REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT AND INTEGRATION IN THE UNITED STATES: AN OVERVIEW
A Presentation by Naomi Steinberg, Director, Refugee Council USA (RCUSA)
What is Refugee Council USA (RCUSA)?
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):
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:
National and local resettlement agencies Faith-based organizations Resettled refugee communities Broader receiving communities
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
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
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
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
Provide a forum for the analysis of important, timely issues that impact refugee employment and selfsufficiency.”
NGO INTEGRATION BEST PRACTICES
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
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]
Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR): http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/
Refugee Works: http://www.refugeeworks.org/
Refugee Professional Recertification Network: www.recertification.ning.com
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.