Ho Ho! This Inverted Santa Clause Wants Your Money (In Any Language)

The Refugee Industry has many ways of demanding taxpayer money. Recently, it has acquired the right to do so in foreign languages.

Descendants of recent immigrants often have funny stories about how their parents or grandparents used 3 x 5 cards to convey simple messages whenever language failed. Things have changed. Today, for instance, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), a refugee resettlement contractor, advises the refugees it brings over to confront hospitals, clinics, public housing offices and welfare providers with a 3x5 card that basically says "Speak to me in my language or I will sue you".

Think I'm exaggerating? Consider the Winter 2002 LIRS publication (paid for with federal tax dollars) which suggests [PDF] that refugee case workers equip their charges with this card:

"My name is ---------. I have limited English skills and require qualified language assistance in --------. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that your office provide a qualified interpreter for me to have equal access to your services. It is a violation of the law for you to require me to bring my own interpreter in order to receive services. If you have any questions about how to comply with these legal requirements, call the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division at 1-888-848-5306."

As if to bring home the point, the LIRS Refugee Works bulletin points to "growing litigation relative to language access…" and warns that

"Poor communication between doctor and patient results in misdiagnosis and possible malpractice charges. The courts have decided that a language barrier does not exonerate a healthcare provider from blame."

"These administrators must hear it in terms they understand: the bottom line," comments one refugee worker on agencies that are not up to speed on "language access" law. 

In 1997 courts in Massachusetts had 7,209 requests for interpreters. By 2001 those requests were running at 57,000 per year (Boston Globe, 03/04/02). Obviously, "Language access" litigation is going to be the next big thing for the Civil Rights industry.

One professional litigator, Kathy Poulos-Minott [send her mail] left the refugee industry to found the National Limited English Proficiency Task Force of Portland, Maine. She boasts a nationwide network of 300 affiliates ready to enforce language law based on Clinton executive order E.O. 13166, the executive rule requiring any entity which receives federal funds to provide free interpreting services. Her organization sells certificates of compliance to those who comply with language law—and sues those who don't, including her former employer, Catholic Charities. Recently she has set about imposing her vision of a taxpayer-funded tower of Babel on the public schools.)

Presumably refugee resettlement agencies like LIRS could pay to send its clients to a clinic with a translator, offer English-language training and so on. But the refugee contractors have steadfastly refused to shoulder any responsibility for the refugees they fight so hard to bring over.

Instead, the U.S. taxpayer pays LIRS to bring the refugee to America. LIRS can put the refugee on welfare 30 days after arrival. Next, using taxpayer money, LIRS encourages the refugee to sue… well, the U.S. taxpayer.

LIRS's meager responsibilities end 6 months after the refugee arrives—3 months after arrival if the refugee is joining a relative, which is the case for about 40% of recent refugee arrivals.

When its contractual responsibilities end, LIRS does not even have to keep track of the place of residence of the refugees it "sponsored".

In one shocking case a 2 year-old Sudanese refugee died of lead poisoning in Manchester, N.H. less than 2 months after arriving in the U.S. and moving into a Section 8 house with her mother. The Manchester Union Leader reported (Dec 20, 2001) that the child was malnourished and "habitually ate non-food items". Given the short period of time in the house, the toddler must have been eating lead paint chips steadily. This must have been obvious. Even the most cursory follow-up on the part of the refugee's "sponsors" should have raised alerts. The Section 8 apartment manager, part of a group that normally supports the refugee influx because of the business it brings, received 15 months in a federal prison for failing to warn tenants of the lead risk. It is quite possible that, even if he had handed out English-language brochures with the warning, he would still be in jail today because the warning was not in the language of his tenant.

This case should raise as many questions about the responsibility of the refugee contractor as it does about the landlord. But instead of addressing its responsibility for the tragedy, the contractor, the International Institute of New Hampshire, a local affiliate of Immigration and Refugee Services of America, brought in a lawyer who is mounting a reported $1.2 million lawsuit against the Section 8 apartment manager and landlord.

Refugee agencies typically have all D.C. headquarters expenses and overhead paid out of the U.S. State Department budget. But there are many ways the agencies can make money from Washington. A director of a Catholic Charities affiliate described to me the process of assisting refugees fill out paperwork to bring in relatives on the refugee program. As long as the refugee sits in the affiliate's office, the affiliate pays the refugee an hourly wage to fill out the sponsorship forms. But for every dollar the affiliate pays out, it gets $1.40 from the federal government from the misnamed Federal Match Grant Program.  

Under the same federal program, donated furniture is assigned a dollar value by the contractor and a bill is presented to the government representing 140% of the value of the donated items. It is 'win-win' arrangements like these that make the refugee industry go around.

Among the more lucrative agency functions is acting as a collection agent for the U.S. government. An interest-free loan is made to the refugee for transportation to the U.S. through an international bureaucracy. Ultimately it is the U.S. taxpayer which makes these loans, but if a refugee agency collects from the refugee it pockets 25% of the loan amount! (No matter the incentive, however, many refugees still do not repay transportation loans. As of today, about 43% of the amount due for these loans is unpaid, leaving a balance of $436.5 million. 64% of the loans from the 80's are unpaid. Nominally discounted, the outstanding balance is probably over a billion given the age of some of the unpaid loans.)

The media invariably refers to the refugee agencies as 'charities' and 'private' concerns. But take a typical refugee agency, Immigration and Refugee Services of America (IRSA). According to its financial summary, 90% of its income comes from government sources in the form of government contracts, grants and commissions for collecting transportation loans made to refugees. The remaining 10% comes mostly from institutional donors such as The Ford Foundation, the American Federation of Teachers, The Pew Charitable Trust, American Jewish World Service, etc. Many of these institutions themselves are recipients of government largesse.

It is perfectly legal for refugee agencies to use government funds to get the word out about how to sue over "language access". After all, prior to 9/11 even the allegedly "conservative" John Ashcroft had increased the Department of Justice budget for this sort of thing, but not the budget for counter-terrorism. The Bush administration has made no comment about E.O. 13166, though it could eliminate it with the stroke of a pen.

The nexus between mass immigration and welfare bureaucrats, industrial farmers, immigration lawyers and all manner of other "dependent on DC" types is well-established. Part of the staying power of the refugee industry is the result of the government money it brings to so many both inside and outside the industry. Some of this money is returned to the political system, ensuring that the merry-go-round will not end on its own.

Wait till trial lawyers and civil rights lawyers join the company of immigration profiteers!

December 11, 2002