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Don't say I didn't tell you so, but...

Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2008, at 11:08 AM

As many of you well know, I took a lot of heat for my opinions about how the refugee resettlement program has handled the introduction of Somalis into our society, and particularly, the lack of help these folks get once they are deposited in this country.

This story came to my attention last night and deals with another group of refugees that have been left high and dry by the very people that brought them here.

WATERBURY -- The U.S. State Department has temporarily halted the International Institute of Connecticut from processing any more refugees because of failures in the way Burmese refugees were resettled here.

Admitting the institute was "deficient" in its handling of refugees, the president of the national organization that contracts with the State Department said until the institute changes the way it helps refugees, it will not be allowed to resettle any incoming refugees who are not related to those already here.

The refugees in question are the Karen, a group that has endured horrific persecution in their home country. Their plight was featured in the hyper-violent Rambo movie that recently hit theaters. These poor folks are in the same boat as our Somali neighbors: They have had little to no exposure to our culture and practically no knowledge of how to function in modern society, yet they are expected to be able to support themselves within a few months of living in this country.

The suspension caps months of confusion and anger among refugees and local volunteers trying to help the refugees, members of the ethnic Karen minority of Burma, acclimate to the U.S. Nearly half of the original 64 refugees who came to Waterbury were housed in substandard apartments for three months until the institute moved them to better quarters. Several refugee children were not enrolled in school within the 30-day period required by contract. Other children faced exclusion from middle school because their immunizations were not up to date. Older refugees did not receive appointments for a variety of medical problems, varying from poor eyesight and deafness to one man with an ill-fitting prosthetic leg.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Another part of the article states:

Many volunteers said the institute had been "rude" and "abrasive" to volunteers. JoAnne Robertson, of First Congregational Church of Watertown, said she called Oliver in January to ask how church members, who'd been delivering supplies to the refugees, could help. She said Oliver told her "the less you do, the better off (the refugees) are."

"I got a lecture on how we're doing too much for them," Robertson said. "She said they're being coddled." After the phone call, Robertson said she "didn't feel comfortable talking to her about anything at all." Newland said Oliver "blasted" her on the telephone when Newland asked about a meeting with refugees to go over their files. "She thought I was a meddling, interfering person," Newland said. "I've done nothing but help."

They're discouraging volunteer help? What in the world is wrong with these refugee agencies? The next paragraph could have very well come from one of my articles:

Typically, resettlement agencies rely on community support, in part because the federal resettlement policy is heavily based on economic self-sufficiency. Refugees are often at work within days of leaving a camp. The State Department gives a one-time, $850 per person stipend to the individual agency. Of that money, half must be used for the refugees and half goes to administrative costs. The cash is expected to last 90 days, during which the refugees are expected to get a job and independence.

Read the entire article and check the links to other articles on the Karen in Waterbury. Like the Somalis, the Karen have spent most of their lives in squalid refugee camps and they are suddenly expected to adjust to a totally alien environment and be able to support themselves in our country within weeks or months. How in the world do those in the government expect the Burmese, the Somalis and other refugees to support themselves with no knowledge of the language, culture and especially the bureaucratic maze of dealing with the government or things like paying utilities, a common thing for you and me, but something new for people who have never seen a light switch.

Shelbyville is obviously not the only town facing these type of refugee problems. As long as the State Department keep dumping these poor folks on small communities without the proper support, we are likely to see more of the situations that I reported back in December.


Comments
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Point well made Brian. It will be interesting to see how those who want to pick a fight will look at this.

The shame is that the your reporting of it is not the story, but it will probably become so. The story is that these people are being shortchanged by the very ones who claim to want to help them.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 11:45 AM

So true!

If we have agencies who are that good at getting people situated,why haven't we applied their mad skillz to our folks at home?

(Maybe they could end the drought next.)

If,as is more likely,they could use more time,more effort and more community support to help these immigrants,why are we paying for work that won't make things any better?

A mishandled job probably costs more money than one done responsibly.

