Refugee Resettlement Watch

JW: US Dept. of State says they have NO records on refugee travel loans/repayment (really?)

Posted by Ann Corcoran on October 13, 2017

From time to time over the years we have mentioned that refugees are required to repay their airfare loans they receive from you, the US taxpayer.

Citizen watchdog, Judicial Watch, reported yesterday that they asked, through the Freedom of Information Act, for records on those loans. No information was received and JW sued. Now in response to legal filings, the DOS (Trump’s State Department!) says they have no records!

How could that be! We know that the resettlement contractors are tasked with sending the dunning notices to impoverished refugees and that the contractors—including those kind souls at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops—keep 25% of what they collect for themselves. So someone must be keeping records!

I’m guessing the mystery relates to the fact that the public (if fully informed) would react negatively to finding that the repayment rate is pretty low and that the contractors*** put a quarter of anything repaid in their pockets (so they can teach ‘new Americans’ all about debt!).

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(First Judicial Watch, then see below, what a coincidence to see a sob story on airfare loans at NorthJersey.com just yesterday as well.)

Here is JW:

In response to a Judicial Watch lawsuit, the State Department claims in a legal document that it has no records involving refugee travel loans that the agency gives foreigners overseas to buy plane tickets to fly to the United States. The program is operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an intergovernmental group that assists refugees worldwide with hundreds of millions of dollars from Uncle Sam. The money is channeled through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). In fiscal year 2016 the State Department gave IOM $477,257,564, according to the agency’s report on contributions to international organizations. That doesn’t even include millions more that the State Department gives the IOM for special refugee resettlement “platforms” that pop up throughout the year.  [IOM is now part of the United Nations—ed]

[….]

In a federal court document responding to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, the State Department writes that its “search did not retrieve any records reflecting the number of refugee travel loans furnished per year using U.S. Government funds, the number of such travel loans defaulted on annually, nor the amount of money written off per defaulted loan.” In a footnote the agency writes that it did retrieve some records reflecting IOM’s “general reporting” on refugee travel loans, but none of it contained the “specific information sought” by Judicial Watch. This is outrageous because it suggests that the State Department can’t account for money American taxpayers are lending to foreigners to fly here to declare themselves refugees. A source with inside knowledge of the matter confirmed to Judicial Watch that the records exist and years ago a State Department insider provided figures that show only about half of the travel loans have been repaid since the program was launched in the 1950s, representing a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to American taxpayers. Judicial Watch viewed the records, which span from 1952 to 2002 and reveal that the IOM issued $1,020,803,910 in “transportation” loans and recovered only $584, 219,453.

Continue reading here at JW’s “Corruption Chronicles.”

Now check this out! Coincidence? Just yesterday (JW’s news was yesterday) NorthJersey.com reports on poor Syrian refugees who can’t repay those loans!

Clearly this is a State Department program, so how can they possibly say they don’t keep records. In fact, how do the contractors get their 25% cut if no one is keeping records?

WE have to teach these refugees about borrowing money so that will help them be better Americans say contractors!

Headline and story at NorthJersey.com:

For refugees, escape to U.S. comes with a cost

The travel loan program is supposed to help families build a positive credit history in the United States, advocates say. But families like the Al Samakehs worry that the reverse will be true and that they’ll be saddled with debt and a bad credit rating.

The State Department established the travel loan program after the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, setting up a revolving fund for the continued support of refugees. Before they travel, refugees agree to repay the interest-free loans for travel costs within four years, including a six-month grace period.

The agencies that resettle and help refugees in their new lives also oversee repayment, collecting a 25 percent commission.

Erol Kekik 2

It helps refugees build good credit. Most pay the loan back. How do we know, if there are no records?

Sean Piazza, a spokesman for U.S. Programs at International Rescue Committee, one of the resettlement agencies, said the arrangement teaches refugee families financial literacy and helps them build a credit history. That, he said, “can later help realize huge steps in a family or individual’s self-sufficiency, including automobile or home ownership.”

Erol Kekic, executive director of the Immigration and Refugee Program of Church World Service, said the travel loan program is controversial, but that building good credit could help refugees. He also said that clients get financial counseling and that most pay back loans on time.

“They go into it knowingly and they try to honor their responsibility,” he said.

So, the State Department had records in 2015!

Nationally, around 70 percent of loan balances are repaid within five years and 78 percent are repaid within 10 years, the State Department reported in 2015. The average loan amount is $1,200 per person.

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This is from the annual report of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration Fund in 2014 showing clearly the travel loan collection fee of over $3 million. More recent financial docs show a similar pot of money. So, if the DOS has no records on travel loans, how do the Bishops determine their income from collecting loans (from getting the money out of the impoverished refugees they “serve.”)

Still, some critics say the agencies’ [the volags, the contractors—ed] role poses a conflict of interest. Steven Sacco, an immigration attorney at a New York City nonprofit legal organization, said a debate about the loan program had been stifled because the agencies that are primary advocates for refugees also make money from the program.

