Several people sent me this story from The Atlantic about a new computer program that is being tested by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to determine which American town or city could be the most hospitable to a third worlder arriving in the U.S.
I’m posting it just so you know about it and especially for those of you who came over from Refugee Resettlement Watch and have told me you miss news about refugees.
Before I give you a few snips from the story, you need to know that at present the nine federal resettlement contractors meet on a regular basis in the Washington, DC area and divide up the incoming cases. One long-time observer refers to the process as “bidding for bodies.”
I would love to be a fly on the wall watching the process because, at the present time, the Trump Administration has drastically reduced the incoming refugee flow and so I suspect there is some squabbling among the ‘humanitarian’ agencies for those few paying customers. (For newbies, refugee contractors are paid by the feds on a per refugee head basis.)
I see some pitfalls in the system described in The Atlantic story. But, first, here is a bit of it,
How Technology Could Revolutionize Refugee Resettlement
For nearly 70 years, the process of interviewing, allocating, and accepting refugees has gone largely unchanged. In 1951, 145 countries came together in Geneva, Switzerland, to sign the Refugee Convention, the pact that defines who is a refugee, what refugees’ rights are, and what legal obligations states have to protect them.
This process was born of the idealism of the postwar years—an attempt to make certain that those fleeing war or persecution could find safety so that horrific moments in history, such as the Holocaust, didn’t recur. The pact may have been far from perfect, but in successive years, it was a lifeline to Afghans, Bosnians, Kurds, and others displaced by conflict.
The world is a much different place now, though. The rise of populism has brought with it a concomitant hostility toward immigrants in general and refugees in particular.
Does it make you feel better that a computer algorithm will decide if your town or city will be a resettlement site?
Annie’s algorithm is based on a machine learning model in which a computer is fed huge piles of data from past placements, so that the program can refine its future recommendations. The system examines a series of variables—physical ailments, age, levels of education and languages spoken, for example—related to each refugee case. In other words, the software uses previous outcomes and current constraints to recommend where a refugee is most likely to succeed. Every city where HIAS has an office or an affiliate is given a score for each refugee. The higher the score, the better the match.
This is a drastic departure from how refugees are typically resettled. Each week, HIAS and the eight other agencies that allocate refugees in the United States make their decisions based largely on local capacity, with limited emphasis on individual characteristics or needs.
Too funny! Refugee workers fear being replaced by technology! (Maybe this is the only good news in this story!)
There is concern that, as Annie and similar tools improve, an algorithm will take over a critical task—placing refugees—that a human is now performing. Officials at HIAS and the programmers who developed the software told me they were aware of those fears. Their solution: Annie will only ever make suggestions; Monken and her colleagues at HIAS make the final decision.
Read it all here.
What they are not telling you is that much consideration has been given in recent years to place refugees (without notice) into unsuspecting communities (and states) as the Leftwing resettlement contractors (like HIAS) seek to diversify white American towns.
So I can see some resistance coming within their own ranks to a program that presumably is based on job availability, housing capacity, and a ‘welcoming’ environment all to benefit refugees as criteria for algorithms for ‘Annie.’
Although I suppose it is possible that ‘Annie’ has built-in bias toward towns in need of a dose of diversity (as determined by the Libs!). Oh joy! Artificial Intelligence picking your neighbors!
I don’t have the time to address every point made in this article, but here, as I see it, is the largest impediment to their theory—-refugees move!
And, they are free to move in America.
Oftentimes they move within months of placement (called secondary migration) because they want to be near others of their own kind—their own nationality or religion—and are thus forming ethnic enclaves in various parts of the country.
Or, they learn about a new meatpacking plant opening up in the next state and they move for the jobs. Sometimes they hear that welfare is more generous in another state and move to take advantage of those social service benefits.
The Dems are always yapping about democracy (except when it comes to who decides about the demographic makeup of neighborhoods!)
Personally, if we must take refugees, I would like to see a system where the local community gets a say about refugees being placed in their town or city through an open forum process and let the citizens who live there decide how ‘welcoming’ they wish to be.
As it stands, the nine contractors (with or without ‘Annie’) are deciding on what kind of future your town will have! And, frankly that is patently unfair.