Resettlement in U.S. (Past & Pending)

Let’s elaborate on what happens when a refugee chooses option #3, resettlement in a third “host” country (see last post for details). Since I am considering the process and policy of resettlement within the United States, and specifically in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the following information does not apply globally. Later in this research project, however, I will provide details as to other nations’ processes and policies.

So, once a refugee is referred by the UN for resettlement in the U.S., the U.S. government outsources the process to nine major VOLAGs, or Voluntary Agencies. I’ve created the visual below to illustrate this concept.


The nine major VOLAGs in the United States are Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Church World Service, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, International Rescue Committee, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and World Relief Corporation.

Not all nine VOLAGs are religiously affiliated, but for those that are, religion cannot influence the services that they provide, as they are federally funded. The agencies may invite clients to participate in church services, but that cannot be a contingent factor in the provision of care. These agencies then have regional and local branches that are present in most major cities across the United States. For example, Samaritas in Grand Rapids is a branch of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. Another agency in Grand Rapids that I will refer to in the future is Bethany Christian Services, which is apart of the Church World Service VOLAG. Local agencies like Samaritas and Bethany Christian do the day-to-day ground work, which I will explore in detail in the next post.

Before I go, let me throw some statistics at you, which I will preface by saying that the number of refugees accepted into the country is a presidential determination:

  • Previous to the Obama administration, the number of refugees accepted into the United States had consistently been around 70,000.
  • In 2016, President Obama raised that number to allow in 85,000 refugees.
  • For the 2017 fiscal year, President Obama committed to accept 110,000 refugees…

❗️ However, the Trump administration has drafted an executive order to curtail that number drastically to 50,000, a level the U.S. hasn’t seen in 10 years. Furthermore, the admission of these 50,000 refugees would begin only after the proposed 120-day suspension of any refugee admissions. If the executive order is signed, as is, there will also be an indefinite suspension of Syrian refugee admissions and an immediate 30-day halt on the issuance of visas to individuals from certain majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. These executive orders are expected to be signed today, so check back for a subsequent post outlining the details of Trump’s new policy.




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