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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Office of Refugee Resettlement

MID-TERM CONSULTATION


On December 16 and 17, ORR conducted a "mid-term consultation" in Washington to discuss, with program participants, certain matters which either had arisen after the major consultation conducted last July, or which required follow-up based on discussions at the July meeting.

ORR invited representatives of the major Refugee Program participants. These included the Board of Directors of SCORR and Refugee Coordinators from selected large States for a full-day meeting on December 16. Invited to join the State Coordinators on the afternoon of December 17 were representatives of the Department of State, State Refugee Health Coordinators and leaders of the National Refugee Resettlement Agencies (Volags) and of the national ethnic Mutual Assistance Associations.

This report is designed to familiarize those interested parties who did not attend with a sense of the discussions which took place.

There were four major topics at both sessions, including:

  1. A report on major policy issues facing ORR, including implementation by ORR of a provision of the new Homeland Security Act related to unaccompanied alien minors;

  2. ORR's plans for implementing a major Administration initiative around the theme of marriage and family enrichment projects;

  3. Plans for the anticipated arrival of Somali Bantu refugees later this year; and

  4. Allocation of ORR's FY2003 social services funding to States.

The Tuesday session concluded with a report from a representative of the Department of Health and Human Services on the Federal Government's plans for installing an electronic grants system in the near future.

Opening Remarks
Nguyen V an Hanh, Director
Office of Refugee Resettlement

Dr. Van Hanh opened the Mid-term Consultation by welcoming the attending State Coordinators. He explained that the consultation had been called to discuss new and evolving developments since the general ORR consultation last summer, and to follow up on other matters considered at the summer meeting.

The agenda, he said, reflected:

  • Recent policy developments, particularly the Unaccompanied Alien Minor Program being transferred to ORR from the Immigration and Refugee Service under the recently enacted Homeland Security Act;
  • The outlook and issues surrounding the projected arrival during the coming year of Bantu refugees from Somalia;
  • ORR's role in the implementation of a "Healthy Marriage" program initiated by ORR's parent agency, the Administration for Children and Families;
  • The forthcoming Government-wide "E-Grant" system for processing discretionary grants electronically.
  • Allocation of ORR's 2003 refugee social services funds in the context of the arrival of fewer refugees than anticipated in FY 2002.

The UAC Program, like the Trafficking Program two years ago, has been assigned to ORR by the Congress. With respect to trafficking, he said, ORR expects to implement an outreach program in the near future to increase public awareness about trafficking in persons. "This national outreach effort," he said, "will be aimed at non-government organizations, voluntary agencies, mutual assistance associations, State and local social service providers, State and local law enforcement, the general public and other federal and State government officials." The outreach is expected to increase the number of trafficking victims who come forward for protection and assistance.

The Homeland Security Act and Unaccompanied Alien Children
Presented by Gayle Smith, Director of ORR's
Division of Budget, Policy and Data Analysis

Under Section 462 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, providing care for unaccompanied alien minors will transfer to ORR from the Immigration and Naturalization Service on March 1, 2003. This program at present provides care each year, much of it short-term, for approximately 5,000 children apprehended by INS agents, Border Patrol officers, or other law enforcement agencies. INS usually has approximately 600 alien children in shelter care. About 40 per cent are deported. Most of the rest are released to parents or responsible family members, may file a defensive claim of asylum, or seek other immigration relief. The average time for a child to remain in care is 34.2 days. The children are 85 percent males between 14 and 16 years old; only 15 percent are females. The population is largely Spanish-speaking, and is principally from Guatemala or Honduras; there are a few minors from China and India. Types of care currently provided by INS under contract range from foster care to shelter care to secure detention. ORR will be bound by previous agreements for provision of such care for the remainder of FY 2003 but is exploring the issue from a legal perspective. We are planning for the transfer, and will be exploring options for care, especially decreased use of secure detention and increased use of foster care.

Among the responsibilities of the Director of ORR under the new law are:

  • Placement decisions
  • Identification of sufficient qualified placements to house UACs
  • Developing a plan for submission to Congress on how to insure timely appointment of legal counsel to represent the interests of each child
  • Overseeing the infrastructure and personnel of UAC facilities
  • Collecting and comparing statistical information on UACs
  • Compiling, updating and publishing at least annually a state-by-state list of entities qualified to provide guardian and attorney representation for the children
  • Conducting investigations and inspections of facilities housing UACs

INS personnel now involved with the program will be transferred to ORR by March 1, 2003. Unexpended balances of appropriations, authorizations, allocations and other funds associated with the prior program will be transferred to ORR.

Volag representatives at the consultation expressed concern that an earlier version of the bill providing for paid legal representation had been dropped in the final version, but they pledged to work for inclusion through an amendment.

