September 26, 2021

8 Facts About the U.S. Program to Resettle Syrian Refugees

8 Facts About the U.S. Program to Resettle Syrian RefugeesA plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States has come under intense scrutiny since a Syrian passport was found near one of the assailants in the Paris terror attacks. The discovery has heightened fears that Islamic State group terrorists could exploit refugee routes and resettlement programs to position themselves for additional attacks.

On Thursday, the House passed a bill that would impose additional security measures on refugees from Syria and Iraq. The measure would require the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to certify that each refugee to be resettled in the U.S. is no threat to national security. House Republicans were joined by almost 50 Democrats in support of the bill, which Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said “increases the standards to keep those who want to do us harm out.”

President Barack Obama said he would veto the bill. He has defended the U.S. resettlement program, which was established in the 1970s and found homes for over 3 million people fleeing war or persecution. and said turning away people forced to flee their own country violates American values.

Here’s a closer look at how the U.S. refugee resettlement program works:

Refugees are subject to Department of Homeland Security background checks before arriving in the U.S.

Refugees are subject to the strictest form of security screening of any class of traveler to the U.S. before they are allowed to enter, with extensive background, security and health checks. The resettlement process is run by the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services. DHS receives refugee referrals from the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, and then begins vetting candidates for resettlement. Specially trained DHS employees travel to the country where a candidate is residing to conduct in-depth interviews to ensure the individual meets the criteria as a refugee and does not pose a security risk to the U.S. The U.S. then investigates and verifies the claims made by an applicant for asylum.

Unlike in Europe, Syrian refugees are not arriving via boat or land to the U.S., nor can they fly into the country without being approved for refugee status. That process frequently takes 18 months or more, meaning refugees are arriving in the U.S. at a very slow pace compared to the numbers by which they are arriving in Europe.

“We should trust the system that we’ve built. Europe, they’re having just random migration coming in, versus us, we have planned migration coming in,” says Suzanne Akhras Sahloul of the Syrian Community Network in Chicago. “Our system is much better and the way things are set up are organized and they come through an agency and the agencies keep track of them.”

Refugees are processed in conjunction with nine nonprofits, not solely by the government.

Nine national resettlement agencies process cases of refugees that have passed all the appropriate security checks. Those agencies include: Church World Service, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services, and World Relief. Six of these organizations are faith-based.

Those nine organizations meet each week with the State Department to decide how refugees will be redistributed. Each agency accepts new cases based upon their organization capacity, taking into consideration budget and current caseload.

Refugees are sent all over the U.S.

The resettlement agencies look at each particular case and make a determination about where the person or family should be sent based upon a number of factors.

“The most common reason for a refugee to be assigned to a particular place is a personal or family connection,” a State Department spokesperson says, speaking on background. “We try very hard to get refugees close to people that they know because we think that they have a better chance of success if they have support network when they first arrive, aside from just the volunteers.”

Other factors that could impact where someone is sent include ensuring the person has easy access to appropriate medical care for any health conditions; language abilities and available job prospects.

Refugees are sent to nearly every state and to different communities across the country. Syrian refugees have been sent to 138 cities in 36 states since the country’s civil war began in 2011. Nationality of origin is not a factor in determining where people are placed.

Refugees must pay back the cost of their flight to the U.S.

After one of the nonprofit resettlement agencies receives the case of a particular individual or family, the International Organization for Migration coordinates their travel to the U.S. city where they will be resettled. The plane ticket is paid for at that time, but after they arrive and begin working, the refugees must pay back the cost of the ticket.

Refugees don’t get long-term subsidized housing.

Each refugee receives a stipend of about $1,000 to cover their first three months in the U.S. Before an individual or family arrives, the local resettlement organizations work to find a suitable apartment. They ensure the rent will be affordable and are in charge of distributing the stipend to cover the costs of rent for three months. They are not placed in special apartment blocks and do not receive special rates.

“[The housing] is on the open market. We’re trying to rent apartments just like anybody else,” says Stacie Blake of the U.S. Committee for Refugee and Immigrants. “There’s nothing special or privileged about that.”

After three months, refugees are responsible for paying rent as normal tenants in their apartment buildings and are also free to move elsewhere within the city or state or to another state altogether.

Refugees have to apply for jobs.

Resettlement agencies also aid refugees in applying for jobs. Syria was a lower middle-income country before the war, and many refugees are educated and trained. But that doesn’t mean they can pick up where they left off.

“Let’s just say they were a doctor. You can’t just come be a doctor here, you have to start over to get your credentials,” Blake says. “So now they can’t be a doctor, so now what will they do?”

Refugees frequently find work in low-skilled jobs, like hotel services and manufacturing. They interview and go through a job-application process just as anyone else would.

The government doesn’t track refugees after they arrive.

Once arriving in the U.S., refugees are allowed to move anywhere in the country, just like any other legal resident. If a refugee does choose to relocate, a local organization works to transfer the case to another resettlement agency in the new location, but that is not always possible.

“We do not track refugees,” the State Department spokesperson says. “Once a refugee arrives they can move wherever they want.”

Refugees sometimes chose to move to where they have a community of people from their country or that speak the same language. This can create cities where many refugees from one country live, like the large Somali community in Minneapolis.

Some argue that the government should know where refugees, some of whom have been through extensive trauma, are living.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, ordered state police to track Syrian refugees currently residing in his state.

“I issued an executive order telling my agencies to do everything we can,” Jindal said. “We don’t want these refugees in our state. I’ve ordered the state police to track the ones that are already in Louisiana.”

