News & Stories

Capstone Workshop: Refugee Resettlement in the U.S.

Posted Jul 29 2010

Every year, refugees from around the world flee precarious and often dangerous situations, seeking a fresh start in the United States. Tens of thousands of refugees get that fresh start with help from the U.S Refugee Admissions Program. But since its creation 30 years ago, the program has not received a comprehensive review or restructuring resulting in several challenges and seriously undermining the nation’s resettlement system.

Commissioned by the International Rescue Committee, a 2010 SIPA Capstone workshop team examined those challenges and prepared a series of recommendations for improvement. In July 2010, several members of the workshop team presented their findings in a briefing at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Video 

Kate Brick (MIA ’10), one of the report’s authors, worked with refugees in New York City while at SIPA and saw firsthand how policies translate into services and opportunities for refugees. After graduating from SIPA, she began serving as an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute and helped lead the discussion.

“It’s important to recognize the strengths of our program,” said Brick. “The U.S. has the largest refugee resettlement program in the world. It has some key attributes that could be bolstered and replicated elsewhere.”

Those strengths include the welcoming of refugees, help with language barriers, and programs to help refugees achieve self-sufficiency. Major challenges include conflicting policy goals, funding, coordination among agencies, and a lack of systematic monitoring and evaluation.

Other student authors of the report were Amy Cushing-Savvi, Samia Elshafie, Alan Krill, Megan McGlynn Scanlon, and Marianne Stone. Read the team’s final report here.

“What I find to be significant is the attention our report is garnering,” says Samia Elshafie (MIA ’10), who also attended the briefing. “It is truly astounding how well it was received and how much respect it is getting as a comprehensive body of work that represents the U.S. resettlement system as it currently exists.” Elshafie says virtually every stake holder in resettlement system – governmental and nongovernmental – was represented at the briefing and the report is serving as a valuable resource throughout the resettlement community.

Robert Carey, Vice President of Resettlement and Migration Policy with the International Rescue Committee, developed the proposal for the Capstone workshop. “Their report was produced from a perspective of data, research, and a comprehensive view of the program,” said Mr. Carey at the briefing. “Our role at the IRC was to provide background and connect the team with resources in the field, not to provide direction as to recommendations and outcomes. … I think the team’s recommendations with regard to data-driven information, both overseas and in the U.S. placement process, are not only sound, but reflect the decisions that some of our colleague nations have taken as well.”