Marriage and Family Enrichment Projects
Presented by Loren Bussert, Deputy Director,
ORR Division of Budget, Policy, and Data Analysis

ORR's parent organization, the Administration for Children and Families, has allocated $300 million for its Healthy Family Initiative, of which $100M is to make pre- and post-marital courses available and to prevent divorce. In fiscal year 2002, $3 million in ORR formula social service funds were set aside to be used for these programs. Although ORR's Fiscal Year 2003 budget has not yet been approved by the Congress, when this is accomplished, ORR hopes to provide discretionary grants to further the voluntary agencies' program sites and to encourage the MAAs to establish the program in approximately five to fifteen sites.

Mr. Bussert began his presentation by introduced the problem of an increasing divorce rate. The following were key points raised:

  • Nationwide, there is a 50% divorce rate
  • An organization called "Marriage Savers" (www.marriagesavers.org) challenges communities to lower their divorce rates by 50% in 5 years. Using Marriage Savers communication tools for 5 years, the divorce rate dropped by 48% in Modesto, California and teen-age pregnancy and high-school dropout rates were also on the decline.
  • Pre-marital courses and marital "inventories" were offered to engaged couples. Ten percent of couples who took the course or completed the questionnaire opted to postpone or cancel their marriage plans.
  • Oklahoma has the highest divorce rate in the nation. The State appropriated $10M to begin a pre-marriage counseling program. Approximately $2 million was spent on this program. Department chiefs, hospital workers, caseworkers, and other employees from different institutions, all totaling 500 personnel, were provided training on pre-and post-marital counseling.
  • Various courses were established covering topics such as family strengthening, couples communication, and conflict resolution.

ORR has prepared a booklet with a list of resources on the topic. The booklet also contains a list of website addresses of the most prominent programs. Typically the cost for marriage courses is between $200 and $400 per couple.

Questions and Answers

Q: Is there an initiative that addresses the challenges between children and their parents and the issue of general breakdowns?

A: Yes, the Healthy Family Initiative addresses those issues with programs for adolescents.

Q: Does ORR have data and statistics of this problem among the refugee population?

A: No. However, ORR has reviewed its CFSI applications, which effectively identified problems faced by refugee families.

Q: These studies (mentioned) were undertaken with American families. There are concerns of "Americanizing" refugee populations' marriages and enforcing American marriage standards on those populations. Are there cross-cultural programs with regard to this and have pilot programs included refugee populations?

A: ORR is interested in preserving refugees' cultural uniqueness and in bridging the gaps
between the cultures. The fiscal year 2002 set-aside was to provide the MAAs an opportunity to partner with the various marriage courses.

Somali Bantu Arrivals
(Moderator: Nguyen Kimchi, Director of ORR's
Division of Refugee Assistance)

On December 16, Refugee Coordinators heard a presentation by Dr. Daniel Van Lehman and Omar Ono, himself a Somali Bantu, who have worked extensively with Bantus in Africa. Their presentation, drawn from a detailed report they prepared for the Center for Applied Linguistics under a Department of State contract, is available at www:culturalorientation.net. It provides a broad background of Bantu history, culture, religion, daily life, values, language and literacy, education, and cross-cultural challenges including housing.

They noted that Bantu are eager to work and have skills in mechanics, small-scale farming, and construction. They practice traditional beliefs and primitive health care approaches in tandem with Islam. They have little formal education. Their style of communication with interviewers will pose problems and "only after long conversations with many follow-up questions can appropriate information be obtained." However, they are seen as open and honest with their answers. Dr. Van Lehman cautioned that service providers should not assume that there would be immediate trust and respect between the Bantu and previously arrived refugees from Somalia. "Resettlement professionals should use the same caution and sensitivity….with the Bantus and Somalis that they use with other ethnic groups with a history of contentious relations."

On the following day, the larger group of attendees, through a panel discussion, considered other Bantu issues. Jill Esposito of the Department of State's Bureau for Refugee Programs said that about 1,000 Bantus are currently in post-INS processing in Africa, with the hope that they will arrive in the U.S. in the spring of 2003. Kelly Gauger of the same office said a list of cluster sites for Bantus would be distributed shortly to State Coordinators, and that potentially large "soft cross-reference groups may indicate groups larger than 200 people each." It is not yet known how the groups will be allocated for resettlement, she said. Cultural orientation will be more extensive for Bantus, with 80 hours of training planned, including specific training for women and in literacy.

Dr. Tsehaye Teferra, director of Ethiopian Community Development Council in Arlington, VA, whose agency is both a mutual assistance association and a volag, discussed his work as head of a Somali Bantu task force. He reported that his group had considered potential placement locations and would make its report available shortly. A colleague, Erol Kekic, Associate Director of Church World Service, said that 34 sites had been identified, utilizing a questionnaire, to determine availability of such resources as social services, housing and employment. Feedback from State Coordinators will be sought, he said.

