Citizen researcher: Get “the plan” for your community before it goes to Washington

Refugee Resettlement Watch, by Ann Corcoran on April 20, 2015:

Editor:  Every resettlement agency (contractor) must submit to its parent contractor (those top nine we harp about all the time) a plan for your town or city every year.  “The plan” (sometimes called an “abstract”) includes the number of refugees the local agency thinks they can accommodate and lists the resources/amenities your town has to offer the refugees.  These “plans” are never available for public review and comment, but are used by the US State Department and the Office of Refugee Resettlement to determine how much of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars are needed by the contractors.

A citizen activist in Tennessee has penned this important guest post so that you can learn how to obtain and research “the plan” for your community.

Last week we asked you to get your state plan, here.  Now it is time to get your local one.

Here are the resettlement subcontractors working in over 190 cities across the country.  Find one near you and ask for their “abstract” for FY2015.  Unfortunately 2015 has already been approved, but it will give you an idea of what they are doing at this minute in your city.

 As we approach FY2016, demand “the plan” before it goes to Washington.  FY2016 begins on October 1, 2015, so they are working on these now, or will be shortly.

Get the Plan Before Federal Contractors Bring Refugees to Your Community

By Joanne Bregman

Federal refugee resettlement contractors should be required to openly disclose their proposed plan to the receiving host community before it is accepted and funded by the federal government. These plans contain no proprietary information and should not be awarded public money without first being vetted, commented upon and accepted by the proposed receiving community.

This is especially important in the states being run as Wilson-Fish programs, which means that a federal contractor is in charge and the state government has no voice in the running of the program. In states where the program is run by the state government, not only would this be appropriate but state dollars appropriated to the program should be discussed openly and the priority questioned by the state legislature prior to adopting their annual budget.

This GAO Report was critical of the process for resettling refugees into local communities, but it seems to have disappeared down a black hole. We see no reform, or more transparency coming from its release nearly three years ago.http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592975.pdf

Refugee resettlement is a government procured set of services that federal contractors are paid to provide. In fact, the resettlement contractors are paid for each individual refugee they bring to a community and as the 2012 GAO report noted:

“…local affiliate funding is based on the number of refugees they serve, so affiliates have an incentive to maintain or increase the number of refugees they resettle each year rather than allowing the number to decrease.”

The nine national voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) have affiliate (local) offices spread throughout the country, except for Wyoming where there is no refugee resettlement program.

Sometime before the start of the federal fiscal year (October 1 of the previous year) when these businesses get to find out how much public money they will receive, the local affiliate offices submit a resettlement proposal, sometimes called a “resettlement abstract.”

They “bid for bodies” and write narratives explaining why their location is a good place to resettle refugees. These “bids” are sent to their national VOLAG, which works with the State Department and the other VOLAGs to divide up the new fiscal year’s anticipated arrivals and the money that attaches to the arrivals.

The abstracts/annual resettlement plans include statements like “ELL [English Language Learner] services in the public schools are free.” Of course lots of other taxpayer- funded services such as Medicaid and cash welfare are also “free.”

They detail how many mosques might be in a location and how many languages are spoken by the agency’s staff members. They might include information about the ethnic composition of the seed communities they helped to start and the medical services available in a community. The plan might disclose the work of the resettlement agency’s “employment specialists” paid to get refugees employed ahead of unemployed Americans in the same community.

Here (below) is an example of a local resettlement plan; there should be a requirement that they be presented to local communities before being funded with public money. Until then, community members should inquire of the local resettlement organizations in their communities and when they are told (as they most likely will), that they do not have the information, move on to the national parent VOLAG office and request the documents.

See the plan