Here we go again, local resettlement agencies operating in secrecy, by Ann Corcoran 6/15/17
Electing Donald Trump has apparently changed nothing in the way local refugee resettlement agencies contracted by the federal government treat taxpayers—the very people paying their salaries!
I’m beginning to get calls from some of you working in your communities telling me that you are (again!) being barred from “stakeholder” meetings.
For new readers “stakeholder” meetings occur in resettlement towns and cities usually quarterly and it is where the contractor gets together with impacted agencies and departments in your town—like the school system people, health officials, criminal justice officials, and sometimes non-profit group members who are supportive of more refugees for the town. Not usually admitted are concerned members of the taxpaying public who might want a smaller number brought to their neighborhoods. (At this time of year they often talk about how many refugees your town can take in the coming fiscal year.)
State Department bureaucrat Larry Bartlett told then Senator Jeff Sessions that there is “consultation” in towns targeted for resettlement. What he didn’t say is that anyone in opposition was not welcome to the meeting!
I had to laugh during testimony to the Senate in 2015 when Lawrence Bartlett, with a straight face, told Senator Jeff Sessions that refugee planning for towns was done in full and open planning meetings called “stakeholder” meetings and implied the consultation was open to all citizens of the towns. (Come to think of it, maybe he doesn’t know that his contractors are turning people away!)
This is what I said in October 2015 (reporting on Sessions’ hearing) about “consultation” and stakeholder meetings: Consultation is a joke! Near the end of the hearing, Senator Sessions asked about whether there was consultation with the communities that would be receiving the refugees, and Lawrence Bartlett (US State Department) said with a straight face that there are quarterly consultations with stakeholders and elected officials.
He did not mention that the taxpaying public is prohibited from attending! He did not mention that if elected officials are hostile, they aren’t invited. He did not mention that in many communities there is no quarterly meeting. He did not mention that the meeting usually only involves ‘stakeholders’ that are friendlies.
Go here to a post we wrote in May about the efforts by citizens in St. Cloud, MN to get into a ‘quarterly consultation’ (while ‘leaders of the Somali ‘community’ had been invited), but were told initially that they were not permitted to attend. (After a public outcry, a few representatives of the concerned public did eventually gain entry to a sanitized meeting.)
Readers are always asking me what they can do. You can do this! Go here and find a contractor operating near you (even one within a hundred miles). Call them and ask when the next ‘stakeholder’ meeting is scheduled and tell them you want to come. If they say no, call your member of Congress and complain. I know you think they are useless, but you must hound them!
While you have the contractor (they call themselves ‘affiliates’) on the phone ask for the 2017 R & P ABSTRACT. They may pretend they don’t know what you are talking about, but be polite and persistent.
Even if we should be seeing the documents before they go to Washington, they are not going to give you the FY18 one they are working on at this minute, but there is no reason for them to withhold the 2017 version. Tell them you want all of the pages including any letters of support attached. The best one I ever saw is this one from Reno, Nevada. BTW, they tout Tesla as one of the global companies looking for laborers.
For FY18, they will claim it is a planning document not yet submitted to the US State Department. The ABSTRACT is the document in which they justify how many refugees your town could get starting on October 1, 2017 and you should have every right to know what they are asking for. I’ve talked about those documents here at RRW until I’m blue in the face. Use my search function for the words R & P Abstracts.
The Trump team did not need an Executive Order for this—for creating more transparency and involvement in the local planning process! Sure hope he is working on this because it would only require some regulatory tweeks, not an EO!
When the Trump team came in to office and crafted those now stalled Executive Orders, they said this (below) in the first order. I see no reason why this effort should be stalled and I sure hope that they are working on it behind the scenes. They can accomplish this goal with some simple regulatory tweeks!
However, from what I’m hearing about the process on-going in communities, nothing is changing. Secrecy is still the watchword as much now as it was under Obama.
Here is what the early Trump EO said about a larger role for targeted states and communities:
“It is the policy of the executive branch that, to the extent permitted by law and as practicable, State and local jurisdictions be granted a role in the process of determining the placement or settlement in their jurisdictions of aliens eligible to be admitted to the United States as refugees. To that end, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall examine existing law to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, State and local jurisdictions may have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions, and shall devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement.”
If anything the Dept. of State has become more secretive. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe they held an annual scoping meeting that normally happened in May (for all the years I’ve been writing this blog) where they at least pretended to get public input about the program.