Representing State Refugee Coordinators on the panel, Norman Nakamura of Utah raised the issue of placement strategies being sensitive to the historic uniqueness of the Bantu and their long history of oppression. He expressed concern about how religious issues of Bantus being resettled in large numbers in various sites would be considered.

In a discussion which followed:

  • Dr. Teferra, commenting on possible difficult relations between Bantus and other Somalis in the U.S., noted that Ethiopians and Eritreans co-existed in Africa for hundreds of years, and that it is important to emphasize positive aspects and be part of the healing process between Bantus and other Somalis.
  • Lavinia Limon of IRSA suggested that ORR and the Department of State, to help counteract potential backlash concerning Bantu, issue a joint statement explaining the desirability of Bantu placements. Dr. Van Hanh said it was important to maintain communication with communities regarding Bantu placements.
  • Asked if, in the resettlement process, efforts would be made to keep clans together. Ms. Gauger said not enough is yet known about clan concerns, but that no more than 500 persons will be placed in any site.

2003 SOCIAL SERVICE ALLOCATIONS
Leader, Gayle Smith, Director,
ORR Division of Budget, Policy and Data Analysis

The focus of this session was to discuss the allocation of formula FY 2003 refugee social service funds to States. By statute, this allocation must relate to refugee arrivals in the States during the prior three years. However, relatively low refugee arrivals during FY 2002 have created complex problems for FY 2003.

A Proposed Notice of Social Service Allocation will be published after ORR receives its FY 2003 appropriation. The President's 2003 budget proposal for ORR, forwarded to the Congress, requested an appropriation of $151.1 million for social services.

Currently, there are several allocation issues for consideration:

  • FY 2002 arrivals were low, consequently lowering the refugee population bases for that year in many states.
  • The appropriation level is unclear, and it is not known whether the appropriation, when approved, will contain any specific accompanying language that limits its use of carryover.
  • ORR is concerned about maintaining equity among States, while maintaining full participation.
  • Many States are experiencing severe budget deficits, which are likely to affect levels of State Medicaid funding

With respect to refugee arrivals, ORR has been working with the Department of State (DOS) to get arrival data on an accelerated basis. There had been a delay in getting information for several months due to a data system change at DOS. Information now available includes the following:

  • There were 27,100 refugee arrivals in FY 2002.
  • ORR negotiated with the Asylum Corps to obtain their final grant-of-asylum data. 150,000 asylee records (for the past 5 years) will be added to the ORR database.
  • Asylee data will be used to verify data from States on asylee utilization of services. States which are capturing asylee data may find it helpful towards increasing their social service allocations. The majority of asylees do not use refugee social services, and most are self-supporting and have resided in the U.S. prior to being granted asylum. However, detained asylees are a population in great need of services. States are being requested to provide ORR with data on the asylees who accessed refugee services. This data will be used in the calculation of the social service allocation. Secondary migration data, when available, are also used in the calculation.

There are several ways to minimize the impact of the low arrivals. At present, consideration is being given by ORR for use of one of the following options:

  • Run the allocation formula as was done previously. However, additional data is needed for further analysis.
  • Adjust the social service allocation floor. The floor is not part of the appropriation language, and was created by ORR for equity considerations.
  • Use carry-over funds, if available, to augment social services, depending upon ORR's appropriation and legislative language allowing the use of carry-over funds.
  • Some sort of a two-tier (weighted formula) allocation might be a consideration.

The main goal is to assist States and local agencies currently being impacted by the low arrivals. If the appropriation is reduced, low funding levels could have a negative effect on the State social service infrastructure and a "domino effect" could occur affecting all levels of service delivery.

Questions and Answers:

The Georgia Coordinator asked if the low number of arrivals will continue. Dr. Van Hanh replied that new national security measures slow arrivals. ORR does not expect this problem to be resolved quickly, he said. It would probably takes 2 to 3 years to return to the pre-9/11 rate of arrivals. Related to the problem of low arrivals is a question of equitable allocation among States to maintain the program. Dr. Van Hanh said it is ORR's intent and commitment to maintain the national and State structures of the Refugee Program.

The Florida Coordinator said low arrival numbers among Cuban-Haitian entrants due to security measures has affected the service delivery system in Miami, but the magnitude has yet to be seen.

The Utah Coordinator suggested decreasing discretionary funding and the amount of set-asides and special projects, thereby increasing funding available for social services allocation.

The Arizona Coordinator said that preserving a national structure/network is important, specifically for the resettlement of special population such as the Somali Bantu, which requires the lead by the national network.

