Harvard University and all who live in the surrounding area want refugees! The only problem is they can’t possibly get them. They won’t get any, none, nada, zip.
Cambridge doesn’t have low-income housing. The U.S. State Department and its contractors send refugees to working class and poor communities elsewhere in Massachusetts. Those are the locales where the people struggle financially.
If the communities build low-income housing for refugees, it then attracts more. It’s a cycle that ends up redefining the neighborhood and impacting the schools.
A Boston Globe article describing the situation says the Harvard rallies for welcoming refugees are notably absent one thing — any refugees.
Why the people who want refugees don’t get refugees
Cambridge does want the refugees, at least that’s what they say, but this is what actually happens according to the article:
In September 2015, after watching the number of Syrians displaced by violence soar, Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen decided the council had “a moral and economic imperative” to act. He won passage of legislation calling on city officials to determine Cambridge’s capacity to take in Syrian refugees and then provide those families with the housing and support they would need.
But when peace commissioner Brian Corr — the local official charged with promoting “peace and social justice within Cambridge and in the wider world”— began reaching out to refugee resettlement agencies and government officials, he was told, politely, no thanks.
“I spoke to a lot of people and got a lot of e-mail information. Long story short . . . Cambridge is not the place where refugees get resettled,” Corr said.
Where refugees end up is largely at the discretion of the State Department and nine resettlement agencies nationwide. From 2014 to 2016, 233 Syrian refugees arrived in Massachusetts. More than half went to Lowell, Springfield, or West Springfield, according to State Department records. None wound up in Cambridge.
In addition to family ties, there are other considerations:
“The key factor is a combination of cost of living and employment opportunities that will allow them to become economically self-sufficient quickly because the support that the federal government provides is extremely limited,” said Jeffrey Thelma, president and CEO of the International Institute of New England, the area’s largest resettlement agency.
One factor that must also be considered is the agency pockets half of the resettlement money. That is after they sign the refugees up for welfare. The one-time settlement fee of $2,075 and other cash supplements are divided so contractors get almost half.
As far as Cambridge is concerned, the $428 per month that some refugees get for 18 months won’t come close to covering the rents near Harvard.
The moral of this story is the people who want them aren’t getting them. People who can ill afford a needy population, get them.