“They’re trying to support themselves and their mission, but because they are short on cash they guard their income sources,” Sacco said. “It’s a conflict of interest because it’s a burden on the people they serve.”

Sacco argued that the loan program should be illegal because it amounts to a tax on refugees.

More here.

This is one more reason that Congress should be investigating the UN/US Refugee Admissions Program.

*** Here are the contractors who monopolize all refugee resettlement in America. Six consider themselves ‘religious charities.’

By the way, back in 2007 when resettlement contractor Church World Service came to the county where I live, one of the first revelations to me came when an English language instructor told me about some poor refugee who didn’t speak English coming to her to ask about a letter he didn’t understand—it was his letter from the contractor to begin repaying his airfare loan through them. It came as an unhappy surprise to him.

10 Responses to “JW: US Dept. of State says they have NO records on refugee travel loans/repayment (really?)”

  1. tomasrose said

    the collection of transportation loans is so lucrative that the larger Volags hire collection agents for that purpose. Those collection agents are paid by the U.S. taxpayer. So, that means a U.S. taxpayer-paid collection agent collects on a loan, 25% of which goes directly to the Volag with no strings attached. What a deal!
    The main number that DOS is not giving out is how much of the loans have been written off and will never be collected. They like to brag that the loans are paid back at a better rate than student loans, but they exclude that write-off amount (that is a national secret) from their calculations so we don’t really know what the repayment rate is.

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  2. momodoom said

    I call B.S. … or criminally bad math.

    The story states the refugees owe about $5000 in travel expenses, to be repaid within 4 years.

    This comes to about $100 per month, yet the story says the monthly payment is $636.00 ?!?!??

    “The Arab American Family Support Center paid one monthly installment of $636, leaving a balance of $4,317.”

    At that payment, they would repay the entire loan in 8 months! Or, if they kept up that payment for 4 years, they would be repaying $30,000.

    So, who’s dishonest, confused, or really bad at math…??

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    • Ann Corcoran said

      Good catch!

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    • Momodoon, though the figures in article were not clearly explained, I suspect that AAFSC paid as much of the first six months of payments that it could ($636), but the the rest (($4317) is up to the family. The $636 wasn’t described in the article as a monthly payment. Appears to have been a fairly arbitrary advance payment on the total loan. If you add the $636 pymt with the $4317 balance owed, it equals total loan amount of $4953. Given the less than forthright info coming out of the resettlement industry, am glad that you are, justifiably, a stickler for details. Wish the person who wrote the article was as well. Cheers!

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  3. It is the local branches that force Muslims to pay back their flights from the SS they receive from the government. This will not show up in the head-office accounting but locally for running services of the branch. I worked amongst refugees and know they have to pay it back for a fact.
    The reason why I mention this is that these organizations (mostly religious organizations) who are bringing over the refugees live off the money they receive from the government for the refugees. They do not provide adequate services for the refugees and dump them on the government BUT squeeze every sent from them in the process. They therefore are winning money from government and the refugees.

    These organizations also arrange demonstrations against the government and pretend to be human rights activists – not because they care for the refugees – but because they are making money off of it.

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  4. DOS mendacity is becoming scandalous. I hope Tillerson catches wind of this latest of scandals and actually does something about it. With each passing day, I pray he will resign and that John Bolton takes over. Talk about cleaning house!!!!! That’s the man who would do it!!!!

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  5. thetinfoilhatsociety said

    Oh, so my husband can be forced to pay off my student loan debt if I die, but these people 1. get to live off our welfare/food stamps/subsidized housing 2. get free medical care AND we’re forced to pay for their trip here? And they’re not held accountable for any of it? How is that fair? How is that – I can’t even think of a word for this! I own a small business and I don’t even take a paycheck because admin costs are so high. I have two employees that I work to support, and these people can’t even be bothered today back their loans? And I’ll be working until the day I die to pay off mine? Words fail me. Why bother?

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    • Tin Foil, I’m pretty sure the preponderance of refugees are paying back their airfare loans. If the refugees are making a convincing effort to repay their loans, they are able to establish credit. Failure to make such an effort and their credit in the future will suffer until repayment of the loan is properly addressed. Local resettlement agencies are required to orient newly-arrived refugees of their responsibilities in this regard and to explailn the credit ramifications if they fail to repay the promissory note to IOM. I believe what Ann is saying here is that DOS is saying it’s not maintaining records (which is a lie) because DOS doesn’t want taxpayers to know just how much is spent for refugee travel. This could be because the refugees are no longer compelled to repay the loans. I don’t know. Since I’ve been out of the system for some time now, what I would like to know is if repayment is still a requirement and 1) whether or not DOS still requires local resettlement agencies to cover this topic with refugees during initial arrival orientation, and 2) whether or not DOS requires local agencies to monitor repayment. Things may have changed for the worse, but I have no way of knowing. But, in my day I’ve had refugees come to my office abut 5 or 6 years after their arrival to pay off loans they had ignored or forgotten about, this in order to establish bonafides with local creditors. Not sure what’s what with this airfare loan business now, but count my cynical.

      Liked by 1 person

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