Dr. Van Hanh said other options for calculating the social services formula might include:

  • An annual examination of the 3-year population and assignment of certain weights per year.
  • Fairness of treatment and compromise among states. It might be possible to consider different allocation strategy depending on refugee populations.

Carmel Clay-Thompson, ORR Deputy Director, pointed out that carryover funds must be used first to cover States' CMA costs before they can be used for any other purposes. Low arrivals could result in low appropriations. Earmarks are Congressional add-ons to the budget, and must be complied with; ORR could not award earmarked funds through normal allocations.

The Utah Coordinator noted that lately, a resettlement trend appears to be secondary migration from large states to small states or towns. There is need to examine long term strategic planning for resettlement, he said.

E-Grants
Presentation by Diana King
Department of Health and Human Services
E-Grants Program Management Offices

Ms. King, a computer analyst with the Department of Health and Human Services, presented information regarding a forthcoming government-wide transition from paper applications to electronically submitted applications.

A web site will be created, she explained, where prospective grantees can search for Federal funding opportunities meeting their needs and eligibility. The site will make it possible for applicants to obtain information on programs and grant application packages, and to submit applications directly to the funding agencies.

To help prospective grantees identify federal funding opportunities, a pilot project began in July 2002. In January 2003, applicants will be able to search online for opportunities to apply for funds. October 2003 is targeted as the month for the service to be fully operational

The principal components of applications submitted under the E-Grant Program will include core applicant information, a budget, a project narrative, and any required attachments. In addition to the "core" information, agency-specific information will also be submitted electronically to the proposed funding agency. The goal is promoting a more uniform application and efficient processing for applicants and Federal agencies. Applicants will need to obtain an identifying Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number for both electronic and paper applications.

The State, Local and Non-Profit Subcommittee of the Inter-Agency Electronic Grants Committee is providing input to the E-Grants process and sharing information a about electronic grants solutions across grant recipient populations for State, local and non-profit organizations.

Questions and Answers:

Q: How will the DUNS number operate? Will all of an agency's accounts be represented by one DUNS number?

A: DUNS numbers are assigned according to locale. DUNS allows for extra digits to properly identify different accounts.

Q: Will DUNS replace the EIN?

A: No, DUNS is in addition to the EIN.

Q: Are e-grants an option or must agencies discontinue using paper grant applications?

A: There is no requirement to discontinue paper grant applications.

Q: Where can an agency obtain a DUNS number.

A: The number can be obtained online or by telephone at no cost. The Internet address is
http://www.dunandbradstreet.com

Q: How will the issues of signatures and certifications be addressed?

A: Currently there is an e-authentication initiative. Hopefully, guidance on signatures will be
ready by the October 2003 project implementation date.

Q: Would funding opportunities still appear in the Federal Register?

A: In 2003, yes. However, eventually the single site for funding opportunities may replace the
Federal Register.

· Pilot programs can be found on the web at www.grants.gov
· Copies of minutes from the meetings can be found at www.iaegc.gov

CLOSING SESSION AND COMMENTS
Leader, Dr. Van Hanh

Dr. Van Hanh led the closing session in which he invited questions and comments from the participants as follows:

Q: What is the Administration's financial request for Preventive Health in the FY 2003 budget? And what is the purpose of next month's meeting on mental health?

A: The Administration requested $4.835 million for preventive health, but of course it will depend upon the Congress to decide how much to actually appropriate. Next month's meeting on mental health is to discuss issues of concern with the community. ORR will also review its "report card" with regard to addressing refugee mental health issues.

Q: ORR referenced the three pillars of resettlement (States, Volags, and MAAs). The MAAs would like to see actions to strengthen the MAAs, such as a set-aside that would make MAAs fuller partners.

A: ORR provided the $3 million in set-aside funds with the intention of encouraging the MAAs to apply for funding in support of the Healthy Family Initiatives. Help for MAAs is an ongoing concern.

Comment: Funding and training for ethnic organizing is needed by MAAs.

Comment: 9/11 had a negative effect on the refugee integration process. Refugees are pulling back from mainstream organization in fear.

Reply: ORR commissioned a study of the impact of 9/11 on refugees. ORR is continuously looking for ways to deal with that problem.

Comment: The MAAs and the Volags applaud the transition of the unaccompanied alien minors to ORR because we believe they will receive better care.

In concluding the two-day meeting, Dr. Van Hanh:

  • Urged attendees to familiarize themselves with the issues of healthy marriages, especially as this relates to cultural adjustments.
  • Noted that the Department of Health and Human Services is a "people" agency and that he wanted the Unaccompanied Alien Minor program to focus on humanitarian activities.
  • Expressed disappointment in the expected delay of Bantu arrivals, but said the extra time will enable the resettlement community to better prepare for the arrivals



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