It certainly costs the people in need of assistance.

When we fail people like this,we aren't just denying them a better life,we are creating new disasters that will affect all of us.

Rational,humane treatment of these concerns will benefit everyone.

Anything less will have unimaginable tragedies crashing down on our heads before we know it.

If people can't/won't do these immense tasks correctly,they should step aside and get help from those who can.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 12:38 PM

Regardless of how I felt about your articles on the Somali, I feel like I should comment on the article you just linked - I think that resettling anyone in Waterbury is a bad idea. Waterbury is a burned out mess, even if these people knew about the American way of life (such as getting jobs and paying bills and...), it would be a bad idea for them to settle there. There are no jobs there, and there hasn't been any for years - other than telemarketing jobs which refugee who doesn't speak English is not qualified for. Also, that article mentioned that the refugees were living in sub-standard apartments, what the reporter failed to mention is that most of Waterbury is full of sub-standard apartments. To be fair, there are some lovely old Victorian homes, but the neighborhoods are not safe as that is a city full of crime and destitution.

I guess basically, what I'm saying is that the refugee situation in Shelbyville is much different than sticking refugees in Waterbury - at least here there are some jobs for them and housing prices aren't that high here compared to Waterbury (or its surrounding towns).

-- Posted by cfrich on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 1:28 PM

Which is exactly my point, cfrich. At least here in Shelbyville, there is a large employer willing, for whatever reason, to take hundreds of these folks into their workforce.

But look at what happened to those Somalis that moved to Maine to escape the crime and culture of the Atlanta area. There were no jobs waiting for them there and as a result, they have had a really hard time supporting themselves on their own.

As I've said, bringing these people here and expecting them to adjust to life in America in such a very short amount of time is flat out immoral. I seriously doubt I would be able to function if I were suddenly dumped in the middle of mainland China or some other place where I didn't know the language, customs or culture with just one month worth of expenses in my pocket. Why does our government think that people who haven't had any contact whatsoever with modern society are going to be able to adjust to our way of life in a matter of months?

-- Posted by Brian Mosely on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 1:49 PM

Can't wait til the day you report POSITIVE news within the Somalian community. If all you go seeking is the negative side of everything, then that's all you'll get.

-- Posted by nascarfanatic on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 5:08 PM

On the other hand, if you go seeking the news objectively then what you get might be either positive or negative depending on the circumstances. Isn't that what journalism is supposed to do?

-- Posted by devan on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 6:04 PM

One would think, but I have never seen a positive blog or news story regarding the Somalian's from Brian. So it only makes you wonder, are you looking for dirt? When you dig for dirt you can find it, heck it may even be on the surface.

If he really wanted to prove he had no hatred for them, the best way to do it, isn't by saying "Don't Say I didn't tell you..."

-- Posted by nascarfanatic on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 6:32 PM

I agree. Some positive news would be good but Brian's point is not anti-Somalian. Its about the lack of support they have received in making adjustment to their new environment. That's what he told us some weeks ago.

-- Posted by devan on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 7:03 PM

nascarfanatic,

I think Brian has pretty much pointed out the issue is with the agencies dumping these refugees with no training, no skills to communicate, and no idea how to react with more modernized country. It is bringing more and more information regarding these "Christian" agencies are making millions off the lives of desperate people that need help and are getting pawned off on small communities that aren't capable of handling it. I don't think Brian is blaming any somalians whatsoever, I think he was re-telling what others have experienced because of the lack of integration that was promised by these refugee centers.

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 7:04 PM

The negative reports of what was going on here in Shelbyville, actually got the attention of some organization out of Nashville that are suppose to be able to help them. They claim they did not know they were even here. So the more people know what is going on, someone who can help will probably step in. That is sad, and messed up. "Set up for Failure". I wonder if someone is getting $DOLLAR BILLS$" for bringing them here, and leaving them to figure things out for themselves.

-- Posted by Momof3&3step&1gran on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 7:05 PM

I understand his points... Thanks.

