refugee integration in the united states: an overview

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REFUGEE
RESETTLEMENT AND
INTEGRATION IN THE
UNITED STATES: AN
OVERVIEW
A Presentation by Naomi Steinberg,
Director, Refugee Council USA
(RCUSA)
PRESENTATION OUTLINE

What is Refugee Council USA (RCUSA)?

Integration definition

Overview of United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP)
and Refugee Integration in the United States

Role of U.S. non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the refugee
resettlement and integration processes

Challenges to refugee integration in the United States


Case Studies/Best Practices: Examples of NGO-implemented
integration initiatives in the United States, with emphasis on
employment-related programs
Question and Answers/Additional Materials
REFUGEE COUNCIL USA (RCUSA)


RCUSA is a coalition of 25 U.S. NGOs that are
focused on refugee protection.
RCUSA provides advocacy on issues affecting the
rights of refugees, asylum seekers, displaced
persons, victims of trafficking, and victims of
torture in the United States and around the
world.
DEFINITION OF INTEGRATION

“Dynamic, multidirectional process in which
newcomers and the receiving communities
intentionally work together, based on a shared
commitment…to create a secure, welcoming,
vibrant, and cohesive society.”**
**Bridging Divides: The Role of Ethnic
Community-Based Organizations in
Refugee Integration
UNITED STATES REFUGEE ADMISSIONS
PROGRAM (USRAP)



The USRAP admits refugees that are of special
humanitarian concern to the United States.
The United States does not apply any
integration criteria when determining
which refugees will be resettled and resettles
refugees from around the world.
In 2011, the United States resettled refugees
from 66 countries, with the biggest groups of
arrivals coming from Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq.
PRE-DEPARTURE ORIENTATION
ACTIVITIES

With funding from the Department of State
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
(PRM), U.S. NGOs (Hebrew Immigrant Aid
Society, International Rescue Committee,
International Catholic Migration Commission,
and Church World Service) and International
NGOs (International Organization for Migration)
provide pre-departure cultural orientation
activities for refugees who will resettle in the
United States.
OVERSEAS CULTURAL ORIENTATION

Overseas cultural orientation covers (at a
minimum):

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Pre-departure processing
Travel
Role of the resettlement agencies (NGOs)
Rights and responsibilities of refugees
Housing
Transportation
Employment
Cultural adjustment
Education
Health care
Money management
RECEPTION AND PLACEMENT (R&P)
PROGRAM


Each refugee that enters the United States is
sponsored by 1 of 10 resettlement agencies. These
NGOs receive funding from the U.S. State
Department, and there are 350 local resettlement
offices around the country.
The local resettlement NGOs provide initial services
during refugees’ first 30-90 days in the United States.
These services include:
Securing housing
 Providing essential furnishings
 Providing food and clothing
 Providing community orientation and assistance with
access to social, medical, and employment services

INTEGRATION ACTORS
Refugee integration successes in the United States
are largely based on the sustained involvement of a
number of actors, including:
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National and local resettlement agencies
Faith-based organizations
Resettled refugee communities
Broader receiving communities
INTEGRATION ACTORS

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The United States also has a network of mutual
assistance associations (MAAs), also referred to
as ethnic community-based organizations
(ECBOs). These are grassroots organizations that
are managed primarily by and for members of
particular resettled refugee groups.
Resettlement agencies may also have funding to
provide longer-term integration services,
including employment training and placement,
English language classes, case management, and
other services to support self-sufficiency or
employment.
REFUGEE ACT OF 1980


The Refugee Act of 1980 created the U.S. federal refugee
program. It states that the Director of ORR, within the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, should
“make available sufficient resources for employment
training and placement in order to achieve economic selfsufficiency among refugees as quickly as possible.”
The Act goes on to state that “It is the intent of Congress
that in providing refugee assistance…employable refugees
should be placed in jobs as soon as possible after their
arrival in the United States,” and that ORR should ensure
that “cash assistance is made available to refugees in such
a manner as not to discourage their economic selfsufficiency.”
ORR FUNDED EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS
INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT ACCOUNTS

“The objectives of the Individual Development
Account (IDA) program are to increase the ability
of low-income refugees to save, promote their
participation in the financial institutions of this
country; assist refugees in advancing their
education; increase home ownership; and assist
refugees in gaining capital.”
-Office of Refugee Resettlement
website
IDAS


