Obama’s America: How the community politics of refugee resettlement are being cooked

Obama’s America: How the community politics of refugee resettlement are being cooked
Fargo City Hall, where interns sign planning documents on behalf of the city. (Image: Google Street View)

The trick with writing posts like these is deciding where to make the cut.  There’s such a big iceberg beneath the surface.  There are so many relevant facts: events and agreements, manifestos and participants that make clear just how centrally coordinated this all is.  But you can’t throw everything at readers all at once.

So in this post, I’m just going to focus on the recent reporting – mostly, but not entirely, from alternative media – on ways in which local communities are being end-run to put refugee resettlement agreements in place.

More than 600,000 immigrants with official refugee status have been resettled in the U.S. since 2008.  (That’s just the designated “refugees,” and does not include other legal immigrants and illegal migrants.  The U.S. has admitted a total of over 6.3 million immigrants for legal permanent residence since 2008, of which the refugees represent roughly 10%.)

There are some out-of-the-way communities that have a relatively long history of accepting refugees for resettlement, at a rate significantly disproportionate to their populations.  Twin Falls, Idaho is one; another is Manchester, New Hampshire.

(Something these communities tend to have in common is non-profit organizations in or near them that specialize in resettling refugees.  In Manchester, the group is the Boston-based International Institute of New England.  In Twin Falls, the entities are the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Program (CSIRP), located in Twin Falls, and the Idaho Office for Refugees in Boise, a project of a group called Jannus.  All of these groups receive funding from both the taxpayer and major NGO funders including George Soros, the latter mostly through the non-profit U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.  For a good one-stop-shopping resource on the business of funding refugee resettlement, see Ann Corcoran’s Refugee Resettlement Watch.)

Local citizens are not always thrilled about the way their towns change with the influx of refugees.  Many refugees are no doubt success stories, and I would say that people who argue in general against America taking in refugees are in the minority.

But approving the idea of such compassion doesn’t mean that people in small or medium-size cities have agreed to see their communities transformed unrecognizably by an inflow of immigrants who form enclaves and decline to assimilate.  Bringing in refugees is also frequently connected to business interests that want to hire the refugees – instead of hiring the American citizens in the same towns.

Americans in smaller cities have reason to be especially leery of plans to resettle hundreds or thousands of refugees in their areas.  In the interest of keeping this post at a reader-friendly length, I recommend checking out resources like Ann Corcoran’s blog, and the series Breitbart has been doing on Twin Falls, if you want more background on this.  My purpose here is to go beyond making that larger case, and illustrate specifically how leery communities are being sandbagged by Obama’s go-to henchmen – and by their own local officials.

(I do have the material for several related posts, on Chobani and Twin Falls, for example, as well as the plans of migration advocacy groups to subvert American expectations about immigrant assimilation.  Those topics will have to wait.)

Twin Falls

We’ll start with Twin Falls, which has been in the conservative-media news a lot this summer, after the sexual assault on a five-year-old girl by three immigrant boys (reportedly Somali refugees) in June 2016.  (Calling the assault a “rape” was arguably dubious when it was first reported, and that was seized on by the leftosphere to try to discredit all reporting about the incident.  But the incident unquestionably took place, and involved, at the least, the little girl being stripped naked and urinated on by the boys.  A more recent update indicates that a court filing against the 10-year-old boy involved alleges that he “both anally and orally penetrated the five-year-old, in addition to urinating on her.”)

Twin Falls has had an unusually large refugee population added to it in the last 35 years, although most of it has come in since Obama took office.  Since the main refugee sponsor, CSIRP, began operations in 1980, 2,500 refugees from multiple continents have been resettled in Twin Falls.  The city’s overall population has grown from 26,000 in 1980 to just over 47,000 in 2015 (numbers from U.S. Census).  So the refugees represent more than 10% of the city’s population growth.

The CSIRP can resettle about 300 refugees per year.  Given that the entire state of Idaho has been taking in about 1,000 a year (and specifically received about 7,300 between 2004 and 2014; 3,000 of those arrived in 2008-10, and most of the rest after 2010), the numbers support the conclusion that most of Twin Falls’ have arrived since 2009.

That’s a lot in a short time.  Notably, the now-famous Chobani plant in Twin Falls, which employs many of the refugees, opened in 2012.  The plant benefited from nearly $55 million in federal, state, and local spending to enable its construction and operation.

Some $3.3 million of that was worker training grants, nominally from the Idaho Department of Labor, but largely funded through federal grants.  In 2012, it was anticipated that Chobani would train 583 workers with the grant money.  (In March 2016, the plant was reported as employing over 1,000 people.)

Not coincidentally, the College of Southern Idaho (CSIRP’s parent organization) got the government grant money to develop the Workforce Training Plan for the new Chobani plant.

I’m giving you this background so you’ll understand that there is a longstanding infrastructure in Twin Falls, involving activists, business, and state and local officials, to import and resettle refugees.  It’s not something new, and it can’t use the excuse of inexperience for anything it does.

