Ten Unanswered Questions About the Refugee Resettlement Program and Somali Attacker at Ohio State

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The story of Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s two and a half years in the United States reveals the many weaknesses of the federal refugee resettlement program.

Breitbart News has put together a list of ten unanswered questions about Artan, the Somali refugee who on Monday attacked eleven people on the campus of Ohio State University, first with a car and then with a knife, before he was shot and killed by a campus police officer.

(1) How and why did Abdul Razak Ali Artan, his mother, and six siblings suddenly leave the supervision of Catholic Charities of Dallas in Texas and move to Columbus, Ohio after only 23 days in the United States?

Catholic Charities of Dallas has confirmed that they  provided “shelter, clothing, and other basic humanitarian services for a short time in 2014” to “an individual whose name matches the name of [an Artan] family member.” That assistance began on June 5, 2014, when the family arrived at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, from Pakistan via JFK Airport in New York. It continued for 23 days until June 28, 2014, when the entire family departed for Columbus, Ohio.

Resettlement and Placement grants provide about $1,900 to local resettlement agencies to cover the lodging, food, and other expenses for the first 90 days in the United States per refugee. The resettlement agencies typically keep about $800 of each refugee’s funds for themselves, and provide $1,100 in cash assistance to each refugee, usually spread out over the 90-day period.

If that standard arrangement was applied to the eight members of the Artan family, Catholic Charities of Dallas may have received an estimated $15,200 in Resettlement and Placement grant monies by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to resettle the family ($1,900 per family member) in Texas for 90 days. It is unclear how much may have been paid directly to the Artan family, how much may have been retained by Catholic Charities of Dallas, and how much may have been returned to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

(2) Who paid for the travel of Abdul Razak Ali Artan, his mother, and six siblings, from Dallas, Texas to Columbus, Ohio on June 28, 2014?

It is not surprising that the Artan family would want to resettle in Columbus, Ohio, which has the second largest Somali community in the United States, estimated to be about 45,000 in total. (Minneapolis, Minnesota, has the largest Somali community in the country, estimated to be around 70,000 in total.)

It is surprising, however, that a newly-arrived family of eight Somali refugees without any known resources would have the funds to travel from Dallas, Texas to Columbus, Ohio.

Breitbart News has contacted all three of the local resettlement agencies in the Columbus, Ohio area, and they all deny providing Artan and his family financial assistance.

(3) Why has Catholic Charities of Dallas failed to confirm it was paid by the federal government’s refugee resettlement program to resettle Artan and his family?

Catholic Charities of Dallas has not explicitly confirmed that it had a contractual obligation with the federal government’s refugee resettlement program to resettle and monitor the progress of Abdul Razak Ali Artan, his mother, and six siblings.

“We gave them aid and comfort and some shelter as part of the government resettlement program,” Catholic Charities of Dallas CEO Dave Woodyard told NBC5 on Tuesday of his organization’s dealings with Artan and his family.

That same day, Catholic Charities of Dallas released a statement that made no mention of the refugee resettlement program:

Catholic Charities of Dallas has been contacted by law enforcement in connection with the investigation into yesterday’s events at Ohio State University. We have responded to law enforcement requests for information regarding an individual whose name matches the name of a family member that Catholic Charities provided with shelter, clothing, and other basic humanitarian services for a short time in 2014.

The standard procedure for local resettlement agencies under the Cooperative Agreement between the nine national voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) and the ORR is that upon arrival, resettled refugees are provided an apartment, clothing, furniture, pots and pans, and culturally appropriate food for at least 90 days, and are helped to sign up locally for food stamps, welfare benefits, and Social Security cards.

Something went wrong 23 days into that initial 90 day period, and Catholic Charities of Dallas is reticent to explain what exactly that was.

(4) Who is Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s father, and why was he apparently not in the picture for many years?

There are no media reports concerning Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s father. Every article mentions only his mother and six siblings.

Did Artan’s father travel with the family to Pakistan from Somalia in 2007, or did Artan, his mother and six siblings make that arduous trip on their own?

Breitbart News has learned through the State Department’s interactive website that on June 5, 2014 a total of nine Somali refugees arrived in Dallas, Texas. Assuming this accurately captured the arrival of the eight members of the Artan family who are known to us.

Breitbart News has asked Catholic Charities of Dallas to reveal the identity and current status of this ninth Somali refugee, but has not received a response.

(5) Why did Artan, his mother, and six siblings not apply for and receive asylum in Pakistan when they arrived there in 2007 from Somalia, as NBC News has reported?

