How to fix the Resettlement Process.
Personally I feel the US resettlement process is broken, but not the way you think. As you read it is a highly vetted process for a refugee to make it. The primary flaw in the system is integration, integration, integration. Additionally there are a series of glaring issues including;
Government centric services create the politicization of giving and shut out local communities engagement.
With the Canadian Private Sponsorship Model, individual families can fund a refugee family, help then integrate with a community and create with a circle of support. The US forces the process to be Government centric and as a result political rhetoric creates massive uncertainty for those caught in the process. People are vilified for wanting to help and belittled for helping.
Answer: By engaging individuals, families and communities to step up, we can save the government tens of millions of dollars AND create a far more welcoming environment for an arriving vulnerable community.
Livelihoods are not PROPERLY matched.
Highly skilled refugees are forced retake qualifications they already received (in US institutions), even if they were a practicing doctor, lawyer or architect. With less than 90 days to find a job they end up taking entry level jobs from lower income communities.
Answer: Locate people where they are wanted! Lets say Arizona or Florida was in desperate need of doctors and nurses for it’s aging population. Wouldn’t it be better to relocate medically trained refugees in the places we need them most?
Lack of community driven social integration.
One of the top five things a refugee families want is to talk with Americans, to understand the culture and to be apart of their new home. When they don’t, they end up moving to areas with that are just other refugees - causing social isolation from the national population and, often in areas with little employment or opportunity. This can create a high risk of recruitment from extremist groups, especially from disaffected youth. Here is the kicker, when they move from their initial relocation town, the US Government stops tracking them. This is a recipe for disaster. It is utterly ridiculous to write “Saying hi to refugees can prevent terrorism”, but it can.
Answer: Say Hi. Seriously, say Hi. (these people have lost everything, but not their soul)
The Housing Process Sucks.
I honestly don’t know where to begin here... but lets just start at the beginning.... Imagine you arrive after days of travel, you are met by a volunteer staff member on the “Hug Rug” and they say “Welcome to America! um, yeah there is a problem... we have a housing shortage so your room fell through and we are putting you in a motel. Um, let’s get one of those awesome buses on the curb. We will check you in and in 2-3 hours you can rest. There are over 1M homes in America that open their doors to strangers every night. What if you could offer a family their first few nights in America in a warm welcoming home? But wait, there is. Currently you can offer your homes for free but what if the emergency housing funds by the government would fund everyday Americans to open up their homes at a reduced rate? Thus saving the tax payer millions of dollars and funding those willing to step up.
Answer: Create a system to support under-utilized properties that are part of the community. This can not just be for refugees but for many, many groups in need of emergency short-term shelter.
Better Interagency and White House Engagement.
At the moment the resettlement process is run out of Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration within the State Department. They do an amazing job but need better integrated relationships with other agencies, including DHS and the NSC. The White House should create an undersecretary for resettlement and integration and a director of protection on the National Security Council. The President of the United States should be meeting with heads of all the agencies at least once a month and be briefed weekly.
Answer: Treat refugees as future Americans, not a temporary burden.
note: the PRM budget is actually for 9 different offices including assistance in Africa; Europe, Central Asia, and the Americas and Asia and the Near East. Detractors often assume it is all for incoming refugees