RELEASE: New CAP Report Documents Effective U.S. Refugee Integration Programs Despite Trump Administration’s Anti-Refugee Policies

Washington, D.C. — As the nation’s resettlement of refugees continues to decline dramatically due to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce refugee admissions to the country, a new report out today documents effective local refugee integration solutions, as well as how to strengthen and preserve them for a future when the United States returns to its historical role as a beacon of freedom for those fleeing persecution.

From the moment they arrive at the airport, refugees coming to the United States are welcomed and integrated into American cities by local refugee resettlement organizations with the support from federal, state, and local agencies—and from there, a first job or a first day of school, or the first words of English. Over the years, these government and nongovernment groups have developed effective and practical solutions to help refugees adjust and thrive in their new life in America.

In the report, the Center for American Progress conducted an in-depth study of 24 innovative refugee integration programs operating in 10 cities across the country, from Seattle to Boise, Idaho, and Jacksonville, Florida. The report loosely organizes these varied programs and approaches into four effective categories:

  1. Employment and entrepreneurship programs attribute their success to main­taining lasting relationships with employers to be informed about local job markets; involving employers and experts while developing curriculums, mentoring, and trainings; and using community resources to meet refugee needs.
  2. Educational services use innovative techniques to increase access to English language and parenting classes, such as delivering services to the homes of refugees. They also use staff and volunteers, many of whom are born in the United States or are former refugees, giving refugees and their families an opportunity to widen their circles.
  3. Social integration initiatives focus on fostering productive interactions between refugees and other community members, as well as helping to educate all members of the community to become more understanding of each other in regard to their cultural norms and commonalities.
  4. Specialized services, such as mental health, children’s health, and deaf services for vulnerable refugees aim to identify the needs of refugees at arrival and connect them to service providers where their barriers can be appropriately addressed.

In addition, based on the findings of the research, the report makes broader recommendations to help ensure that the existing infrastructure to resettle and integrate refugees and families is preserved and improved, including:

  • The administration must restore the U.S. refugee resettlement program to its historical levels to match the global refugee needs.
  • Organizations should develop flexible strategies to find diverse sets of fund­ing, including reaching out to local funders to fill gaps left by the abdication of responsibility by the Trump administration.
  • As they prepare for a decrease in newly resettled refugees, organizations should consider expanding their services to the wider community while maintaining their specialized services for new refugees. Regions and cities should consider forming umbrella organizations that focus on improving the integration process.
  • Organizations should continue to invest in recruiting and training volunteers and interns, as they play a vital role in providing the refugees with networks beyond the refugee caseworkers and their own community, in addition to assist­ing organizations in their work.

“The impact these programs have on the lives of refugees and their families resettling in America is significant,” said Silva Mathema, senior policy analyst of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress and author of the report. “If these ideas, programs, and partnerships are not preserved against the current anti-refugee environment, it’s as if we are abandoning a future where our country welcomes refugees at a time when the world’s number of forcibly displaced people is at an all-time high.”

For fiscal year 2018 the refugee admission target proposed by the Trump administration is only 45,000—the lowest level since 1980, and the United States may not even be on track to meet that this year. This drastic decrease in refugee admissions, along with proposed decreases in funding, are a direct threat to the infrastructure that the local resettlement groups have developed and strengthened over the years. The report concludes that their knowledge, experience, and work are critical to the United States’ global commitment to refugee resettlement and important to preserve for a future when the administration once again embraces refugees.

Read the report: “What Works: Innovative Approaches to Improving Refugee Integration” by Silva Mathema

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Elena Gaona at egaona@americanprogress.org or 202-478-6322.