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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Refugees Have a Harder Time Attaining Self Sufficiency

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Officials from the State Department, USCIS, the Department of Health and Human Services, and others have begun the process of recommending the refugee numbers-i.e., the number of refugees our country will accept-for Fiscal Year 2011.  The annual ceiling has been 80,000 refugees per year for the last three years, though we have never actually reached the ceiling: In FY 2008, we admitted 60,191 refugees and in FY 2009, we admitted 74,654 refugees.  Officials expect to admit about 73,000 refugees in FY 2010.

Because of the troubled economy, those refugees who are resettled in the United States are having a more difficult time achieving self sufficiency.  Government Executive reports:

Every refugee arriving in the country is provided with a sponsor affiliated with one of 10 national volunteer agencies that work to help refugees adjust to life in the United States. They provide a litany of services, including help finding work, enrolling children in schools and adults in English language classes, and finding medical care.  Refugees are eligible for public assistance and medical care for at least eight months, and sometimes longer, depending on family status and the state they live in.  They also receive about $1,100 in direct financial assistance after they arrive in the country.

Under a new government employment program, all refugees entering the U.S. will receive a free t-shirt.

The agencies are finding it more difficult to place refugees in jobs.  The State Department even claims to be informing refugees overseas about the difficult economy in the U.S., so they can make an informed decision about whether to resettle here or in another country.

Before I went to law school, I worked as a job developer at an agency that helped resettle refugees in Philadelphia.  I would travel around the city visiting employers, looking for job openings for my clients.  The jobs were often less than exciting.  I remember one man who worked as a parking lot attendant.  He had been the Minister of Finance for the Ethiopian army.  Another man had designed complex radar systems in the Soviet Union.  In America, he worked in a machine shop.  Such people have fled their countries to save their lives and their families' lives.  The transition to a new culture often sets them back in ways that can never be overcome.  The plight of such refugees is not easy.  I am proud that my country accepts them and tries to help them live better lives.

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