Under the IDA Program, NGOs provide savings
accounts for refugees by providing $1 for every $1
contributed by the refugee. The total amount
given by the NGO cannot be more than $2,000 for
individuals or $4,000 for families.
The savings accounts can be used for one or more
of the following:
Helping to purchase a home
 Microenterprise
 Post-secondary education/training
 Helping to purchase a car (if necessary for workrelated reasons)

MATCHING GRANT PROGRAM

“The goal of the Matching Grant (MG) program is to assist qualifying
populations in attaining economic self-sufficiency within 120-180 days
from their date of eligibility for ORR funded services.”
-Office of Refugee Resettlement website

Participants in the MG program cannot receive public cash assistance.

Only NGO resettlement agencies can receive funding from ORR to
participate in the MG program.

ORR provides $2 for every $1 provided by an NGO. The NGOs match
could either be cash or in-kind donations from the community.

ORR will provide up to $2,200 per client.

Refugees enrolled in the MG program in fiscal year 2011: 29,716
EXAMPLES OF NGO EMPLOYMENT-RELATED
PROGRAMMING
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Help refugees get documentation they need to work
in the United States
Job placement
Maintenance of current job listings
Referral of clients to workforce development agencies
English language classes that are focused on
employment-related language
Teach refugees how to use computers
Teach refugees how to prepare resumes
Teach refugees how to prepare for interviews
Assistance with starting small businesses
CHALLENGES TO REFUGEE
INTEGRATION IN THE UNITED STATES
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Resources for refugees are designed based on the
assumption that refugees will find employment
quickly.
The United States does not have one official,
comprehensive model or approach to integration.
There is no federal entity that is solely responsible for
focusing exclusively on the development and
implementation of refugee integration policy, services,
and research.
There are limited resources available for integration
programming.
NGO INTEGRATION BEST
PRACTICES
RefugeeWorks, established in 1997, is an ORRfunded employment training and technical
assistance program that is implemented by a
resettlement agency NGO, Lutheran
Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).
 “RefugeeWorks specializes in:

Promoting exceptional training, consulting, and
publishing services to the national refugee
employment network
 Working in partnership with service providers and
employers nationwide”

NGO INTEGRATION BEST
PRACTICES

RefugeeWorks’ mission is to:

“Assist states, counties, [NGOs], employment service
providers, workforce development boards, employers,
and policymakers in their efforts to help refugees
achieve self-sufficiency.

Share strategies and promote promising practices
throughout the national refugee employment network
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Provide a forum for the analysis of important, timely
issues that impact refugee employment and selfsufficiency.”
NGO INTEGRATION BEST PRACTICES
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RefugeeWorks established a Refugee
Recertification Program in 2008.
Part of this program includes the development of
a website, the Refugee Professional
Recertification Network, to help refugee
professionals connect with each other and with
people who would like to help them.
NGO INTEGRATION BEST
PRACTICES
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In 2009, RefugeeWorks developed a series of guides to
help refugees become recertified. The guides can be
found on RefugeeWorks website.
RefugeeWorks also works to develop relationships
with national companies to help with refugee job
placement around the country.
Since 2010, RefugeeWorks has been working with the
Welcome Back Center of San Diego to create and
implement a recertification pilot program. It includes
recertification, vocational English-as-a-Second
Langauge (VESL), and job placement assistance.
INTEGRATION BEST PRACTICES: BOLLMAN
BRIDGE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AND COASTAL
SUNBELT PRODUCE
Integration can be
“Very Inexpensive When the Community Is
Involved”
INTEGRATION BEST PRACTICES

Integration efforts can be
“very inexpensive when the community is
involved.”
RESOURCES
RCUSA:
www.rcusa.org and [email protected]
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Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR):
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/
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Refugee Works:
http://www.refugeeworks.org/
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Refugee Professional Recertification Network:
www.recertification.ning.com
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Bridging Divides: The Role of Ethnic Community- Based Organizations in Refugee
Integration:
http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/Bridging_Divides.pdf


Samuels, Robert. “For Burmese Refugees, English Lessons at Work Build School
Ties.” Washington Post. June 30, 2011.

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