Utah embraces refugees, will LDS church become a federal refugee contractor?
Posted by Ann Corcoran on January 13, 2017
“Even people that live here, they don’t even know they have that many refugees in the state.”
Aden Batar, Catholic Community Services
Right now, most refugees resettled in ‘welcoming’ Utah are placed there through Catholic organizations under the umbrella of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, but the Mormon church is jumping on the bandwagon. So far they haven’t applied to become a refugee contractor (to get direct grants from the federal government), but I have been speculating about the possibility that they are in the learning stage right now working along with Catholic agencies.
If you missed it yesterday, you might want to read my post about the millions of tax dollars the US Conference of Catholic Bishops receives every year for their charitable (Ha! Ha!) work here.
It doesn’t surprise me that other ‘religious charities’ might want to get on the gravy train! See recent posts on the Mormon church and refugees here.
Here is a the fluffy puffy news from The National Catholic Reporter (the star of the story is a Somali refugee) about how wonderful the refugee program is in Utah.
Aden Batar’s first taste of Utah came more than 20 years ago as a high school student in his native Somalia. An agriculture team from Utah State University had traveled there to work with Somali farmers on their farming techniques. Batar was a promising student then, learning about the snow in Salt Lake City from the ag workers, studying English and planning for law school.
Now 48, Batar was the first Somali refugee resettled by Catholic Community Services (CCS) of Utah in 1994. The agency has helped to resettle close to 7,000 men, women and children in the state, the majority since 1996. That same year, Batar got a job as a case manager with CCS in part because he could speak Somali.
“Utah is home to more than 60,000 refugees,” said Batar, now the immigration and refugee resettlement director at CCS, which is affiliated with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He credits a partnership between the Catholic church and the Church of Latter Day Saints for much of the immigration work done in the state. “Even people that live here, they don’t even know they have that many refugees in the state.”
Concerns about terrorism and the prospect of harsher immigration laws under the incoming Donald Trump administration aren’t making the work of CCS and Holy Cross Ministries any easier, but they’ve frankly got too much on their plates right now to worry much about what might happen in the future.
If it’s still a surprise that so many refugees end up in Utah, it may be even more so to learn that they are often the “most difficult to serve,” Batar said. The refugees are usually part of large families, people with medical issues or disabilities, or women who have suffered trauma and are the head of household. Utah is popular not just because housing is inexpensive there, although it is, Batar said.
We can only assume that Utah has run out of American poor people for the LDS church to serve, so they have moved on to importing poverty to the state.
Near the end we hear from Rick Scott, manager of North American humanitarian operations for the LDS Church in America and Canada:
The LDS Church had explored becoming a resettlement agency itself, Scott said, but it currently provides cash, commodities (mattresses, food, hygiene products, etc.), resources, and volunteer assistance to CCS.
Frankly, I think they still are exploring it! But, to break into the monopoly the nine volags (federal contractors) have, an organization wishing to become a direct resettlement agency must prove they have experience with refugees. What better way to get it than to partner with the largest contractor—the US Conference of Catholic Bishops—to learn the ropes.
There is a lot more that might be of interest to Utah residents, go here to read the glowing report about Utah wrapping its arms around refugees.
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