So it’s especially interesting that in 2016, when refugee advocates in Twin Falls wanted to submit the city for a new “Gateways for Growth” grant – a non-profit partnership to resettle refugees – they did it on the sly.

Gateways for Growth was launched in December 2015 by the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE; see its co-founders here) and the immigrant-advocacy group Welcoming America.  Ann Corcoran’s blog is a good place to start reading up on Welcoming America, which is one of Obama’s key partners in expanding non-assimilating migration into the United States.  (See this Leo Hohmann article from April 2015 as well.)  This whole collection of folks has the usual links to Soros and other left-wing activist funding sources, as well as a commissioned-broker’s relationship with the distribution of your tax dollars.

The project is called Gateways for Growth, but that’s a happy-face euphemism.  Its purpose is to sponsor migrants into American communities.  By late 2015 and early 2016, when the Gateways for Growth application process was underway, the residents of Twin Falls (and Idaho as a whole) were starting to put up vociferous objections to the inflow of refugees – which they noticed had accelerated with the building of the local Chobani and Clif bar plants.

So when a Twin Falls refugee activist sought to apply for a Gateways grant for Twin Falls, the process of city approval was approached in an underhanded manner.  You’d never know this if you went by the mainstream media reporting.  But a local blogger, Vicky Davis, picked up on it, and reported it in March 2016.

The activist in question appears to be Deborah Silver (Vicky Davis, the TVOI News blogger, couldn’t remember her name in the post linked above).  Silver runs a small organization called Magic Valley Refugee Advocates (MVRA), which she formed in June 2015.

It was Silver and MVRA who wanted to put in the Gateways Challenge proposal for Twin Falls.  But as Vicky Davis outlines, the city council’s supposed involvement in the application was actually nothing more than the mayor of Twin Falls, Shawn Barigar, attending Silver’s meeting by himself and purporting to speak on behalf of the city council. (Emphasis added.)

It turned out that the woman [probably Deborah Silver] who represented the Welcoming group had misappropriated the name of the Twin Falls City Council when she filed a Letter of Intent to file the grant application.   The woman had held a meeting about the grant application but apparently Shawn Barigar, the Mayor was the only member of the Council to attend.  Implicit in the subtext, was that he gave the support of the City Council even though the City Council never voted on it.

There was no city money involved.  What the woman wanted was for a representative of the City Council to sit on the steering committee that would be established with the grant money.

Shawn Barigar is also – go figure – the head of the local Chamber of Commerce.

Ann Corcoran would point out that this money-neutral procedural dynamic is typical.  The process for getting the advocacy network’s hooks in a community is eased by the fact that cities are not asked to put up their own money.  Mayors who wouldn’t dare to furtively commit their cities to spend money are more likely to furtively commit them to participate in “steering committees.”

But look at where the funding was to come from (emphasis added):

The Gateway Challenge Grant is a matching grant.   The Welcoming Woman told the Council that Chobani, a local yogurt producer would provide the matching half of the grant.  The Partnership for a New American Economy would provide the other half.

The Twin Falls application didn’t bear fruit this time.  The Gateways grants were announced earlier this year, and Twin Falls wasn’t on the list.

But Fargo, North Dakota, was.


In the Fargo case, a Channel 4 TV journalist gained a flurry of national attention in April when he covered the application process for a Gateways grant.  The same participants were involved: a city commission (nominally); an advocacy group; the Welcoming America organization; and the PNAE.  But Chris Berg, the TV journalist, was able to document much more of the process and the background.

This video spot aired by Channel 4 (the CBS affiliate) is must-viewing.

To date, Berg’s is just about the only MSM coverage of the refugee-advocacy infiltration into American cities.  There turned out to be more to it, in fact – startlingly more – and Berg followed up a week later with this report.

Key passages from it:

Many of you have asked me, what is this Gateway for Growth Challenge award, how did Fargo win it, and if this award is so great for the citizens of Fargo, why are our leaders not shouting from the rooftops about it?

Let’s answer the last question first. The biggest reason they are not shouting from the rooftops about it is because they had never heard of it until I talked about it last week here on the show. I spoke with Mayor Mahoney yesterday. He said he was going to speak with Dan Mahli to find out more about it. Dan Mahli is Fargo’s Community Development Administrator, and you will hear more from Mr. Mahli in the video above. I also called City Commissioner Tony Gehrig, as well as Dave Piepkorn. Both of them told me they had never even heard of the program before. And last Wednesday, we had Fargo City Commissioner Mike Williams on the show. I asked him about it and he said the same thing.

Four of our elected leaders had no idea we won this award? How in the world does that happen?

Well, as with the secretive process in Twin Falls, it happened this way (emphasis added):

So how did Fargo find out about this award and how did we get it?

Basically the city of Fargo and the New American Consortium for Wellness and Empowerment [i.e., the inevitable non-profit advocacy group] teamed up and submitted something similar to a grant application. …

I want to read to you some excerpts from this application and also show you who signed off on it to sign us up for this award.


