Office of Refugee Resettlement Newsletter - Autumn 2012

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News from ORR - Autumn 2012

Happy New (Fiscal) Year! 

The new fiscal year is a time of reflection and anticipation here in Washington, DC., as we close out FY2012 grants and projects, and look towards new opportunities and strategies for service to refugees, asylees, and all the groups ORR assists.

One highlight of FY2012 was the National Consultation, held on September 19th and 20th in Crystal City, VA, with more than 800 service providers, partner agencies, and honored guests attending. Starting with the presentation of the colors by the Woodrow Wilson High School Color Guard, the Opening Plenary featured a diverse and high-level roster of speakers, beginning with HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr, who acknowledged the important contribution to America that the ORR network and the refugee community make. 

"At the moment when refugees may find themselves most lost, adrift, or vulnerable," Deputy Secretary Corr remarked, "you provide security, stability, and hope for a better tomorrow, and together with the people you serve, you make this country a stronger, more diverse and vibrant place."

Mr. Corr was followed by Assistant Secretary Anne Richard from the State Department's Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM); the White House Domestic Policy Council's Senior Policy Advisor for Immigration, Felicia Escobar, and Dr. Gabriela Lemus, Special Advisor to the Secretary of Labor.

Guor Marial keynoteThe Keynote Address was delivered by Olympic athlete and former refugee from South Sudan, Guor Marial. Competing under the IOC flag as his U.S. citizenship remained pending and South Sudan lacked an official delegation, Mr. Marial turned down an offer to represent the Sudanese team; through this gesture, he ended up running for all refugees, stateless, and displaced persons.

Day One also featured a discussion of New Arrivals amongst representatives from UNHCR and IOM and ORR's domestic partners in refugee admissions (PRM and DHS/USCIS), and closed the day with a retrospective look back from former ORR Director Nguyen Van Hanh, Utah State Refugee Coordinator Gerald Brown, and current ORR Director Eskinder Negash.

This year, ORR was also privileged to feature individual addresses from 18 invited speakers during the Refugee Voices plenary, which opened the second day of the Consultation. Recently resettled refugees from Congo, Burma, Burundi, Iraq, Bhutan, Sudan and several other nations shared their perspectives and experiences, with most advocating for peace and security for family and loved ones left behind. 

Day Two of the Consultation featured a lively Town Hall discussion about the Affordable Care Act featuring speakers from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, while the final session offered a performance by invited speaker and former refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Freddy Nyembwe, who returned to sing his original composition, "Hear My Prayer". He was followed by a very special tribute to the late Pamela Green-Smith, former Director of ORR's Division for Refugee Assistance, and beloved member of the team. Freddy Nyembwe

Lastly, Director Eskinder Negash gave his final remarks, reminding the audience that "No matter what fiscal or political challenges may be coming, the one constant in this case is not change--it is commitment to ensuring that America upholds its ideals and inclusive promise, and the commitment to refugee resettlement as more than just the simple transfer of people from one place of hardship to another."

In total, this year's Consultation featured 36 Plenary speakers; three former refugee MCs; three Dialogue Sessions (on topics as varied as TANF Administration, ACF Regional Operations, and Community Engagement to Reduce Suicides in Bhutanese Communities), and nearly two dozen separate workshops. ORR thanks all the presenters and participants for making the 2012 National Consultation such a great success!

ORR Spotlight: Bill Shuey

Bill ShueyWhen Bill Shuey, long-serving Executive Director of the International Institute of Rhode Island (IIRI), formally announced that he would be retiring after nearly three decades at the helm of Rhode Island's leading non-profit assistance agency for refugees and immigrants, the news was greeted with many, many calls of appreciation and well-wishes. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, however, made a much more public statement, reading a personal tribute to Bill Shuey into the Congressional Record last month.

"Mr. President, today I wish to recognize Bill Shuey, Director of the International Institute of Rhode Island. Bill is retiring after nearly three decades of service to the Rhode Island community. Bill and his staff have served immigrants and refugees who have come to Rhode Island and southeastern New England from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Bhutan, Iraq, Lebanon, Armenia, and many other countries.     ...

Through building effective partnerships between non-profits, government, and the private sector, Bill has helped knit the fabric of our community in Rhode Island to connect thousands of individuals with the skills they need to become productive members of Rhode Island's workforce and society. Rhode Island has a long tradition of being enriched, culturally and economically, by immigrants who came to our shores with the American dream in their hearts. Bill has helped so many of them get a welcome start. I wish him heartfelt congratulations and gratitude for his years of service to the people of Rhode Island."

