The DN report discussed in "DemocracyNow shocked by effects of supporting massive illegal immigration" also contains various anti-Red Cross charges from Bill Chandler, president of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, and I have a great deal of trouble believing what he says because of the earlier report WSJ: "Undocumented" workers face struggle to take American jobs. I realize that given the choice I would say that neither a far-leftie nor the WSJ are credible, but as I'm forced to choose I'm going to back the WSJ in this one. Here are some of his charges:
We have had some very, very serious problems with very overt racism on the part of the Red Cross, not only with immigrants, but with other people that were displaced by Katrina, as well. But with immigrants, initially in the application process for benefits, we had a considerable problem in Hadleyburg and in Laurel with people asking for too much information, going, you know, beyond what is required by the Red Cross to certify people for eligibility, and they were asking for documents, they were asking for all kind of things that was irrelevant to their victimization.
We had a situation where undocumented or documented immigrants who had been living on the coast, and I think people need to know that Mississippi has a rapidly growing immigrant population, and we estimate that over 100,000 people are here working. But on the coast there's about 30,000 and of that there were a lot of people that were affected by Katrina. And like the Anglos and like the African Americans and Vietnamese, and so on, they were seeking shelter with the Red Cross. We had an incident late in September where the shelter manager in Long Beach decided he didn't want any of the Latinos to be there, and he called a number of law enforcement agencies, ranging from the Indiana State Police, who were here to supplement local law enforcement, to the ICE, which is the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement which we commonly know as "La Migra" or the INS, what used to be the INS, and had them come, and they pulled the Latinos out of the shelter. Several people were pulled out of showers and were not allowed to wrap themselves in towels, and were pulled into the parking lot and told that they would be deported in 48 hours if they didn't leave the shelter immediately.
Marsha Evans, now former president of the Red Cross, wants to spend more time with her family, as they say.
...Although the Red Cross is a private, non-profit charitable organization, it carries responsibilities on a scale usually associated with government. In the federal government's blueprint for dealing with disasters, the Red Cross is designated as the primary agency responsible for sheltering, feeding and offering medical care to people in the wake of a large man-made or natural emergency.
The very size of that role has contributed to making the once-sacrosanct organization a target of increasingly sharp criticism in recent years.
"After witnessing the American Red Cross' struggles during Katrina and Rita, I am not sure it is prudent for Congress to place such great responsibility in the hands of one organization," said Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.).
In the hectic days after the storm and the subsequent flooding of New Orleans, the Red Cross struggled to keep up with demands for shelter, food and medical care. And some evacuees, as well as some local officials and leaders of other relief groups, complained that the Red Cross had sometimes been slow to respond, had not reached out to remote areas, and had shown insensitivity in its treatment of some victims.
For its part, the organization pointed out that it had sent more than 200,000 volunteers into the areas devastated by Katrina, gave financial assistance to some 1.2 million families, and had provided food and temporary shelter for several million evacuees. Moreover, defenders noted, the challenges posed by Katrina and its floodwaters had often overwhelmed federal, state and local agencies as well...
When the federal government and the nation's largest disaster relief group reached out a helping hand after Hurricane Katrina blew through here, tens of thousands of people grabbed it.
But in giving out $62 million in aid, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross overlooked a critical fact: the storm was hardly catastrophic here, 160 miles from the coast. The only damage sustained by most of the nearly 30,000 households receiving aid was spoiled food in the freezer...
Vitter said so-called "FEMA cities" of travel trailers are a "bad idea," though he said in some cases they might be necessary.
FEMA needs to set up any large travel-trailer parks as near as possible to devastated areas, so that people can return close enough to their homes to get back to work -- and so that businesses have an available work force.
State Sen. Craig Romero, R-New Iberia, said many people in rural Vermilion and Iberia parishes would like the opportunity to have a FEMA trailer put on their home site.
While thousands of homes are unlivable, most areas have the basic infrastructure available to make it possible for someone to live temporarily on their own property and near work -- especially with the high cost of gasoline, Romero said.
"Why do they have to be on sites?" Romero said.
Vitter said FEMA should be approving trailers for people at their own property when possible. Businesses should also be allowed to set up on-site housing for employees when needed, Vitter said.
Will Langlinais, an Iberia Parish official, said FEMA has yet to send actual decision-makers to meet with local officials, making it impossible to get answers.
Langlinais credited local businesses, volunteers and officials for a quick response in his parish.
