Whois a refugee?
Under U.S. law, a refugee is
located outside of the United States who is forced to flee their home country
due to persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of
their nationality, race, religion, political opinion, or membership in a
particular social group. Refugees
do not voluntarily choose to migrate but instead do so due to civil unrest or
What is the Catholic Church's teaching on refugees?
It is a core Catholic teaching that every human being
is created in the image of God and is therefore entitled to human dignity and
respect. The Catholic Church views assisting those in need as a fundamental
Christian duty that is derived directly from the life of mercy of Christ, who
himself was a immigrant and a child of refugees. We as Christians are called to
welcome our new neighbors with the same love and compassion we would want
ourselves to be shown.
What is the current state of the refugee system
Worldwide, there are 65.3 million people who have been
forced out of their homes (an estimated 34,000 people displaced/day). While the majority of forced migrants remain in their home
countries, 21.3 million have been forced to flee and seek refuge in other
countries. Over half of these
refugees are children. Despite the extent of global displacement, less than 1%
of refugees are resettled worldwide. The U.S. traditionally resettles half of these individuals.
In Fiscal Year 2016, the U.S. resettled around 85,000 refugees, with most
coming from Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Ethiopia, Syria and Iraq.
How does an individual get identified outside the U.S.
as a refugee?
There are three durable solutions to displacement
situations: (1) voluntary repatriation, (2) integration into the country of
first asylum, or (3) resettlement to a third country. United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works to find solutions for each displaced
person. UNHCR is generally responsible for identifying and designating
individuals as refugees. UNHCR assists in ensuring the safety and well-being of
refugees as they await a placement determination. Refugees, once identified
usually wait to be resettled and live in confined refugee camp sites or in
urban settings, sometimes for as long as a decade.
How does refugee resettlement work in the U.S.?
Annually, the President authorizes the admission of a
certain number of refugees into the U.S. This number, described as the
"Presidential Determination" is based on engagement between Congress, the
President, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Department of
State (DOS). A refugee is typically referred to the U.S. by UNHCR, an embassy,
or an authorized non-governmental organization (NGO). A Resettlement Support
Center then facilitates the application process by completing paperwork and
gathering biometric and biographical information for the determination and
During the application process, which typically takes
18 to 24 months to complete, the prospective refugee remains outside of the
U.S. Prospective refugees undergo a rigorous and thorough screening process that includes vetting through databases held by the
FBI, the Department of Defense, DOS, and DHS. Further
review is conducted if an individual's application raises national security
concerns and, ultimately, will not be resettled in the U.S. if such concerns
are not resolved. Admitted refugees are assigned to an experienced resettlement agency in the U.S. prior to arrival in order to help ensure
their welcome and successful integration. Once in the U.S., refugees undertake
cultural orientation, English lessons, medical evaluations, and other forms of
What is the Catholic Church's Role in U.S. Refugee
The United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS) is one of nine NGOs in the United States
that resettles refugees. Through cooperative agreements with the federal
government, USCCB/MRS works in coordination with partner agencies around the
United States to welcome and ensure that the basic needs of each arriving
refugee are adequately met.