-- Posted by nascarfanatic on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 7:11 PM

Just another reason why America needs to close it's borders to every nationality.........we can't take on everybody and support everybody and help everybody and give to everybody all the time. Everybody can't come to America and live. The US is not that big. America is the great melting pot and it's becoming more obvious every day.

-- Posted by jkelley on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 9:48 PM

HAHA, if we closed our borders to "every nationality" then you'd have to divide nearly every person up and send them to individual countries to live. I know hardly anyone who is "truly American". We all came from foreign lands.

Brian isn't saying to close the borders, he's just requesting a more efficient process for the transition.

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Wed, Mar 5, 2008, at 10:46 PM

What is really unfair is how legals are treated. It is an unbelievable process to obtain a green card for someone who came to America with all the right intentions. It costs a fortune, requires lawyers and compared to how illegals are treated, it is downright harassment.

-- Posted by dmcg on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 2:48 AM

Why are people from a low-tech agricultural culture being put to work in factories in small towns?

Wouldn't they get acclimated more easily if they were mentored by organic farmers,artisans or others who can apply skills they already have?

Give them a few years to adjust.

Plain Folk,"hippies",missionaries and others could serve as a bridge between the modern,Western world and where the newcomers came from.

Instead of making them feel too inadequate to cope with their new way of living,let them discover what they have to offer.

That might make them a bit more comfortable in the present and let them know they needn't bury their past to create a better future.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 5:25 AM

Thank you Mr. Mosely for pointing out how easy it is to fail these refugee groups. Maybe Shelbyville can learn from Watertown's experience and improve our efforts to help them settle in here. Of course, one thing the Somalis here have had no trouble doing is working hard and supporting themselves. But I am sure there are other areas in which additional assistance would be welcome and helpful. Maybe Mr. Mosely can follow up his posting by organizing some volunteers to help. It is also refreshing that this posting did not have any of the usual stuff about the immigrants being rude, smelly primates. If Mr. Mosely moves away from that sort of commentary, perhaps he can engage meaningfully in the dialogue on this subject.

-- Posted by andy33 on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 6:39 AM

What I have a problem with is the fact that we so many natural born American citizens who need help and assistance but yet are told over and over that they don't qualify for assistance or for help and we ignore them but yet we seem to go out of our way to accommodate people from other countries and offer them all types of incentives and then ask American citizens to deal with the issues that come with it while these organizations and government leave and offer no assistance and then bring even more in. I don't care what anyone says, this is just not right and unfair to those hard working Americans who are losing their jobs and homes and those who are struggling but yet see this kind of stuff go on daily. Plus with our failing economy and jobs going overseas, do we really need to bring in the problems of other countries when we can't even fix our own issues?

Paint the picture however you want; it is just not right.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 7:25 AM

jaxspike -

I think the answer is to give better help to American citizens rather than to refuse to help refugees. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son?

-- Posted by andy33 on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 7:59 AM

Well, evidently we cant do one very well much less two so I wish they would focus on Americans first. When they do that right, then they can focus on people from other countries . . . I have no problem if that is the case.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 8:07 AM

Quantumcat, your comments got lost in a little mud-slinging but you have an interesting and productive comment. If they are from an agrarian society, why not let them get settled in doing something they understand already.

Is someone out there reading this able to get in touch with the right people to give them this top-notch suggestion?

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 8:25 AM

It's my understanding that some sort of action and/or outreach is in the works/planning stages with various county officials to help the Somalis. Supposedly, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Right Coalition is involved in this matter. I will be reporting further on this effort when it become official.

-- Posted by Brian Mosely on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 9:07 AM

lolbert, while I normally agree, to some degree, with your comments, I should point out that the town the Karen were sent to, according to the article, was Waterbury - not Watertown as you mistakenly wrote. Not a big deal to someone who doesn't know that area, but since I am someone who does know that area very well I can tell you that those two towns are very different. I would suspect that part of the reason the Waterbury agencies wouldn't really want help from Watertown would be because of the rivalry that these two cities have had for a long time.

