Refugees are individuals who have fled their countries of origin and who meet the United Nations' criteria of having a "well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

Each year the President of the United States authorizes the admission of a certain number of refugees into the country.  This determination is based on a consultative process between Congress, the President and various federal agencies.  In recent years, the US has accepted between 50,000 to 75,000 refugees per year.  Before admission to the US, each refugee undergoes an extensive interviewing, screening and security clearance process.

Refugees, having suffered great loss, including loss of their homes, livelihoods, possessions and oftentimes families, need assistance starting over in a new country.  Their initial needs are many: food, clothing, shelter, employment, English language training, and orientation to a new community and culture.  In partnership with its affiliates, MRS resettles approximately 30% of the refugees that arrive in the US each year.  The Catholic refugee resettlement network includes over 100 diocesan offices across the country and in Guam and Puerto Rico. Resettling refugees provides an extraordinary opportunity for countless Americans to take an active part in offering a caring and supportive environment for refugees as they begin new lives. Without volunteers and resources from the community and parishes, MRS and its affiliated diocesan resettlement offices would be unable to accomplish the tremendous task of giving refugees new hope and the opportunity to begin again.

Unaccompanied Children

MRS is a leader among non-governmental agencies in addressing the needs of children forced to flee their homes, and others caught up in the migration phenomenon in the United States. MRS works with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and US government agencies to ensure that children languishing in refugee camps without parental advocates are appropriately referred and processed into the US refugee resettlement program. Working with a broad network of Catholic agencies, MRS assists refugee children to resettle with their families and places children traveling without adult relatives in culturally appropriate, caring foster homes through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program.

Refugee children who have lost their families through war, violence, or other causes are often forgotten when they arrive in refugee camps, alone, scared and, at times, abused and exploited.

Another vulnerable population is the children traveling alone to the United States without legal status. Upon entering the country without documentation, they are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security. Without any family to be concerned about their welfare, these children must face alone the uncertainties of being held in the custody of the U.S. government and awaiting their case determination. Through its Safe Passages Program, MRS ensures that children traveling without adult relatives and without legal travel documents are provided a safe haven, and receive appropriate child-welfare standards of care while in the custody of the US government.

The Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS) Program of MRS supports service providers to refugee youth, children, and families through local training, development of original resources, and access to information resources through its website and online clearinghouse.

Human Trafficking Victims

Victims of human trafficking are forced into inhuman, slave-like conditions as workers in the sex trade, sweatshops, and domestic labor industries. This contemporary slave trade has become as lucrative as the arms trade. Each year, up to two million people worldwide are victims of trafficking, including 20,000 men, women, and children who are brought into the United States, one-third of whom are under the age of eighteen. Traffickers often lure victims into the country under false pretenses and take away their documents to trap them.

Since 2002, MRS has led efforts to combat this modern-day evil through advocacy, increasing public awareness, training and technical assistance to service providers, and direct outreach to the trafficking victims themselves. MRS places trafficked children into foster care, group homes, or independent living arrangements and monitors their care and well-being.

As a global institution, the Catholic Church is well-positioned to respond to human trafficking and has denounced this horrific crime because it constitutes an offense against human dignity and fundamental human rights. MRS convenes the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking; a coalition of national and international Catholic organizations united to eliminate human trafficking through public education, advocacy, and services. MRS also advocates for federal policy initiatives and engages in national and local education and awareness-raising efforts.