Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Program for the 21st Century

Silva Mathema and Sofia Carratala
Date of Publication: 
October, 2020
Source Organization: 
Center for American Progress

The Trump administration has systematically dismantled the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), dropping the number of refugees admitted to the country by 86 percent in just four years. The administration has proposed a ceiling of 15,000 refugees for fiscal year 2021, the lowest level in the history of the program. Meanwhile, developing countries have taken in the vast majority (80 percent) of the more than 26 million identified refugees in the world today, creating an imbalance in responsibility with the potential to affect international geopolitics. Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Program for the 21st Century, published by the Center for American Progress, examines successful policies and programs adopted by governmental and nongovernmental agencies following the 9/11 attacks. The researchers also interviewed 31 refugee resettlement experts in order to sketch the outlines of a reimagined program that is more resilient to changing circumstances and more focused on long-term refugee integration. The report lays out five key principles to strengthen the U.S. refugee resettlement system. First, community groups should be heavily involved in the resettlement process supporting and complementing the work of professional resettlement agencies. Second, the federal government must stabilize annual refugee flows so that these numbers are not affected by changes in administration. Third, the resettlement program should focus on refugee integration and economic self-sufficiency. Fourth, governmental and non-governmental agencies need to raise awareness of the resettlement program and build up support from lawmakers and members of receiving communities. Finally, a wide range of stakeholder groups, from international organizations to local hospitals, should weigh in on how to rebuild the program. The U.S., the authors assert, is uniquely positioned to set an example to other nations in conducting an effective refugee resettlement program, and evidence shows resettled refugees will make their new communities stronger for their presence. (Katelin Reger for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Mathema, S. & Carratala, S.  (2020, October 26). Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Program for the 21st Century. Center for American Progress.