Every year, thousands of refugees are resettled to the United States in a joint effort by the United States government, the United Nations, the International Organization for Migration and Several INGO’s and U.S. non-profit organizations
Eligibility for resettlement is determined every year by the United States government. The global refugee system is assessed, and those groups who have spent many years in refugee camps and have little or no chance of a durable solution are then nominated for third country resettlement.
Once a refugee population is nominated for resettlement, individual families and cases can apply, usually a 1 year process.
Process includes background checks, medical checks, skills and mental health assessment, visa processing and travel assistance
Adjusting to a new life…
Refugees arriving in the United States often spend 15-20 years in a refugee camp in between leaving their home country and moving to a third country.
The conditions in camps are often difficult, with limited access to clean water and sanitation, little to no access to medical care, limited work opportunities and limited access to nutritious food.
Upon arrival in the United States, refugees have a case manager who helps them find an apartment, receive cash assistance, enroll in school, look for employment and attend cultural orientation.
Case Management services are provided for 6 months after arrival, and after that refugees are on their own
After one year, refugees are eligible to become permanent residents of the U.S. (green card holders) and after 5 years they are eligible to become citizens.
U.S. Refugee Arrivals 2000-2009
Courtesy of U.S. Department of Homeland Security
On average, over the last 9 years, the U.S. has accepted 52,777 refugees per year through the U.S. refugee program.
The significant drop after 2001 shows the U.S. tightened immigration policy after September 11.
Since 1007, there have been significant increases in numbers, as many Burmese, Bhutanese and Iraqis are being resettled.
The graph to the right illustrates the trend when a group is selected for resettlement. Before 2007, very few Burmese were resettled to the US. In 2007, resettlement opened up to them and between 14,000-18,000 have arrived every year since.
Comparative look at Bhutan, Sudan and Iraq These three countries offer and interesting comparison in looking at refugee numbers and current situation in the actual country:
Bhutan: Until 2008, Bhutan had no refugees arriving in the United States, and the country has been at peace for the last 15-20 years.
Sudan: The number of Sudanese refugees arriving in the US has decreased drastically over the past 8 years, however, the country is still producing thousands of refugees, and has been for many years.
Iraq: Iraq has had a huge number of refugees arriving in the US over the last two years, yet has only been at war for 7 years.
Discussion: What are the reasons for the variation in numbers, based on a countries current situation? Is the resettlement program truly humanitarian, or are other issues involved?
Refugee assistance only last for 6-8 months, and often times non-profit agencies are overloaded and understaffed, so refugees do not get proper care in their first months here.
Language, educational and employment barriers often lead to a gap in services, including education, medical care and other social services.
Refugees often feel isolated or unwanted in their new communities, as the community itself does not understand where they come from or diverse cultures
Lack of employment. Many refugees have a difficult time finding employment once they reach the United States. They end up on welfare, and if they do not have children to qualify for welfare, they end up homeless.
While many refugees have suffered immense trauma, there are little to no mental health services upon arrival in the U.S.
How to help….. There are several organizations working with the refugees who are coming to the United States. You can get involved in a variety of ways, from tutoring, to donating work clothes to mentoring a family. Contact one of the agencies below for more information. The International Rescue Committee- theirc.org Catholic Charities USA- Catholiccharitiesusa.org Lutheran Social Services- LutheranServices.org