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Report on Office of Refugee Resettlement Program in Yolo County

April 27, 2017

At the Yolo County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, April 25th, the Board received an update/review of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) program operated at the Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility. I believe that providing appropriate care and programing for these youth in our custody has to be at the heart of this program. We must do the right thing for these youth who have been in all sorts of turmoil to get to us. This matter will return for additional information and discussion at the May 9, 2017 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

 

At the April 25 presentation,                                                                                                             Chief Probation Officer Brent

 Cardall reported on a meeting between the Director of ORR, Chief Cardall, the County Administrator, and County Counsel on April 18th, 2017.  This meeting was precipitated by Yolo County staff and Board of Supervisors concerns about the operations of ORR.  In particular, we have been concerned about the treatment of a juvenile housed in the Yolo County Juvenile Detention facility who was adjudicated as an asylee and no longer subject to federal detention through the ORR program. Chief Cardall reported that ORR and Yolo County staff have agreed to develop the following deliverables within the next two weeks:

 

•   Develop a Policy and Procedure or Memorandum of Understanding outlining the                      release/transfer of custody for youth whom are granted asylum.

•   Requested the Office of Refugee Resettlement to assign an experienced Federal Field              Specialist to the Yolo Secure Program.

•   Identify those youth whom are currently in the stages of asylum and proactively identify            solutions if granted. ORR has agreed to design a training with the State, specifically the            Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program to streamline the transfer of care process.

•   Improve communication of non-confidential information with the public. 

 

Nationally the ORR program has oversight for over 10,000 unaccompanied minors present in the US without legal authorization.  Of this number, only 55 slots are reserved in two small detention facilities: the Yolo County facility and a similar facility in New Jersey. Juveniles placed in the ORR program in Yolo County must meet one of three criteria: 1) committed a crime in the United States that would lead to incarceration in a secure facility; 2) committed a crime in another country; or 3 ) or the youth had exhibited behavior while in lower level facilities that indicated they were in danger or were a danger of hurting others in placement. 

 

At this point, I share the belief of Chief Cardall and many others that having the program in Yolo County is beneficial to the juveniles because we are focused on positive outcomes and have an engaged public which is helping us to continue to hold the federal government and us accountable.

 

I support these deliverables and look forward to seeing continuous positive improvement and collaboration between Yolo County and the Office of Refugee Resettlement.  I also want to ensure that we work together to increase the accountability and public transparency of theYolo County ORR program.

 

The examination of the particular case and the overall operation of the ORR program has made it clear that we need to have a better understanding of the program. I asked Chief Cardall whether we, as a County, have the ability to reject a juvenile’s placement into the ORR program, if we believe that placement is simply a child held due to immigration status. Chief Cardall affirmed that we do have the right to reject placement referrals to this program and have done so. 

 

I look forward to continued examination of this program and further clarification of the roles of the federal ORR, the State of California and Yolo County.

 

As always, please email me at don.saylor@yolocounty.org to share your thoughts on this topic or any other matter.

 

In shared service,

Don

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