~Statement by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
Presented to the Senate - September 20, 2012

Senator Whitehouse's own connection to the Providence-based International Institute and Bill dates back several decades, when he was an IIRI Board Member, witnessing the growth of the agency under Bill's leadership.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement joins Senator Whitehouse in wishing its friend and partner Bill Shuey all the best in his retirement, and sincerely thanks him for his dedication and commitment to ensuring that refugees in Rhode Island have the skills and support they need to transform their hopes and dreams into realities of their everyday lives.  Read the full text of the Tribute can be read here.


DOJ sealThe Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) was one of the workshop presenters in the ORR 2012 National Consultation. For those unfamiliar with HRSP, it's a component of the Justice Department that investigates and prosecutes individuals who manage to enter the U.S. after committing atrocities overseas.

HRSP was created In March 2010, when two units of the Justice Department, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Domestic Security Section (DSS), were combined.  The merger of these two units, both of which brought cases against human rights violators, reflected DOJ's commitment to prosecuting persons who commit human rights violations and war crimes.
One such persecutor brought to justice by HRSP is Gilberto Jordan, a former Guatemalan special forces soldier who participated in a massacre in the village of Dos Erres.   In 1982, during a mission to Dos Erres to find suspected guerrillas, Jordan and the other special forces soldiers forced the villagers from their homes, and proceeded to kill the men, women and children indiscriminately. Jordan later moved to Florida and became a United States citizen.  When U.S. Government agents contacted Jordan in Florida, he admitted that he participated in the massacre and that the first person he killed was a baby.  Jordon pled guilty to unlawfully obtaining his U.S. citizenship by lying about his participation in the massacre and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
HRSP employs a number of different criminal and civil enforcement tools to hold accountable the perpetrators of these crimes and to ensure such perpetrators are not granted safe haven in the United States.  In some cases, HRSP prosecutes suspected human rights violators using laws against torture, genocide, war crimes, and recruitment and use of child soldiers.  In other cases immigration and naturalization fraud laws are used - these are used as alternatives to criminal prosecution where the statutes cannot apply; for example, where the human rights violations occurred prior to the statute being passed by Congress.  
Unfortunately, sometimes human rights violators - such as Gilberto Jordon - end up living in the United States.  HRSP wants immigrants and refugees who encounter persons who may have hurt or threatened them in their native country to know that they can safely report this information using their toll free hot line (1-800-813-5863), or email Kathleen O'Connor, the Deputy Chief at HRSP in charge of holding human rights violators accountable, at    
What types of actions are considered human rights violations? Some examples include: murder, rape, physical or mental torture, and the recruitment or use of children as soldiers.  You do not have to identify yourself when providing information.  
HRSP asks that refugee service providers share this information with all clients - their help is an important part of HRSP's mission to find human rights violators living in the United States and bring them to justice.

Updates from ORR

On the Job: Matching Grant by the Numbers

ORR is pleased to see the national voluntary agencies (volags) reporting strong outcomes for refugee employment in the 3rd trimester of FY2012, with many affiliates achieving 100% employment for their caseloads. 

As the final reports come in, here's a sample of their successes:

World Relief:
• 874 clients enrolled
• 64% self-sufficient @ 120 days
• 74% self-sufficient @ 180 days

• 1811 clients enrolled
• 61% self-sufficient @ 120 days
• 75% self-sufficient @ 180 days

• 1168 clients enrolled
• 49% self-sufficient @ 120 days
• 71% self-sufficient @ 180 days

For more information about ORR's Matching Grant program, and full program statistics, please visit the Matching Grant page on the ORR website.

ORR's Home-Based Child Care Program: Setting a Remarkable Pace

At the inception of the Microenterprise Development - Home-Based Child Care program in FY 2011, ORR awarded 13 grantees in 13 states grants totaling $2.225 million per year for two years. 

The primary goal of the program is to assist women refugees to become economically self-sufficient and integrated into the mainstream. A secondary goal is to expand home-based child care business options for other refugees, to enable them enter the workforce with confidence that their children are being cared for by individuals possessing appropriate cultural competency.

