….transparency, transparency, transparency should be your mantra!
The ‘quarterly consultation’ is required by law and the US State Department has confirmed that the general public is permitted to attend.
One of the most important elements of the consultation is the discussion that should be held in public about how many refugees could be placed in your town in the coming year.
As I said here the other day, since the President has flubbed his great opportunity to push reform of the entire UN/US Refugee Admissions Program in late September, citizen efforts must necessarily now return to local action.
Shortly, I will tell you the latest about how citizens in St. Cloud, MN are doing just that, but because others of you are reporting a lack of cooperation from resettlement contractors to your requests to be notified to attend QUARTERLY consultations, we will walk down memory lane.
I wrote this post on October 12, 2015 (this is just a portion of it). Disregard the portion about contacting Trey Gowdy, he is no longer the chairman of the subcommittee responsible.
(LOL! I urge serious students to open the links and read related stories, so that I don’t go nuts having to repeat things!)
It has only been in the last year or so  that we have been made aware that QUARTERLY CONSULTATIONS with community “stakeholders” were being held quietly, out of public view. In fact, I wondered why I hadn’t heard about them and now I know why!
The citizens of St. Cloud, MN, here and here, brought the issue of exclusion of taxpaying citizens from the meetings where the ‘non-profit’ refugee resettlement agency meets with local elected officials, fire/police, education, health departments etc. to assess how things are going with the refugees, and they discuss how many to bring in the upcoming year. [Open both of those links at the beginning of this paragraph, please!—ed]
According to a State Department spokesman (unnamed!) doing a
press briefing for reporters on September 11th, we learn that they have only been doing these QUARTERLY CONSULTATIONS since 2013! WTH! [Press briefing is no longer available so its a good thing I copied this bit of it.—ed]
And, they are lying! “Private citizens” have not been welcome.
These agencies (‘non-profit’ resettlement subcontractors) work very hard to hold these meetings secretly and out of the view of local concerned citizens—the ultimate stakeholder, the taxpayer! Yet, we have a State Department official (why no name?) telling the mainstream media that private citizens can attend!
Why is the spokesman unnamed?
We are pleased to have [name and title withheld] with us today. Moving forward, [State Department Official] will be called State Department official for the purposes of this call. Again, this call is on background.
So much for Obama’s much ballyhooed transparency! Now here is what ‘name and title withheld’ told a special group of reporters:
In addition, starting about two years ago, I believe it was FY13, we required that all of our resettlement agencies conduct quarterly consultations with stakeholders in their communities. So that means that not just once a year when they’re preparing a proposal, but every quarter they have to reach out to a wide variety of stakeholders. And that would include other community organizations. That could include the police department, the school, the mayor’s office, the fire department, other agencies that have a stake in refugee resettlement, and private citizens can be invited as well. And they hold those quarterly conversations and that is taken into account when we are making placement plans for the entire year and throughout the year.
You know Larry Bartlett told Senator Sessions this basic untruth here in the Senate hearing the week before last as well.
It gets worse!
We need lawyers on our team! Have they been breaking the law for 33 of 35 years? Or, have the states, which are supposed to prepare a plan every year and hold the meetings, not done their required duty to hold the quarterly meetings with communities?
Here are the federal regulations guiding the program (From CFR 400.5(h))
Provide that the State will, unless exempted from this requirement by the Director, assure that meetings are convened, not less often than quarterly, whereby representatives of local resettlement agencies, local community service agencies, and other agencies that serve refugees meet with representatives of State and local governments to plan and coordinate the appropriate placement of refugees in advance of the refugees’ arrival.
What should you do now?
So, for all of you working in ‘Pockets of Resistance’ (and others too!). Go here, and call the closest refugee resettlement office near you and tell them you want a schedule for the upcoming quarterly consultation! Ask them as well for the FY2016 [now FY18—ed] R & P Abstract which will tell you their plans for your town/city this year.
If you get a runaround, find a local lawyer willing to send the resettlement agency a letter on behalf of you—taxpaying citizens (stakeholders!). And, also make all the noise you can through whatever media you have available—tell the public that the program is being run secretively between a refugee contractor and Washington.
To all of you who have gotten this far, please send this to your fellow citizen activists. I don’t want to sound too cranky, but, if year after year, we reinvent the wheel, we will get nowhere!
This post is filed in my ‘what you can do’ category.