Last week Planet Jackson Hole published this lengthy story filled with lots and lots of pro-refugee propaganda from resettlement contractors, but nothing from knowledgeable critics (other than a Wyoming legislator and a primary gubernatorial candidate). The story is long and, as I said, so filled with fluff about refugees that I just couldn’t bring myself to tackle it, but for the sake of keeping our Wyoming archives complete, here it is.
[Photo of the Bahige family removed at their request—ed]
Since its publication, Don Barnett, an expert on how the program works, writing at the Casper Star Tribune has attempted to set the record straight on some of the realities of the refugee resettlement program where the US State Department (at the UN’s direction) picks the refugees to be resettled in each state and awards contracts to the federal contractors. It is after that that the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement starts divvying out the tax dollars to the contractors.
Someone please tell Mr. Bahige that he doesn’t need a refugee office in Wyoming in order to apply to bring his Congolese family members to the US!
From Planet Jackson Hole:
JACKSON, WYO – Debate ensues over refugee resettlement in Cowboy State
When Bertine Bahige arrived in Baltimore, MD, after spending two years as a child soldier and the rest of his teenage years alone in a dark and dusty refugee camp in Mozambique, he began earning money to pay off his airfare washing dishes at Burger King. He didn’t know what became of his mother and nine siblings who were tortured in the Democratic Republic of Congo by rebel groups fleeing Rwanda in 1994.
Now a high school math teacher and father to two young children, Bahige graduated from University of Wyoming and married a Gillette native. He coaches soccer and volunteers his time to help kids get college scholarships, like the one that brought him to Wyoming.
And he has begun a controversial campaign to see if he can bring his four siblings, that he recently located at a refugee camp in Uganda, to Wyoming.
“I would love to have them resettled here,” Bahige said, stressing that his 17-year-old sister has been “fighting for her survival” as a victim of sexual abuse. “But that’s not the sole reason I am doing this. Wyoming would benefit greatly from a program. People have to be educated that refugees are not illegal. We are not just going someplace and packing people into trucks.”
Wyoming is the only state in the nation that does not have a refugee resettlement program. But that may change, despite widespread objections about what it will cost and heightened fears about who might be relocated to the Equality State.
In fall 2013, Gov. Matt Mead opened the door to discussion about creating a safe haven for refugees, defined as men, women and children fleeing war, persecution and political upheaval. Ever since, his office has been working with University of Wyoming Law Professor Suzan Pritchett, whose partner, Noah Novogrodsky, discussed the advocacy program with Jackson Hole students when he visited the valley this winter.
“The Governor’s office and the State of Wyoming have authority on whether or not the program is created,” Pritchett wrote in an email. “Right now they are moving in that direction, but nothing is certain. We were motivated to advocate that Wyoming become a refugee resettlement state, and to work with the Governor’s office on the program, because we were approached by Bertine Bahige.
I assume it is Bahige that the wannabe contractor, Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, was critical of here because he went public before they, the contractor wannabe, was ready for the general public to learn what was happening.
By the way, the primary federal contractor will be (if this goes through in Wyoming), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, one of the exclusive top nine contractors who then subcontract to hundreds of smaller contractors making the financial machinations of these supposed-non-profits hard to follow.
Last summer, the US State Department announced that we were going to take 50,000 Congolese refugees soon, but there is no guarantee that Wyoming will get all Congolese refugees, but in fact will get a smattering of many ethnic groups making it even harder to provide state and local funding for ESL in schools and translation services for myriad languages spoken by refugees from African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Arabic is the number one language!