FAQs about Refugees and Resettlement in the U.S.

Who Brings Refugees to South Dakota?
Currently there are an estimated 15 million people from around the world who have fled their homes because of religious, political and racial persecution. These people are the world’s refugees. The U.S. Government, as determined by the President of the United States, allowed approximately 68,000 refugees to enter our country last year. About 35 to 40 percent of refugees resettled in the U.S. are children.

The U.S. Department of State works with the National Voluntary Agencies to establish the number of refugees placed in each state. Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota helped resettle 320 individuals within Sioux Falls this year. This is less than 1% of the total population of refugees resettled in the U.S.

Why does the U.S. resettle refugees?
The United States is one of many countries around the world that have committed to resettling refugees as a part of a global humanitarian mission. This mission began after WWII when the U.S. resettled more than 250,000 displaced Europeans. According to the U.S. Department of State, resettling refugees “reflects our own tradition as a nation of immigrants and refugees. It is an important, enduring and ongoing expression of our commitment to international humanitarian principles.”

How does LSS help refugees?
At the request of the state, LSS assumed oversight of refugee resettlement in South Dakota in 2000. The state of South Dakota continues to oversee refugee medical assistance, but LSS has taken the lead in oversight of cash assistance and program services. LSS operates refugee resettlement offices in Sioux Falls and Huron. The primary goals for all services are self-sufficiency and cultural adjustment. LSS provides six core services:

Community Orientation & Education
• Case Management
• Employment Services
• English Language Training
• Immigration Legal Services
• Interpreter Services

What is the resettlement process like for refugees?
People don’t seek to be part of the world’s refugee population. Coming to the United States as a refugee is a thorough process. Generally speaking, it may take up to ten years or more. So how does it happen?
1. First, you live in a country where you are persecuted because of your race, religion, ethnicity, social group or political opinion. You fled when your life was threatened and ran to another country to seek safety.
2. You apply to the United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for protection.
3. You are assigned to a refugee camp where you may stay for years before being accepted for resettlement into another country. The United States is one of many countries that resettle refugees.
4. You meet with a U.S. government official to compile personal information.
5. The U.S. government conducts multiple security checks.
6. You interview with the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
7. You may be denied at this point. But if you progress, you will be fingerprinted, photographed and subject to a series of medical checks.
8. After all of this is completed and approved, you wait for resettlement. The U.S. government assigns you to a refugee resettlement agency like LSS of South Dakota. Remember, the United States only accepts a fraction of the world’s refugee population.
9. As you wait in the refugee camps for resettlement, you have an opportunity to learn about the country and culture you will soon be joining.
10. Finally you travel to a new land, often with just the clothes on your back.

Somali refugee camp in Kenya.  Photo courtesy of UNHCR

Somali refugee camp in Kenya. Photo courtesy of UNHCR

For more information about refugee resettlement in the United States, visit:
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration http://www.state.gov/j/prm/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/

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