War refugees in Dallas find themselves in the crossfire of a another battle -- with the people in charge of welcoming them to America

Certainly, Weiss is willing to fight dirty for whatever her cause may be. She, too, will fudge facts and figures -- as she accuses Corcoran of doing. In an April action alert sent out to Muslim activists, she claimed 3,000 Kosovars were headed to Dallas. But that number will likely not climb past 1,000. And she consistently throws out a figure that between 80 and 90 percent of all refugees coming to America are Muslim. Corcoran says it is more like 65 percent. The State Department, which keeps records of these things, says it is less than 50 percent.

"Anne Marie's only concerned about the Muslims," says Corcoran. "She tries to make this a religious battle."

True, Weiss frequently suggests that Refugee Services was reluctant to follow through whenever she brought in Muslim support for the organization, yet she doesn't mention that on July 8, 1996, the agency voted unanimously to aggressively pursue Muslim sponsorship and donations, and made her the point person on the matter. Corcoran, she says, would seem excited at first but would never follow through when it came to securing Muslim help. "He says he was doing things, but my sources in the Muslim community said something different. He'd miss meetings and not return phone calls, then say the Muslims didn't want to participate. But they were telling me they desperately did want to work with Refugee Services."

Peter Calvin
Anne Marie Weiss, a former Refugee Services of North Texas board member, at a news conference criticizing the treatment of Muslim refugees.
Anne Marie Weiss, a former Refugee Services of North Texas board member, at a news conference criticizing the treatment of Muslim refugees.

Since the Kosovar situation developed over the past few months, the battle between Weiss and Refugee Services has caused a rift in the Albanian community. For several weeks, the Sunday-evening meetings at the Albanian community center -- where Corcoran first introduced himself to area Albanians -- were not held. "This is not good for anybody," says Bruno Ceka, a Valley Ranch restaurateur and local Albanian leader who admits he has been left personally footing the bill for several Kosovars' apartments. "Some people are just complainers. This is not an easy task. By complaining, we're not going to go anywhere. The main focus is the refugees, not me, or her, or Chip. It should not matter who takes care of things."

Despite Weiss' multi-year campaign against Refugee Services, its parent Church World Services is satisfied with Corcoran's leadership and the agency's overall operation. Deborah DeWinter is quick to defend him, though she admits that after the last review, he was sent for training in money management and recruitment of church sponsorships. Of situations where more than a dozen refugees are crammed into a tiny apartment, "Sometimes they want to live in small spaces," she reasons. "They ask to have more people together. It's a cultural thing. Really."

Back in 1995 and '96, Church World Services was struggling. Each year, the State Department ranks the 10 national resettlement organizations. The evaluations are determined by a variety of factors, a primary one being the success of free cases -- refugees without a sponsor -- according to 90-day reports filed by the local agencies with its national overseer. The more who have jobs or are enrolled in English classes, for example, the better. The more on welfare, the worse. The higher-ranked organizations then get more of the 50,000-100,000 cases the State Department assigns. That fiscal year, Church World Services ranked nine out of 10, meaning a smaller pool of refugees to resettle, and fewer $740 grants from the government.

But, DeWinter proudly points out, by last year Church World Services had jumped to No. 1 for its work in resettling nearly 9,000 refugees, meaning that at least according to the 90-day reports filled out in Dallas and other affiliate offices, Church World Services clients were the most successfully resettled.

DeWinter also defends Refugee Services against complaints brewing from the Weiss camp that with the Kosovar situation, Corcoran recruited refugees and sponsors to alleviate the agency from much of the financial and labor burden while still beefing up the numbers to get a larger slice of government refugee dollars. "We got a mandate from the State Department to aggressively go into the [Albanian] community and identify existing relatives," she says. "Every national agency asked each of its affiliates to do that."

The State Department emphatically denies issuing such a mandate to find relatives. "We never asked them to go out looking for cases," says David Robinson, adding that the government had its own system for locating potential family reunification. "There was no sense of urgency to recruit." The government did encourage the agencies to prepare for the Kosovars, he says, but not in the form of soliciting individuals to sponsor refugees.

Corcoran says he approached the Albanian community out of humanitarian desire. "Catholic Charities and IRC were invited to attend that meeting too, but they didn't show up."

According to Art Granzeier, administrator of immigration and refugee services for Catholic Charities, which has taken on about 30 Kosovars in Dallas, "The first thing we wanted to do was get our system ready to tap into other programs and support services. But that's what we always do, because we know that the government funds and church sponsorships are never enough."

Bob Carey of IRC says his organization, which has handled 120 Kosovar cases in Dallas, did not worry about sponsors. "We were looking for translators, hiring new staff, and meeting with directors of various community groups that could help," he says.

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