Christian resettlement organizations help refugees of all faiths.

Five of the nine resettlement agencies are Christian and one is Jewish, but all serve refugees of all nationalities and faiths.

“Last year at the national level – and I think this would be true for the refugees we served roughly – the plurality of refugees who came in were Christians of some sort, about 45 percent, but about 40 percent Muslims,” says Matthew Soerens of World Relief, one of the nine resettlement agencies. “We serve them all without distinction. As Christians, it’s a unique honor to help persecuted Christians as well and it’s an important part of the program. But we’re Christians who believe in loving our neighbors.”

Source: U.S. News



Listing by state, city, and numbers:


AK Anchorage 125

AL Mobile 125

AR Springdale 10

AZ Glendale 895
AZ Phoenix 1,459
AZ Tucson 935

CA Anaheim 175
CA Fullerton 10
CA Garden Grove 150
CA Glendale 1,420
CA Los Angeles 490
CA Los Gatos 144
CA Modesto 250
CA Oakland 615
CA Sacramento 1,276
CA San Bernardino 65
CA San Diego 3,103
CA San Francisco 5
CA San Jose 142
CA Turlock 120
CA Walnut Creek 90

CO Colorado Springs 138
CO Denver 1,690
CO Greeley 150
CT Bridgeport 100
CT Hartford 285
CT New Haven 205
DC Washington 15
DE Wilmington 5
FL Clearwater 200
FL Delray Beach 95
FL Doral 160
FL Jacksonville 895
FL Miami 1,056
FL Miami Springs 133
FL Naples 115
FL North Port 30
FL Orlando 360
FL Palm Springs 150
FL Pensacola 20
FL Plantation 75
FL Riviera Beach 50
FL Tallahassee 50
FL Tampa 660

GA Atlanta 2,100
GA Savannah 100
GA Stone Mountain 685

HI Honolulu 15
IA Cedar Rapids 55
IA Des Moines 585
ID Boise 720
ID Twin Falls  300
IL Aurora 190
IL Chicago 1,595
IL Moline 200
IL Rockford 300
IL Wheaton 2,660
IN Fort Wayne 200
IN Indianapolis 1,285
KS Garden City 80
KS Kansas City 200
KS Wichita 510
KY Bowling Green 310
KY Lexington 410
KY Louisville 990
KY Owensboro 135
LA Baton Rouge 125
LA Lafayette 30
LA Metairie 185
MA Boston 300
MA Framingham 8
MA Jamaica Plain 100
MA Lowell 275
MA South Boston 260
MA Springfield 230
MA Waltham 10
MA West Springfield 340
MA Worcester 443
MD Baltimore 775
MD GlenBurnie 150
MD Rockville 39
MD Silver Spring 845
ME Portland 350
MI Ann Arbor 80
MI Battle Creek 140
MI Clinton Township 650
MI Dearborn 640
MI Grand Rapids 740
MI Lansing 617
MI Troy 1,215
MN Minneapolis 730
MN Richfield 340
MN Rochester 130
MN Saint Paul 695
MN St. Cloud  215
MO Columbia 140
MO Kansas City 540
MO Saint Louis 725
MO Springfield 75
MS Biloxi 5
MS Jackson 20
NC Charlotte 655
NC Durham 380
NC Greensboro 385
NC High Point 405
NC New Bern 165
NC Raleigh 475
NC Wilmington 80
ND Bismarck 45
ND Fargo 270
ND Grand Forks 90
NE Lincoln 335
NE Omaha 990
NH Concord 245
NH Manchester 445
NJ Camden 100
NJ East Orange 6
NJ Elizabeth 300
NJ Jersey City 506
NM Albuquerque 220
NV Las Vegas 640
NY Albany 360
NY Amityville 20
NY Binghamton 40
NY Brooklyn 55
NY Buffalo 1,442
NY New York 240
NY Rochester 643
NY Syracuse 1,030
NY Utica 410
OH Akron 575
OH Cincinnati 140
OH Cleveland 510
OH Cleveland Heights 190
OH Columbus 1,300
OH Dayton 210
OH Toledo 40
OK Oklahoma City 170
OK Tulsa 395
OR Portland 995
PA Allentown 95
PA Erie 625
PA Harrisburg 200
PA Lancaster 480
PA Philadelphia 750
PA Pittsburgh 470
PA Roslyn 20
PA Scranton 150
PR San Juan 5
RI Providence 210
SC Columbia 160
SC Spartanburg 220
SD Huron 90
SD Sioux Falls 490
TN Chattanooga 85
TN Knoxville 190
TN Memphis 200
TN Nashville 1,225
TX Abilene 200
TX Amarillo 442
TX Austin 930
TX Corpus Christi 5
TX Dallas 1,765
TX El Paso 35
TX Fort Worth 1,503
TX Houston 2,605
TX San Antonio 750
UT Salt Lake City 1,126
VA Arlington 500
VA Charlottesville 250
VA Falls Church 450
VA Fredericksburg 120
VA Harrisonburg 140
VA Newport News 300
VA Richmond 243
VA Roanoke 177
VT Colchester 325
WA Kent 985
WA Richland 230
WA Seattle 714
WA Spokane 510
WA Tacoma 276
WA Vancouver 127
WI Green Bay 20
WI Madison 90
WI Milwaukee 890
WI Oshkosh 135
WI Sheboygan 35
WV Charleston 50

TOTALS  76,972