I want to read you one more excerpt from the application, and please remember, I just told you that our mayor and three city commissioners had never even heard of this program until I brought it to their attention last week. This application was submitted on February 5th, more than 2 months ago, and it goes on to say:

“The City of Fargo has agreed to provide their full support and dedication to this project. Including the time and knowledge of staff from the planning and community development departments, the city is arranging for city commissioners and other local government representatives to be involved in the planning and implementation of a strategy that unifies visions and goals for welcoming immigrants to our community.”

When I read that piece to some of our city commissioners they were not happy that someone, in writing, wrote that the city of Fargo has agreed to provide its full support and dedication to a project they had never even heard of until a week ago.

Here is where someone needs to answer some questions. Let me show you who signed this application document stating that the city of Fargo fully supports this project.

Her name is Kristina Kaupa. She is an intern in Fargo’s Community Development office. …

Yes: the official signature on the application document for Fargo was that of an intern with the city government.

Maybe Fargo and Twin Falls are isolated cases?  Not hardly.

Rutland, Vermont

James Simpson reported at Breitbart in June on the plan to resettle 100 Syrian refugees in Rutland, Vermont.  A public records request revealed that the activists and officials involved were determined to keep the plan as secret as possible.

Rutland isn’t one of the lucky Gateways grant recipients.  The negotiations in this case were about resettling refugees as part of Obama’s program to up the U.S. quotient of Syrian refugees in 2016.

But the pattern of secrecy was remarkably similar.  In Rutland, the players were the mayor, Chris Louras; the refugee activist group, Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRPP); and VRPP’s parent organization, the non-proft U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (which we met above, near the beginning of the post).

Simpson explains:

From the start, those involved stressed secrecy in order to prevent criticism from voices in the community. Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program Director Amila Merdzanovic said “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not sharing the information… move slowly, keep it to a small circle of people, and then expand.” In an email to Louras, she stated, “if we open it up to anybody and everybody, all sorts of people will come out of the woodwork. Anti-immigrant, anti-anything.” …

The secrecy in which the refugee resettlement process is conducted lends itself to the appearance of conflicts of interest, fraud and pay-for-play allegations. There is virtually no transparency and a lot of money in government contracts at stake.

In an email dated March 8, 2016, retrieved through a public records request, the mayor wrote to Merdzanovic, “We have expanded the group of ‘those who know,’ and are ready to have those discussions you’ve requested with potential employers and landlords…

Sample email from Rutland public records request.  (Image via Breitbart)
Sample email from Rutland public records request. (Image via Breitbart)

Ann Corcoran has a bit more from a local Vermont article by Mark Davis on the shenanigans in Rutland.  She emphasizes the following points, quoting from the Seven Days article (emphasis in original):

The ‘non-partisan fixer’ mayor didn’t tell the public (only a few business leaders!) what he was doing as he held private meetings and conversations with the federal resettlement contractor.  So much for the humanitarian mush. If this were all about welcoming the poor war refugees to town, wouldn’t he have included the do-gooder community from the beginning? …

Seven Days continues:

It’s a moving message, but Louras didn’t think it would play well with the publicHe told Notte and a few local business leaders about the refugees but left the rest of the board, along with the city’s legislative delegation and his constituents, in the dark.

Emails from a public records request show Louras and Merdzanovic considered announcing it but nixed the idea.

They engaged in secrecy for one simple reason — they feared that involving the public sooner would derail the effort. VRRP never announces refugee arrivals in Burlington or Winooski.

Read the posts at the links for the full skinny on how much the decisions of Rutland’s “in-the-know” officials had to do with crony business interests.  Whether a resettlement effort involves the PNAE or not, it usually tends to be in equal parts about activists looking to import immigrants, and business looking to import labor.

Simpson recorded at Breitbart that there was inevitable blowback from the community:

On May 25, Rutland’s Board of Aldermen invited the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program’s Merdzanovic and USCRI’s Director of Community Relations Stacie Blake to answer questions at a public meeting. The meeting revealed a well of hostility toward the resettlement agencies and the mayor for deliberately going behind their backs.

Residents repeatedly complained about the secrecy shrouding the resettlement process, and demanded the mayor and the resettlement contractors allow the community to decide the issue.

A citizen’s organization called Rutland First rapidly formed to protest the mayor’s actions.

Uncovering more such skulduggery would probably be a simple matter of starting with the smallest cities and counties on the Gateways grants list, and working your way up to the bigger ones to investigate how each one applied for the Gateways grant.  The same process would apply to the cities where Syrian refugees are being resettled, separately from the Gateways Challenge program.

Keep in mind, the activists working with the Obama administration are determined that the new migrants to America will not assimilate.  Americans are to be expected to adjust to them, not vice versa.  (See the Ann Corcoran and Leo Hohmann links, above and here and here.)

But that story – on which I have a lot more – is for another post.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.

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