The simple answer to this question appears to be that Pakistan is not as welcoming of Somali refugees as is the United States. The unanswered part of the question is why the United States has not asked Pakistan to be more welcoming of Somali refugees.

“Somalis living in Pakistan have limited rights mainly because Pakistan has not ratified the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. They are not eligible to take up permanent residence here; they cannot do any business or move around the country freely. Unless they are registered as refugees with UNHCR [the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], their stay in Pakistan remains illegal, ” according to The Herald.

Pakistan is a country of 192 million, almost all of whom (96 percent) are Muslim.

The small Somali community in Pakistan, estimated to number between 400 and 4,000 in total, is almost entirely Muslim. More than ninety-nine percent of the 100,009 Somali refugees who have arrived in the United States since 2002 (99,672 in total) are Muslim, according to the Department of State’s interactive website, while about one percent of Americans are Muslim, according to Pew Research.

Kevin Stankiewicz, who interviewed Artan in August for The Lantern, the Ohio State student newspaper, told the New York Times, “Mr. Artan spoke highly of his time in Pakistan.”

Culturally, eight Muslim refugees from Somalia would appear to have far less trouble assimilating in Pakistan than in the United States, but Somalis who live there are apparently unhappy with their treatment.

The Express Tribune, for instance, reported in 2011: “Hundreds of Somali refugees, mainly women and children, assembled in front of Social and Assistance Centre (SACH) in Islamabad on Thursday and protested against what they described as injustice, deliberate negligence, and discrimination against them.”

“Our needs of protection, education, healthcare and asylum are still unresolved,” the protest placards read.

“All of my children were born here. But I have nothing to feed them. I do not have enough support and can’t even go back,” an unidentified Somali mother of three living in Pakistan told The Express Tribune.

Somali refugees in Pakistan are considered problematic by at least one United Nations official.

“Somali refugees are the most difficult to deal with. They are easily manipulated towards criminal activities, making it difficult to negotiate with them at times,” a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees official in Pakistan told the Express Tribune in 2012.

Newsweek recently reported that Pakistan is deporting thousands of Afghan refugees back to war-torn Afghanistan.

(6) Why was the Artan family’s application to come to the United States through the federal refugee resettlement program approved in 2014 by an officer of the United States Citizenship Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, after the family spent seven years in Pakistan?

Though Somali refugees in Pakistan apparently have a difficult economic existence, they are not fleeing physical persecution experienced in that country.

Many of the Somali refugees who live there wish to emigrate to the United States or another country in the West. Very few of them are approved by the United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) to participate in the federal refugee resettlement program.

Breitbart News has asked the USCIS what uniquely qualified Abdul Razak Ali Artan, his mother, and six siblings to be accepted into the federal refugee resettlement while many other Somali refugees living in Pakistan have not been accepted. USCIS has not responded to the inquiry.

“This seven year stay in Pakistan by Artan and his family seems very fishy to me. Pakistan is a safe haven for Muslim refugees. The refugee camps there are also well known breeding grounds for Islamic terrorism,” Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch tells Breitbart News.

(7) Has the Artan family repaid the estimated $5,200 loan they received from the federal government to fly one way from Pakistan to Dallas, Texas on June 5, 2014?

All refugees who arrive in the United States under the federal refugee resettlement program are required to sign a loan agreement to repay the cost of their flight to the United States.

According to Travelocity.com, the cheapest one way flights from Karachi, Pakistan to Dallas, Texas currently cost around $650 per person. For eight people, the cost would be approximately $5,200.

If the Artan family arrived in the United States in compliance with the rules and regulations of the federal refugee resettlement program, they would have signed a promissory note for about $5,200 to repay their travel expenses. Both ORR and Catholic Charities of Dallas would have a copy of that note, as well as the progress the Artan family has made in repaying that loan.

Neither ORR nor Catholic Charities of Dallas have responded to a request from Breitbart News to provide that information.

(8) How old was Abdul Razak Ali Artan? Was he 18, as some press outlets report, or was he 20, as others report?

Some media outlets have reported Abdul Razak Ali Artan was 18. Other media outlets have reported his age was 20.

The Daily Mail notes that the photograph taken of Artan by The Lantern in August 2016 shows a balding man with a goatee who looks much older than 18.

“The uncertainty over Artan’s age simply illustrates the impossibility of properly vetting a Somali refugee family that spent seven years in Pakistan,” Refugee Resettlement Watch’s Corcoran says.

“The people responsible for vetting Artan and his family in Pakistan had no reliable data base to verify any claim made by Artan, his mother, or his siblings. In essence, they simply took their word for it on almost every aspect of the family’s history, including dates of birth.”

