In the News / June 2016

Checking the facts: How is refugee status determined?

Topic /

Times Argus article.

June 12th, 2016

So, how will those people wind up in Vermont?

The number of refugees invited to the United States each year is set by the president in consultation with Congress. The president and Congress then apportion that among countries of origin based on humanitarian, security and foreign policy interests, and then the State Department takes over. When refugees are approved for resettlement in the United States, they are referred to one of nine national voluntary agencies that have cooperative agreements with the federal government.

The largest is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Many of the others are faith-based. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, which intends to bring Syrians to Rutland, is non-sectarian.

Each of those groups, in turn, partners with regional agencies who help the refugees get settled into their new communities.

Stacie Blake, USCRI’s director of government and community relations, said the group likes working with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program because it has a record of good employment outcomes with resettled refugees. She said they find work quickly, tend to make a higher-than-average wage, and retain jobs.

Because of that, she said, USCRI considers Vermont a good state for resettlement. Climate and landscape approximating the refugees’ home countries is not a consideration, she said.

Blake said there also is an ongoing engagement process with the community, with a requirement of annual reviews of how the program is working and four quarterly community consultations.

“In Chittenden County, for years, we do not do that on a quarterly basis,” she said. “We’ve done it every six weeks.”

She said those meetings typically are attended by about 50 people from nonprofits, local governments, school districts and state representatives.

Blake also said that while the agency tries to work with local governments, it is answerable to the federal government.

“The question of immigrant policy, whether it regards refugees or anything else, is a federal policy,” she said. “States or communities, in our form of government, do not police their borders or decide who enters their town or state.”

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