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BT! Church World Service working hard to get Syrian Muslims placed in Lancaster, PA

Posted by Ann Corcoran on January 2, 2017

BT=Before Trump

This is the first of two posts (second one is here) on Lancaster, PA this morning.  I’ve been interested in Lancaster ever since that city’s refugee program was linked to Church World Service’s (CWS) placement of refugees in my county seat.  Those were mostly Meshketian (Russian Turkish Muslims) back in 2007.

Five years later, I traveled to Lancaster to a meeting of the refugee industry there—the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement was meeting with refugee contractors and advocates in 2013. A federal ORR employee shocked me by referring to any of the communities questioning the program as “pockets of resistance.”  He was happy to tell the gathering that Pennsylvania was ‘welcoming’ and didn’t have any PORs.


Church World Service does not just resettle refugees, but they advocate for illegal aliens as well. CWS CEO Rev. John McCullough being arrested in Washington, DC protesting in support of Obama’s executive amnesty. Photo and story here: McCullough pulls down an annual salary of over $300,000 a year from his CWS work and from “related organizations.” Page 13- 14

If you would like to get some background on Lancaster before reading this below, click here for our Lancaster archive.

This is the news that appeared in the New York Times and reposted here in Vermont newspaper. Church World Service (with the NYT) is trying so hard to make everything look so perfect in Lancaster.  But, it isn’t and you will see what I mean in my next post.

Their [Syrian family—ed] imminent arrival explains all the commotion inside this slate-colored house in the small city of Lancaster, in south-central Pennsylvania. The state may have gone to Donald Trump, who likened the Syrian resettlement program to a “a great Trojan horse” for terrorists. But he isn’t president yet.


He [Josh, CWS’s 26 year old housing guy—ed] scours a government checklist of housing requirements for a resettlement [Contractors sign contracts to provide essential items for the refugees’ new home—ed], mindful that whatever he spends is deducted from a refugee’s one-time government grant of no more than $1,125. A family’s combined grants must cover its rent and other expenses until the nonprofit has helped the adults acquire Social Security numbers and jobs.

I want you to know (and the NYT doesn’t) that it is $1,125 per family member, so the Syrian family of 6 being discussed here will get $6,750 (plus welfare) and that CWS will get another approximately $6,750 as their share (of your tax dollars) to resettle this family (for their salaries and overhead).

Such encounters [Josh meets a refugee at Walmart***] happen often in Lancaster, whose rich history of acceptance is rooted, in part, in the influence of the Mennonites, Amish and other faiths. A glimpse of the local worldview came in January when a supportive rally of more than 200 people drowned out a much smaller anti-immigrant protest outside the Church World Service office in Lancaster. [See our report on the resistors rally, here.]

Sheila Mastropietro, the group’s longtime supervisor in Lancaster, took heart in the moment. It reflected a communal understanding of both the global refugee crisis and the rigorous screening process that refugees undergo before coming to the United States. [The communal understanding is wearing thin as you will see in my next post.—ed]

The big question for the resettlement contractors is: What will Trump do and when will he do it?

Still, given a president-elect who seems averse to the country’s modest commitment to refugee relocation, Mastropietro says, “We don’t know what to expect.”


Last fiscal year, the Lancaster office of the Church World Service helped to resettle 407 of the 85,000 refugees admitted to this country; this fiscal year, its target is 550 of a hoped-for 110,000.

“We are acting as if the numbers are going to be the same — until we hear something different,” she says.

Lancaster a happy “medley of cultures” (then why did Lancaster County go 57% for Trump):

Decades of resettlement work have transformed the Lancaster area into a medley of cultures so rich that Amer Alfayadh, 34, a senior case manager, struggles to name them all: “Syrians, Iraqis, Somalis, Congolese, Ukrainians, Belorussians, people from Kazakhstan. Then, of course, Lebanese, Palestinians. Bhutanese, Nepalese, Burmese, Sri Lankans …”

***I would love to know what the deal is with Walmart.  Wherever I traveled on my middle America tour this past summer, I heard that Walmart was a gathering place for Muslim refugees.  Is Walmart giving them gift cards or other goodies?  Does anyone know?

7 Responses to “BT! Church World Service working hard to get Syrian Muslims placed in Lancaster, PA”

    The Walmart in any town is always easy to find
    It has a large parking lot where the Muslims/refugee industry coordinators can park their cars near each other and meetup.\ They can take the refugees in the store to show them where to buy the items they need
    I shop at Walmart and see all kinds of immigrants there. It is an easy to figure out place for those fresh off the boat. One stop shopping etc

    No, I doubt gift cards are involved. It basically is about showing refugees how to buy things here even if they have never seen a toilet before in their lives in Somalia and Bhutan



  2. tvfmontana said

    Update. Guess I hadn’t read Jan 2 Missoulian. Amazing how my son who is an American, resident of Missoula, working and single parent of one child has been on a list for affordable govt subsidized housing for over a year. Yet these refugees, “… the 12 families in Missoula all settled into permanent housing after initial concerns of a shortage.”

    Missoula refugees now number 46 | Local |


    • tvfmontana said

      Corrected link Missoula refugees now number 46 | Local |


    • Refugees are not resettled into subsidized housing. The housing there are provided comes out of their one time payment when they arrive. The apartments are privately owned and the families are expected to pay the full rent just like any other renter. They are expected to find jobs to sustain themselves and pay their own rent and utilities.


      • tvfmontana said

        Apparently you’re not familiar with Missoula MT. Rentals, are extremely high while the number of affordable units is low as well as employment for non-skilled workers. Average annual salary (unskilled workers) is $19 to $20,000, rentals 2+ bedrooms $1000 and up monthly. So far the families resettled in Missoula have 3+ kids, no skills and can’t speak English. BTW the overall cost of living in Missoula is high. So how will they be able to sustain themselves? Do the math


  3. CWS is PROUD of their Lancaster refugees…IF they are coming from such a bad place, CWS doesn’t think the US is any better than the garbage pile they came from.

    The first family from Syria arrived earlier this week. While CWS is not revealing their identities publicly for protection, they say the family is eager to get to know their new neighbors and leave a lasting impact on the community.

    Liked by 1 person

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