I would think that if those refugees were moved to Watertown, they might have has much more help than they received in Waterbury. Since I forgot about this when I posted yesterday, Waterbury (as burned out as it is) has one of the highest property taxes in the state of Connecticut, although probably not much less in Watertown - the refugees could have probably used that break in expenses.

-- Posted by cfrich on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 9:19 AM

jaxspike, here is what has happen to America's Jobs, and income.:

http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/bp173

Three countries; US, Canada, and Mexico signed the NAFTA agreement in December 1992, George H. W. Bush was the president. When Bill Clinton became president in 1993 he made its passage a major legislature priority. After intense political debate and negotiations, the US House of Representatives passed NAFTA on November 17, 1993.

This "Created the Beginning" of the downfall in our economy. Notice who profits from it??? "an agreement for the rich and powerful in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, an agreement effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies." also corporate investors get the profits too.

As for why their are illegal imigrants here?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Ameri...

"NAFTA" "Mobile persons" 74,098 foreign professionals (64,633 Canadians and 9,247 Mexicans) and their families were admitted into the United States for temporary employment under NAFTA (i.e. in the TN status). They were suppose to stay 1 year. But some gained status change and may have the possibility to stay longer. The borders were suppose to be tightened after the 9/11 attack.??

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 provided for "700 miles of high security fence," to be built in regions of the border subject to high rates of illegal crossings. To this date only "SEVEN miles of fence have been built", with the U.S. Congress wavering on its decision.

I pull this up and read this when Dianatn, try to claim Obama was holding hands with Canada on this in another blog. And found out this has already taken place, Thanks to George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton with his in put, or lack of input.

-- Posted by Momof3&3step&1gran on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 1:42 PM

BTW, the site Refugee Resettlement Watch has also been looking at this problem in CT and has some interesting information.

http://refugeeresettlementwatch.wordpres...

This comment by Christopher Coen, who heads a group trying to help refugees, really stood out to me:

"We have noted that in Fargo, North Dakota, which has plentiful factory jobs, the local refugee resettlement agency -- Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSSND) -- directs most of the refugees to just one employer that pays a very low wage. This employer accepts applicants who have limited English, yet LSSND even directs refugees with good English to these low-paying jobs, while other better paying positions go unfilled. A Liberian father of six complained that this $7.50/hr job was not enough to support him and his wife and children. LSSND officials, rather than simply direct him to higher paying positions at other local factories, called him in for a lengthy 'discussion' before three LSSND staff members and the director of the refugee program about his 'poor attitude'. "

-- Posted by Brian Mosely on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 1:50 PM

JAXSPIKE..........darrick04 seems to think that none of us are true Americans. So, I guess you don't deserve to be treated any differently than anyone else. It's just like slavery....no one in this generation ever suffered in slavery. I know our ancestors all came from different lands darrick04 ........you always have the answers for everything, don't you? I'm talking about our country now, not centuries ago. I wish you wouldn't even respond to anything I comment on because you always blog with such an attitude towards everyone else.

-- Posted by jkelley on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 11:47 PM

I am afraid your comment was totally off base darrick_04 . . . I did not come from a foreign land. I was born at here in Shelbyville at the local hospital to American parents who were also natural born citizens just like the past few generations of my family. I am 100% American just like my parents and my grandparents and great grandparents. I think you are confusing the lines about what we are talking about here . . . I have made an investment in this country since birth and pay taxes and those taxes should first be use to take care of American citizens because we are the ones who pay it in the assumption that it will help make our lives better. I definitely have a problem when our government constantly bends over backwards to help refugees and illegal aliens here in the United States but yet turns a blind eye to so many problems and issues here with American citizens. Also, I have no problem with anyone coming here legally but those who enter illegally should have no rights because they have broken the law and are taking advantage of American citizens and those who came here legally. This whole notion that no one deserves to be here because our forefathers came from different countries is stupidity running amuck . . . I am afraid that is not a valid argument. Most of our forefathers came here through legal means and work for what they got . . . they didn't ask for any hands out and they worked at integrating with American life. To use that argument to defend illegal immigration and their right to services just goes to show the limited realm of your reasoning on the issue and people like you are slowly helping erode this country.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 7:15 AM

Thank you for your comment,Steve.

