The State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) offers very little information on the State Department website about how the domestic part of the U.S. refugee resettlement program works. Of course, lack of information is the antitheses of an “open” federal government unit. Missing are comprehensive basic rules and of the program. For example, how much money is provide to resettlement agencies? An announcement says that the per capita grant has been raised as of Jan. 1, 2010 to $1800 to resettlement agencies, and $1100 of that must be used on direct aid to refugees, but is the rumor that $200 of it can be diverted to other refugees correct? (Yes, but the only way I could find this out was by contacting the PRM and waiting over a month, wading through various bureaucratic steps, in order to speak with an official who confirmed the rumor was correct.) Although general contract language and requirements are provided for the Cooperative Agreement refugee program contact, missing is any explanation of how oversight is conducted. How often does the PRM monitor resettlement agencies? (Only once every 5 years according to inside sources.) Are reports produced from monitoring inspections? What are they called? Why aren't they posted on the website? What do they do when they see evidence of neglect of refugees in newspaper articles or reports from citizens? What are the penalties when resettlement agencies violate contract requirements? (There are none, according to the State Department official I spoke with.) Who determines where refugees are placed around the country? What information about each refugee is considered when determining where to place the refugee? (Apparently refugees who are given asylum based on oppression due to their sexual orientation are just randomly assigned to resettlement agencies who may not even have any services for LGBTQ clients. Survivors of torture are not necessarily sent to cities that have services for torture survivors. Refugees with advanced degrees are sent randomly to states without higher education opportunities in their professional field that would allow them to re-certify in the U.S. Etc.) What is the difference between refugee “geographic cases” and “free cases”?
The only employee listed on the site is the Assistant Secretary Eric P. Schwartz. No email address is listed for him. Where is information about other the key employees? What are the rules for refugees trying to pay back their refugee travel loans, e.g. what if they are unemployed and need a deferment? How much of that loan are resettlement agencies allowed to keep? (25%) How much private funding do resettlement agencies add to the program? The entire program is designed as a “public-private partnership” with private resettlement contractors (many faith-based) supposedly bringing a significant amount of private funding to the program, yet there is no information about that. Are the resettlement contractors actually just depending on the government funding instead? (Probably, since there is this information vacuum.)
The website almost seems to be a PR exercise propaganda, to the exclusion of real information that would allow the American public to actually understand the refugee program. How about starting to put some basic information about the refugee program in the hands of the public.
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