Longform

Unsettled

Page 6 of 8


"These people just aren't performing the way they should," says Chuoke, who continues to work with refugees by finding them jobs and apartments, and even buying them furniture and cars. (He stays a little more behind the scenes with the Kosovars because he fears his Serb heritage might unsettle the new arrivals.) "I've never had any problems like this when I did work with Catholic Charities or IRC." Catholic Charities and International Rescue Committee are two of the other three resettlement agencies in Dallas, the third being Jewish Family Services.

All three groups say money is always tight, but they can still guarantee the necessary services and then some without relying on sponsors to shoulder any financial burden. Bob Carey, IRC's vice president for resettlement, says his nonsectarian agency receives almost no sponsorships from churches and handles mostly free cases. It passes down the entire $740 from the government to the local level. "We have to ensure that services are provided," he says, "so they have to have enough at the local level to make payments on behalf of the refugees." Adding to that government grant money, IRC's local affiliates get even more money from their national organization's fund-raising efforts.

Corcoran, however, says Refugee Services' problems are not unique. "What's going on here is going on all over the country, in at least five or six other locations." Corcoran has a degree in sociology from East Texas State University and was working in a subsidized dental clinic when he took his current job to "get back in the trenches," he says.

"It's very stressful. We have a very complicated system. The government plays an equal role in all this insanity," says Corcoran, pointing out a bureaucratic Catch-22 in that giving more than $200 cash to refugees means they lose their food stamps and Medicaid benefits. Corcoran also says the churches have made things more difficult. "Some 20 years ago, when the program was established, we had churches sponsoring 85 percent of the cases," he says. "Now it's only 20 percent. The churches have abdicated their job." That, he claims, has led to many of the financial struggles he faces in resettling some 600 cases a year.

"The funding we have is grossly inadequate," he says, claiming that of the $540 sent by Church World Services, an average of $318 goes directly into the refugee's pocket. "We're not administrative-heavy. We have a very humble operation." The salaries for Refugee Services' seven part-time and five full-time employees total less than $160,000 annually. And tax records indicate more than $250,000 (of a $630,000 budget) goes directly to the refugees -- in the form of rent, furniture, food, or pocket money. "It's a tough job. The business, the refugees, people like Anne Marie -- it's overwhelming."

"That's Chip," says Weiss, who would have no problem with those figures if she believed agency employees were actually doing the bulk of the work that gets dumped on sponsors. "He'll blame everyone but himself. He'll blame the refugee, he'll blame the family, he'll blame the government, he'll blame the churches."


What other refugee relocators don't have to face is what Corcoran calls a "one-sided war" being waged by Weiss, who he says is dedicated but overzealous. "We've bent over backward for her, and she just makes it harder on everyone. Her hatred, her anger, is greater than anything I have ever known."

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."

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Dan Michalski