only to our contractors!), and it’s up to the state to decide how much money to send to struggling overloaded towns. Sun Journalstory continued:
Bartlett said his office, part of the State Department, has no programs designed to help at the local level. Negash, whose office is part of the federal Health and Human Services agency, said there is federal help, but it’s limited.
“The money goes to the state,” Negash said. “The money always goes to the state, and the state has all the discretion it needs to use the money.”
Bartlett: We just carry out the will of Congress. We feel your pain, but not much we can do about it. Criticize us, but ain’t nothing gonna change!
Those funding and policy priorities are decided by Congress, the officials said.
“This is the way this country has designed this program to work,” Bartlett said. “We know it works, but it’s not perfect and we accept criticism willingly.”
Readers, if you live in overloaded refugee resettlement hotspots, you must complain to your Member of Congress and US Senators. And, don’t be afraid of someone calling you a racist! This is one more of a long list of state’s rights issues abused by Washington.
* By the way, not long ago we reportedon the ‘we-feel-your-pain roadshow’ to Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
For new readers, click here for our extensive archive on Lewiston, ME. Be sure to see this post on Maine as a welfare magnet and the role of Catholic Charities in bringing Somalis to Maine in the first place.
For our Maine readers, your Senators Angus Kingand Susan Collins want MORE refugees and immigrants. They both voted for S.744, the amnesty bill.
They want to “advocate for services in the best interest of refugees.” What about the taxpayers?
Readers, I know it can be boring as heck to read about the minutia involved with the US Refugee Resettlement Program, but it’s important to have some knowledge of how the bureaucracy works. I learn new things every day!
Apparently in response to bumps in the road with resettlement, the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Dept. of Human Services will soon open five regional offices. The offices will help guide the myriad agencies involved in getting services (welfare benefits) and such to refugees. And, it is assumed, to help stem the growing tide of resistance by communities which cannot afford more impoverished refugees.
Thanks to a reader for directing us to Eskinder Negash’s most recent letter to State directors and other “stakeholders” (I hate that word).
TO: State Refugee Coordinators
State Refugee Health Coordinators
National Voluntary Agencies
ACF Regional Administrators
Other Interested Parties
FROM: Eskinder Negash
Office of Refugee Resettlement
SUBJECT: Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Regional Offices
Since 1980, when Congress created the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the mandates of ORR and consequently, the resettlement network have expanded. While ORR historically resettled a wave of refugees at a time, from a specific country, due to a specific conflict, today ORR resettles refugees from over 60 different countries of origin in a given fiscal year. ORR now also serves asylees, special immigrant visa holders from Iraq and Afghanistan, certain Amerasians, victims of trafficking, survivors of torture and unaccompanied alien children. Over the past 30 plus years however, although ORR’s populations, programs and grantees have expanded, ORR’s office and staff predominantly remain centralized in Washington, DC.
Through sections 412(a)(2)(A) & (B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Congress showed its intent of having ORR regularly consult with state and local governments and nonprofit voluntary agencies concerning the sponsorship process, strategies for placement, and policies for refugee resettlement. Additionally, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its most recent report “Greater Consultation with Community Stakeholders Could Strengthen Program” echoed the sentiment of Congress by emphasizing the importance of outreach and engagement at the local level, and specifically recommending that the Department of Health and Human Services (through ORR) collect and disseminate best practices related to refugee placement and engagement with community stakeholders. Moreover in State Letter #10-09, ORR named outreach as one of the six guiding principles to effective resettlement, specifically outreach to various organizations and stakeholders, to identify opportunities for collaboration in the best interests of refugees.
ORR is located within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). ACF operates ten regional offices to oversee the administration of ACF programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Child Care, and Head Start, in a given jurisdiction. ORR is one of only several remaining offices within ACF that does not have a regional presence to oversee the administration of one of its main programs. In 2006, ORR’s Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program began operations with a field presence. Today the UAC program has 23 Federal Field Specialists in six states across the country where UAC shelters and programs are concentrated. In terms of refugee programs, over the past few years, ORR has endeavored to increase consultation and engagement with regional stakeholders, by promoting collaboration between ACF Regional Administrators and the resettlement network, and by introducing the resettlement network to ACF regional programs.
Today, the refugee resettlement program faces new opportunities and challenges some of which include: accessing and maximizing benefits for refugees under the Affordable Care Act and operating under a tightened fiscal environment. In order for refugees to succeed, it is vital to strengthen the resettlement program; to have strong advocates at the federal, state and local levels educate mainstream social service agencies and governments about ORR populations, and convene meetings to promote linkages with mainstream stakeholders.
ORR Regional Offices
After thoughtful consideration, ORR has decided to establish regional offices. ORR regional offices will be physically located within ACF regional offices. With a regional presence, ORR can partner with State Refugee Coordinators, State Refugee Health Coordinators and Ethnic Community Based Organizations to advocate for refugees; specifically ORR can work to educate stakeholders, promote collaboration, gain knowledge to inform policy and advocate for services in the best interests of refugees. [Who is going to advocate for the taxpayers?—ed]
ORR will open up to five regional offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, and San Francisco (and potentially additional regional locations). ORR staff will serve as regional representatives and will work with most states within that ACF region (see ACF Regional Map). The ORR regional representatives will report to the Division of Refugee Assistance (DRA) within ORR.
Please direct any questions on this State Letter to Mitiku Ashebir, Division Director of DRA at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ken Tota, ORR Deputy Director at email@example.com.
Where are they sending refugees? Will your town be next?
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:
….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.”
I have twice e-mailed Mr. Tota to ask where and when the meeting will take place and have had no response.