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Re: “Still Seeking Refuge

Justin, what you might not know is that the refugees struggling in Oakland are only there because of the IRC and other refugee resettlement groups. In fact, if the IRC and its partners at its lobbying group RCUSA had there way, we would have at least a hundred thousand more struggling refugees on our streets each year during this recession. In 2008-2009 RCUSA demanded that the government allow in 105,000 Iraqi refugees alone, along with all the other refugee groups that are being resettled. The IRC is also the one that decided where to place these refugees in the U.S., deciding that Oakland, with street crime that targets vulnerable people like refugees, was a good resettlement site. This is not decided by the government, but it is okayed by the State Department. Also, why is the IRC bringing in more refugees to the Bay area when their employment program is overloaded?

You describe resettlement agencies such as the IRC as penniless just because they operate their local offices with inadequate staff and resources to assist the refugees they have chosen to take responsibility for. Yet, there are a myriad number of government programs and funds -- most from HHS but others from HUD, Justice, Labor and Education Dept’s -- designated specifically for refugees, such as English language instruction, vocational training, employment services (up to 5 years), skills certification, day care, transportation, case management translation/interpreter services, etc. The State Dept. also gives the IRC $1800 per capita for refugees for the first 30-90 days. In turn HHS gives $2200 per refugee for the 30% of refugees in the Matching Grant Program, as well as money for cash and medical assistance for at least eight months. Then there are food stamps, section-8, WIC, heating assistance, social security disability, social security supplemental income, etc. So, the government sure does try.

In no way is the government responsible for all costs. The refugee program is a public/private partnership, which began as a charitable effort that is now assisted by the government. The State Department per capita grant is just seed money. The IRC and other resettlement groups are required to add significant private funding before they can accept refugee clients to the U.S. They should be required to have a full-time person just writing grant applications in each state.

The IRC should also use it’s volunteer resources wisely and not give you the brush-off or forget about you. By the way, the resettlement agencies count your donated labor at $18 per hour as a “cost” of refugee resettlement when demanding that the government contribute even greater amounts to refugee resettlement. Your free labor is also used to get the Matching Grant money in a 2 to 1 ratio, with HHS giving two dollars for each one dollar IRC provides in your labor, donated items, etc.

The IRC’s weaknesses and failures in local refugee resettlement can not be blamed on the government, except to the extent that the government oversight agencies do not adequately motivate the IRC and other resettlement agencies to practice refugee resettlement in a responsible manner.

Christopher Coen
Friends of Refugees

Posted by FORefugees on 02/19/2010 at 8:54 AM

Re: “Still Seeking Refuge

Travel laons for airline tickets to the US are paid for by the U.S. government via the IOM. Resettlement agencies get to keep 25% of what is paid back by the refugees. Refugees also qualify for at least eight months of medical assistance, up to five years if they have children, as well as section 8, WIC, heating assistance, and a variety of other government assistance.

In the case of refugees resettled by the IRC in Oakland, I question why refugees such as Ale Sho did not get any help looking for jobs during their first months here. Ale Sho is said not to have received any help for nine months. Resettlement agencies such as the IRC should only resettle refugees to resettlement cities that have employment assistance available that can help refugees become self-sufficient soon after arrival. If the IRC employment assistance program is full then they should not be resettling free-case refugees to the area, and they should be doing everything possible to apply for private grants to expand their employment program.

Christopher Coen
Friends of Refugees

Posted by FORefugees on 02/18/2010 at 12:52 PM

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