"The Red Cross, I wouldn't give them a nickel," Langlinais said.
Red Cross and FEMA response has been inefficient, which is "inexcusable," Langlinais said.
"There's got to be a better way," he said.
Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel said officials here are worried that economic incentives will only be offered in the southeast corner of the state. Parishes such as Lafayette, even through spared most storm damage, anchor the area's economy and shouldn't be forgotten, Durel said.
Vitter said the more areas he tries to include in spending bills to Congress, the more difficult it will be to get the spending approved.
But Acadiana "at a minimum," should still be included with southwest and southeast Louisiana, Vitter said.
Vitter said the hurricane presents an opportunity to "push" some long-standing infrastructure needs such as completing Interstate 49 from Lafayette to New Orleans.
After Vitter left to make a meeting in Baton Rouge, Durel told the remainder of the officials that Acadiana needs to lobby for funds in Congress as a united body.
They gave New Orleans city officials an affordable plan to evacuate 30,000 low-income, elderly and homeless people, said New Orleans attorney Val Exnicios.
But city officials failed to put it in play come crunch time, he claims.
Exnicios blames city officials for botching an evacuation plan in place as needy evacuees disappeared during Hurricane Katrina.
"I can tell you unequivocally I watched Mayor (C. Ray) Nagin lie on CNN when he said there was never a plan to evacuate these people," Exnicios said. "For whatever reason no one pulled the trigger and instituted the emergency evacuation plan we came up with."
The proposed emergency evacuation plan put together by a coalition of private citizens and public officials called for trains and buses to transport about 30,000 evacuees out of the city.
Amtrak agreed to provide passenger cars free while the Regional Transit Authority agreed to supply buses, said Rusty Wirth, director of the New Orleans Mission.
"We gave the plan to the city and they said it's a really good idea and then they sat there and twiddled their thumbs and never took the steps to put it in motion," Wirth said. "The Friday before the hurricane we had a meeting with the Red Cross and held training sessions for evacuation with the trains but it never got that far along."
...Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Exnicios and Zainey met with [Joseph Matthews, New Orleans chief of the Office of Emergency Preparedness], who assured them buses would be provided to evacuate the homeless from New Orleans.
"We sat across the table from him and Matthews said, 'Don't worry about it. It's done. I guarantee you we'll have buses and or trains available.' We both left happy," said Exnicios. "It was a tragic comedy as it turns out..."
All the Red Cross Financial Assistance centers in south Mississippi closed over the weekend. The only one open was in Picayune. The Red Cross says they needed to catch up on paperwork: 70,000 claims filed in the last week.
This results in the article "Red Cross closes early, vexes many" containing the complaints of those who showed up for assistance and found a closed door. While the RC should have gotten the word out sooner, I'm sure they've got a lot of work to do and not enough people to do it.
This skewed giving to Red Cross would be justified if the organization had to pay the cost of the 300,000 people it has sheltered. But FEMA and the affected states are reimbursing the Red Cross under preexisting contracts for emergency shelter and other disaster services. The existence of these contracts is no secret to anyone but the American public. The Red Cross carefully says it functions only by the grace of the American people - but "people" includes government, national and local. What we've now come to expect from a major disaster is a Red Cross media blitz.
The national Red Cross reports it spent $111 million last year on fundraising alone. And it's hard to escape the organization's warning of Armageddon if you don't call in a credit card number or send a check or donate blood (which it resells to the tune of more than $1.5 billion annually, part of its $3 billion in income)...
The Red Cross brand is platinum. Its fundraising vastly outruns its programs because it does very little or nothing to rescue survivors, provide direct medical care or rebuild houses. After 9/11, the Red Cross collected more than $1 billion, a record in philanthropic fundraising after a disaster. But the Red Cross could do little more than trace missing people, help a handful of people in shelters and provide food to firefighters, police, paramedics and evacuation crews during that catastrophe...
...The Red Cross' 3 million unpaid volunteers, 156,000 of whom it says are deployed in Hurricane Katrina, are salt-of-the-Earth Americans. But asking where all the privately collected money will go and how much Red Cross is billing FEMA and the affected states is a legitimate question - even if posed by the president of a small relief agency.
As Hurricane Rita dissipates, let me answer my unpopular question like this: Giving so high a percentage of all donations to one agency that defines itself only as a first-responder and not a rebuilder is not the wisest choice. Americans ought to give a much larger share of their generous charity to community foundations, grass-roots nonprofit groups based in the affected communities and a large number of international "brand name" relief agencies with decades of expertise in rebuilding communities after disasters.