(9) Once the Artan family arrived in Columbus, Ohio in June 2014, upon what income did they rely for their survival?

Abdul Razak Ali Artan, his mother, and six siblings apparently arrived in Columbus, Ohio shortly after June 28, 2014.

There are no press reports that his mother was employed.

Artan himself was a full time student, first at Columbus State Community College, then at Ohio State University, from the fall of 2014 to his death on Monday. Press reports indicate that he worked a part-time job at a Home Depot store near his home in Columbus for about a year. Besides that part time job, there is no other indication that anyone in Artan’s family was employed.

Breitbart News asked Jon Keeling, director of communication for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services how much total financial support Abdul Razak Ali Artan, his mother, and his six siblings received from the federal government and the state of Ohio between June 2014 and November 2016.

Breitbart News also asked if newly-arrived refugees who became secondary migrants to Ohio were eligible to receive food stamps, welfare payments, and other financial assistance.

“I received your two questions,” Keeling told Breitbart News.

“Unfortunately I cannot answer your first one. We do not discuss individuals,” he said. “As for the second, first I’m assuming by ‘secondary migrant’ you mean that the individual lawfully resettled in one state and then lawfully moved to Ohio,” Keeling responded.  “Given that, here is the answer, and please note these are all federal requirements you would find in any other state:”

Is a single adult refugee or a secondary migrant eligible for cash and food assistance?

SNAP: A refugee would be a “qualified alien” (a federal term referring to a pool of non-U.S. citizens who meet the SNAP citizenship requirement) that would be eligible to receive SNAP benefits, provided all other eligibility requirements are met.

Cash Assistance: A refugee whose entry date is within 8 months of the application date and who meets application and income requirements may be eligible to receive Refugee Cash Assistance for up to 8 months from the date of arrival.

“A refugee may also be eligible for cash assistance through an Ohio program called OhioWorks,” Keeling added in a subsequent email. “This is for parents at 50% of the federal poverty level and who have at least one child under the age of 18. The refugee may also be eligible for federal SSI if he or she has a qualifying disability. Obviously we do not administer this program.”

“Each of these programs do not have time limits,” Keeling said.

According to reference.com, “Welfare payments vary by state, but the average family of four in the United States can receive as much as $900 per month. A single person may receive as much as $200 per month.”

In Ohio, the average food stamp benefits per person are about $122 per month.

In addition, refugees are eligible for federal rental assistance.

“Upon arrival in the United States, refugees are eligible to apply for all public assistance program including Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, SSI and cash welfare. Within a week to 10 days after arrival, VOLAGs are required to assist refugees in applying for a social security number, food stamps, cash and medical assistance which can be cash welfare and Medicaid, or the special Refugee Cash and Medical Assistance subsidies,” an attorney familiar with the federal refugee resettlement program tells Breitbart News.

“Even if a refugee receives the 8-month special subsidies, if they become eligible for cash welfare and/or Medicaid after the 8 months, they may reapply for these publicly funded benefits,” the attorney adds.

“With regard to this particular family it is difficult to estimate the amount and extent of public assistance they accessed but one can assume that a single mother and her seven children, newly arrived, met the various program eligibility requirements. The five year survey on refugee welfare usage across programs shows high sustained levels of reliance on publicly funded programs,” the attorney concludes.

(10) Who paid for Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s tuition from the fall of 2014 to May 2016 at Columbus State Community College and from August 2016 to November 2016 at Ohio State University?

It is not currently known who paid for Artan’s college tuition.

It is known that he enrolled in Columbus State Community College in the fall of 2014, though it is unclear if he had a high school diploma earned in Pakistan prior to his acceptance.

Columbus State Community College released this statement on Tuesday:

“Abdul Razak Ali Artan was enrolled at Columbus State Community College from autumn semester 2014 through summer semester 2016. He graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in the spring of 2016 and then took a non-credit class for summer 2016. He had no record of behavioral or disciplinary issues during his time at Columbus State–he graduated Cum Laude.

-Allen Kraus, Vice President, Marketing and Communications”

Artan enrolled as a third year student at Ohio State in August 2016. He was majoring in logistics, but enrolled in at least one social science course. On Thursday, Reason Magazine reported that Artan “was enrolled in a class called ‘Crossing Identity Boundaries.'”

There remain several additional unanswered questions about Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s two and a half years in the United States that ended with his violent attacks and death on the campus of Ohio State Monday.

That attack, another in a long string of terrorist attacks by Muslim migrants on American soil, provides yet another reason why President-elect Donald Trump is expected to follow through on his campaign promise to pause the entry of refugees from Syria and other countries that are hostile to the United States into our country.


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