Charting a Course to Rebuild and Strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program

Donald Kerwin and Mike Nicholson
Date of Publication: 
December, 2020
Source Organization: 
Center for Migration Studies

Since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, the U.S. has resettled more than three million refugees, more than any other country. In the last few years, however, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) has been decimated by Trump administration policies, such as restricting admissions from Muslim-majority and African countries and setting progressively lower admissions ceilings. Charting a Course to Rebuild and Strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program, published by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS), analyzes the current state of USRAP. The report draws on a 2020 national survey of resettlement stakeholders and argues that USRAP is an important program with widespread community support that offers a range of valuable and effective services. For instance, of the refugee respondents to the survey, 92 percent reported the program helped them support themselves soon after their arrival, and 77 percent said it helped them integrate into American society. Based on the information gleaned from these surveys, the authors recommend the incoming Biden administration rebuild and revitalize the program through means such as: increasing the refugee admission ceiling; providing stable funding for resettlement agencies; educating the public on the contributions of refugees and the program’s goals and effectiveness; and regaining bipartisan support for its objectives. Additionally, the authors put forth recommendations for programmatic improvements aimed at increasing the USRAP’s responsiveness to individual refugees’ needs, including: adopting a flexible, more expansive approach to resettlement through a broader definition of integration; providing access to trauma-informed and culturally attuned mental health services; prioritizing family reunification; and offering LGBTQ refugees programs tailored to their needs. (Georgia Whitaker for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute) 

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Kerwin, D. & Nicholson, M. (2020, December). Charting a Course to Rebuild and Strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program. Center for Migration Studies.