The article "Despite Katrina efforts, Red Cross draws criticism" has a round-up of the criticism. Some groups want the Red Cross to share part of the $1 billion in donations they've received for Katrina. And, some want them to get involved in rebuilding efforts rather than just relief.
The "Black Leadership Forum" also plays the race card, saying the RC provided more aid in white neighborhoods than black. The RC responds that they were able to get into the former more easily, which makes sense.
There was a dispute at a relief center in Georgia. Some people encountered busy phone lines.
From Hugh Hewitt:
The Fox News Channel's Major Garrett was just on my show extending the story he had just reported on Brit Hume's show: The Red Cross is confirming to Garrett that it had prepositioned water, food, blankets and hygiene products for delivery to the Superdome and the Convention Center in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but were blocked from delivering those supplies by orders of the Louisiana state government, which did not want to attract people to the Superdome and/or Convention Center. Garrett has no paper trail yet, but will follow up on his verbal confirmation from sources at the highest levels of the Red Cross.
UPDATE: A transcript is here. Apparently the Red Cross had a "literal vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items". On Monday or Tuesday ("immediately after the storm passed"), at an as yet unknown time, the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security explicitly told them they couldn't come to the Superdome to distribute those goods.
From the transcript:
HH: Any doubt in the Red Cross' mind that they were ready to go, but they were blocked?
MG: No. Absolutely none. They are absolutely unequivocal on that point.
HH: And are they eager to get this story out there, because they are chagrined by the coverage that's been emanating from New Orleans?
MG: I think they are. I mean, and look. Every agency that is in the private sector, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Feed The Children, all the ones we typically see are aggrieved by all the crap that's being thrown around about the response to this hurricane, because they work hand and glove with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. When FEMA is tarred and feathered, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are tarred and feathered, because they work on a cooperative basis. They feel they are being sullied by this reaction...
The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
See also the Sep. 3 article "Homeland Security won't let Red Cross deliver food".
Nine Australian tourists were among those in the Superdome; one of them says it was "like being in a Third World country, in a maximum security prison":
Women among their group had been harassed and grabbed by marauding men. Faeces lined the toilet walls. There had been suicides, rapes and murders. It was "like being in a Third World country, in a maximum security prison", Ms Cullington said.
After two days she spoke to her consulate and they were seemingly unaware of the situation, then after another few days:
Their escape from the Superdome had to be clandestine. The tourists left in dribs and drabs, heading for a basketball arena nearby, with the help of an American sergeant.
Some survivors, angry that they were not going too, tried to pull the tourists back inside. "The last people who were walking out the door were grabbed, were screamed at," she said.
A place of refuge became a terrifying trap, where knives and guns, crack cocaine use, threats of violence and racial abuse were rife.
Jamie Trout, 22, who kept a record of his four days there, said: "It was like something out of Lord of the Flies - one minute everything is calm and civil, the next it descends into chaos."
In one diary entry, he said: "A man has been arrested for raping a seven-year-old in the toilet, this place is hell, I feel sick. The smell is horrendous, there are toilets overflowing and people everywhere."
...He said of his eventual Superdome refuge: "There was a lot of heat from the people in there, people shouting racial abuse about us being white.
"The army warned us to keep our bags close to us and to grip them tight."
Jamie, an economics student from Sunderland, said he saw crack cocaine being used in the filthy toilets, youngsters breaking into soft drink machines and men brawling. Urine and excrement spilled into corridors where they were sleeping.
At one point, up to 30 British students gathered in the dome were so terrified of attack when the power went down that they set up a makeshift security cordon...
...Coast Guard Lt Cmdr Cheri Ben-Iesan said at emergency HQ: "Hospitals are trying to evacuate. At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them, telling them, 'You better come get my family'. City leader Mitch Landrieu toured stricken areas and was besieged by rescued people begging him to pass information to their families...
Good news came as eventually many of the students were moved to the nearby basketball arena, thanks to Sgt Garland Ogden, a full-timer with the National Guard...
"He went against a lot of rules to get us moved," she said. Then as soon as she was able, she called her family.
When Jane phoned on Thursday, she had been moved to a Marriott hotel where there was no power - but there was food and water. "It is being used as a Red Cross shelter with the army there too..."