Outreach to Hmong Refugees

During the past few months, Social Security Administration St Paul PASS Specialist Nou Vang, has spoken at different Twin Cities’ […]

During the past few months, Social Security Administration St Paul PASS Specialist Nou Vang, has spoken at different Twin Cities’ venues about SSA programs and enumeration, including work incentives and PASS, to groups and representatives connected with the Hmong WAT THAM KRABOK refugee resettlement project now underway.

Vang has attended four meetings regarding the arrival in Minnesota of the Hmong refugees, of WAT THAM KRABOK camp, Thailand. The first meeting was held on May 19, 2004 at Concordia University in St. Paul. The discussion was based upon the information collected from the pre-screening and screening of the thousands of Hmong refugees scheduled to resettle in the United States during this summer 2004.

The second meeting was held on May 22, 2004 at North Community High School in Minneapolis. At this meeting, the Hmong community or (Anchor families) learned about different types of services that would be available to assist them and their families when they sponsored their relatives. All the Hmong refugees will enter the U S through refugee resettlement procedures already established by the U S Department of State.

The third meeting that was held on May 26, 2004 at the Centennial Office Building. This was in an informal get-together with the Minneapolis Star Tribune newsroom staff and much of the Hmong community. SSA programs, Ticket to Work, and PASS was presented to 45 people. This meeting focused on learning about the issues and people within the Hmong community so that all the Star Tribune newsroom staff could learn more about a community they would like to do a better job of covering in the news..

The fourth meeting was held on June 1, 2004 at the Hmong American Partnership in St. Paul. Again SSA programs, Ticket-to-Work, and PASS was presented to 18 people. Hmong American Partnership (HAP) and Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC) will focus on providing initial resettlement services in the first three months after arrival. This includes working with Anchor relatives in the U S to ensure that refugee family members have food, shelter, clothing, medical screening within the first 30 days, assist the refugees applying for social security cards within 7 days. To ensure that children enroll in school and the families are referred to employment services, SSI, and have access to public assistance as necessary.

Vang reports that due to malnutrition, drug abuse, health problems, and for some of them due to their criminal background, many of the refugees in the camp have high level of disabilities. People who were screened and determined to be drug users were required to attend a six-month treatment program before they could be eligible for another screening. A group of approximately 200 people tested positive for tuberculosis (TB). These people were mandated to complete a medical regiment before they could receive any other screening. Finally those found to have criminal backgrounds will automatically be denied resettlement to the United States.

According to John Borden, Associate Director of the International Institute of Minnesota, few Hmong refugees have records of their birth or any other documents. The International Institute of Minnesota has been working closely with the Customs and Immigration Services (CIS) and the Department of Homeland Security to produce proper documentation at the port of entry so that these newcomers can be issued Employment Authorization cards (EAB) or I-94 cards.

Ms. Maykao Hang, Director of the Ramsey County Adult Services Division said that, upon arrival of these refugees at the county, the county would do health screening and refer disabled individuals to the Social Security Administration to apply for SSI.

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