I have great respect for your opinions so it means a lot when you like some of my ideas.

As for the issue of who gets what when,most of my ancestors never had to go through immigration.

Some just crossed the Bering Straight,some were brought in chains,some were dumped here because they were considered undesirable in their countries of origin and some fled here for the chance to survive and be free.

They didn't all get a warm welcome nor did all of them treat those who preceded them with consideration and respect.

But when individuals had support from their neighbors and cultures were allowed to retain their dignity,then all these people (wherever they came from) were able to contribute to a society that can draw upon all their strengths and overcome all their shortcomings.

We can look upon each other as threats to be eliminated, rivals to be thwarted,weaklings to be culled,tools to be exploited-or resources to be developed and treasured.

Instead of thinking we can't win unless the other guy loses,let's get on the same team and work for a common victory.

Those who "don't play well with others" might suffer from their laziness,selfishness or what-have-you but those who are ready to achieve,participate and benefit their community ought to get whatever chance their abilities allow.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 12:40 PM

I couldn't agree more with you JAXSPIKE.........everything you said was true. Thanks for that comment.

-- Posted by jkelley on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 1:36 PM

Very well spoken quantumcat, I AGREE totally. ; )

-- Posted by Momof3&3step&1gran on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 9:27 PM

This whole notion that no one deserves to be here because our forefathers came from different countries is stupidity running amuck . . . I am afraid that is not a valid argument. Most of our forefathers came here through legal means and work for what they got . . . they didn't ask for any hands out and they worked at integrating with American life. To use that argument to defend illegal immigration and their right to services just goes to show the limited realm of your reasoning on the issue and people like you are slowly helping erode this country.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 7:15 AM

"HAHA, if we closed our borders to "every nationality" then you'd have to divide nearly every person up and send them to individual countries to live. I know hardly anyone who is "truly American". We all came from foreign lands."

Did I mention the forefathers? Hmm, and where in my argument did I ONCE defend illegal immigration? Jaxpsike, I understand you for some reason disagree with my obvious JOKE as in "HAHA"... but really, when you find the word forefathers and illegal immigrants in my statement, I'd like you to point it out.

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 10:31 PM

Most of our forefathers came here through legal means and work for what they got . . . they didn't ask for any hands out and they worked at integrating with American life. To use that argument to defend illegal immigration and their right to services just goes to show the limited realm of your reasoning on the issue and people like you are slowly helping erode this country.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 7:15 AM

Hmm, didn't the Somolian's come here "legally"... JUST like the forefather's? Where did darrick mention "illegal immigration" in his post. Am I missing something here? Jkelley, what are you agreeing with? An accusatory statement that has obviously been proven wrong?

-- Posted by jesuslovesevery1 on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 10:46 PM

Thanks,Momof3&3step&1gran. :))))

I just assumed darrick's post referred to all of us being immigrants or the descendants of immigrants.

(If we tried sending folks "back where they came from" a la Liberia,there'd be more people headed for Europe than Africa and quite a few who'd have ties to several countries.

It would be a great time to own stock in firms that tested for mitochondrial DNA.)

We need to learn from the good and bad of our pasts but deal more with where we're going than where we've been.

I don't care if people's ancestors beamed down from the mothership.

Are they offered a chance to be an asset to their current homeland-and are they taking it?

-- Posted by quantumcat on Sat, Mar 8, 2008, at 5:58 AM

I don't have a problem with anyone as long as they obey the same laws I am required to obey.

-- Posted by stardust on Sun, Mar 9, 2008, at 11:32 AM


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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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