Refugee Resettlement

Airport arrivals in Arizona
Church cosponsors and affiliate staff welcome refugees just off the plane for resettlement in the U.S. Photo: Courtesy Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest

Historically, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program has been characterized as an effective model of public-private partnership. Through private and government funding, and with the help of concerned individuals and voluntary organizations, refugees are properly resettled, adjust to their new homes, and achieve early self-sufficiency.

Each year, the President of the United States establishes the U.S. refugee admissions ceiling in consultation with Congress and the State Department. Individuals may be referred for U.S. Refugee Admissions Program consideration by the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, a non-governmental organization, or a U.S. embassy. In addition, qualifying family members from designated nationalities may be referred by a close relative in the United States. Other refugees are referred as a member of a group of special humanitarian concern to the United States.

Candidates must be interviewed and screened thoroughly by the U.S. State Department and by the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Those approved for admission are allocated among the nine U.S. voluntary agencies, including CWS, with which the U.S. government has cooperative agreements for refugee resettlement.

The placement cities and numbers of refugees are proposed annually by each of those agencies, and are subject to approval by the U.S. Department of State. Each national voluntary agency maintains a network of affiliate refugee resettlement agencies in various U.S. cities. These local faith-based and other resettlement agencies operate throughout the country. They receive referrals from the national agencies and coordinate the resettlement of refugees in local communities.

For its part, CWS and its 21-state network work hand-in-hand with participating denominations, local congregations, other local voluntary organizations including student bodies, and individual volunteers to ensure that the newcomers have food, clothing, and other essentials as they help refugees look for work, learn English, find their way around town, enroll their children in school, and quickly become self-sufficient.