During the first year of the project, these 13 grantees have collectively:

  • • Enrolled 879 refugee women in the program;
  • • Trained 745 refugees;
  • • Helped 172 refugees obtain business licenses;
  • • Assisted 160 refugees to start home-based child care programs 
  • • Created 1,061 childcare slots for children;
  • • Paid $249,004 in grants to partially cover business startup costs, and assisted the home-based child care owners to obtain an additional $208,208 in subsidies;
  • • Helped 207 refugees find and secure jobs, and
  • • Taken 79 refugees off public assistance.

Considering that new projects typically have a long gestation period to take off, the results of this project during its first year are promising. Even better performances are expected in Year Two!

ORR is very pleased to award another $3,591,195 for FY 2013, to 21 new grantees located in 18 states.

Community Engagement: ORR Supports  Refugee State and Health Coordinators

The Office of Refugee Resettlement's (ORR) Division of Refugee Assistance (DRA) facilitated a half day peer training following the ORR National Consultation. More than eighty State Refugee Coordinators (SRCs) and Refugee Health Coordinators (RHCs) held discussions on strategies to engage stakeholders at multiple levels, and effective ways to manage their state programs through data collection for strategic planning, assessment and demonstration, program evaluation, program development and improvement, and promotion and coalition building. 

State Refugee Coordinators Tom Medina for Washington State, Michael Singleton for Georgia, Dr. Ed Silverman for Illinois, and Paul Stein for Colorado gave presentations sharing current promising practices in the field to strengthen the U.S. refugee resettlement program. ORR Director Eskinder Negash, Deputy Director Ken Tota, DRA Director Mitiku Ashebir, and ORR state analysts joined in the discussions.

Todd Hamilton, SRC of Louisiana, reported that "the best aspect was the opportunity to hear the four presenters discussing issues with depth and compassion." Catherine Yomoah, SRC for Maine expressed, "the group discussions were very valuable, particularly since we had State Refugee Coordinators and Refugee Health Coordinators at the same table. I learned about how these individuals in other states were collaborating to make integration a seamless process for refugees." 

SRCs and HRC's have a unique role as liaisons with all local stakeholders, including government officials, voluntary agencies, ethnic organizations and community leaders. With the larger responsibility of aiding overall refugee integration, there is often very little time to consult their colleagues around the nation.  

ORR brought familiar and new faces, people from large and small state refugee programs, and included both health and state partners to share promising practices, provide peer support, and stimulate creative thinking--tapping into the tremendous wealth of resources among peers. Mette Brogden, SRC for Wisconsin, noted that "there were relationships built, as well as more appreciation of how people think and the diversity of skills and experiences present in that room."

DRA/ORR looks forward to holding more meetings of this type to facilitate ongoing opportunities for peer collaboration.

Diversity Rocks ORR

Recently, on an otherwise quiet Friday afternoon, the Office of Refugee Resettlement played host to a group of 39 refugee teens, who stopped by to meet the Director during their group trip to Washington, DC. 

Diversity Rocks!, a youth group comprised of teen-aged resettled refugees in Vermont, provided for a lively afternoon of personal introductions and stories, a narrative tour of Burlington and the surrounding countryside, and a wonderful rendition of "We Are the World" performed by the students for ORR Staff and invited guests. The youth group worked for two years to save enough money for their DC tour, holding bake sales, talent shows, car washes and other fund-raising activities.

Members represented the multi-cultural nature of resettlement in Vermont, with former refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Bhutan, Burma, both Congo's, and many other nations, all working together to increase access to education and employment opportunities; build confidence in themselves, their abilities, and their self-expression; expand community engagement, and spread awareness of the diversity of Vermont's newest residents, and the contributions they make to their new home.  

Diversity Rocks! is supported by the  Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP), and coordinated by Laurie Stavrand, VRRP's Community Partnership Coordinator.

Office of Civil Rights: Protecting Access for All

Did you know that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) protects all of us from discrimination in health and human services programs, and safeguards our health information privacy? 

You cannot be denied services or benefits, simply because of your race, color, national origin, or disability.

For more information, or to discuss your concerns with a qualified representative, please visit the OCR Website or contact the OCR regional office in your state.


ORR wants to hear from you!
We look forward to receiving your comments and suggestions for this Newsletter, as well as nominations for ORR Heroes.  

Please send your comments and suggestions to ORR; we look forward to hearing from you soon.