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Annual ORR Reports to Congress - 2003: I. Refugee Resettlement Program

Published: May 28, 2014

Admissions

To be admitted to the United States as a refugee, an individual must be determined by an officer of the Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to meet the definition of refugee as defined in the Refugee Act of 1980. They also must be determined to be of special humanitarian concern to the U.S., be admissible under U.S. law, and not be firmly re-settled in another country. Special humanitarian concern generally applies to refugees with relatives residing in the U.S., refugees whose status as refugees has occurred as a result of their association with the U.S., and refugees who have a close tie to the U.S. because of education here or employment by the U.S. government. In addition, the U.S. admits a share of refugees determined by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to be in need of resettlement in a third country outside the region from which they have fled.

The ceiling for the number of refugees to be admitted each year is determined by the President after consultation between the Executive Branch and the Congress. The President has authority to respond beyond the ceiling in cases of emergencies. The table at right shows the arrivals and ceilings in FY's 1983-2003.

For FY 2003 the President determined the refugee ceiling at 70,000 refugees. During the fiscal year, 28,117 refugees including 67 Amerasians were admitted to the U.S. In addition, 10,129 Cuban and 931 Haitian entrants were admitted to the U.S.

Refugee and entrant arrivals from Cuba comprised the largest admission group (10,430), followed by refugee arrivals from the successor republics of the Soviet Union (8,728), Yugoslavia (2,500), Liberia (2,915), and Iran (2,428).

Ceilings and Admissions (1983 to 2003)

Year

Ceiling

Admissions

% of Ceiling

2003
70,000
28,117
40.2
2002
70,000
27,070
38.7
2001
80,000
68,388
85.4
2000
90,000
72,519
80.5
1999
91,000
85,014
93.4

1998

83,000

76,750

92.5

1997

78,000

76,456

98.0

1996

90,000

75,755

84.1

1995

112,000

99,553

88.8

1994

121,000

112,065

92.6

1993

132,000

119,050

90.2

1992

142,000

131,749

92.8

1991

131,000

113,980

87.0

1990

125,000

122,935

98.3

1989

116,500

106,932

91.8

1988

60,500

76,930

127.2

1987
70,000
58,863
84.1

1986

67,000

60,559

90.4

1985

70,000

67,166

96.0

1984

72,000

70,604

98.1

1983

90,000

60,040

66.7

Source: Reallocated ceilings from Department of State (except for FY 1989 in which the reallocated ceiling was revised from 94,000 to 116,500). Admissions based on ORR data system, which com-menced in 1983. Data on arrivals not available prior to the estab-lishment of the refugee database in 1983. Does not include entrants.

Comparing the countries of origin of this year's arrivals with those of a decade earlier illustrates the wide swings and abrupt reversals in the refugee program. Yugoslavia sent only six refugees to the U.S. in FY 1990 and Somalia, 33. Arrivals from the U.S.S.R., on the other hand, reached almost 50,000 then, but have since dwindled to 8,728, as have arrivals from Vietnam which have fallen by 95 percent to 1,466. FY 2003 arrivals from Laos, Romania, and Cambodia totaled only 20; a decade earlier, these three countries accounted for almost 16,000 admissions.

Florida received the largest number of arrivals (10,227), followed by California (4,205), Wash-ington (2,751), New York (2,503), and Texas (1,811). Unlike countries of origin, the States of initial resettlement vary little from year to year. The only notable difference from a decade earlier is Florida's rise to the top spot-due entirely to a sustained increase in Cuban entrants under the bilateral agreement (discussed below).

Amerasians

The admission numbers for refugees included in this chapter include individuals admitted under the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1988. Amerasians are children born in Vietnam to Vietnamese mothers and American fathers and are admitted as immigrants, rather than refugees; however, these youths and their immediate relatives are entitled to ORR-funded refugee services and benefits. Since FY 1988, almost 75,800 Vietnamese have been admitted to the U.S. under this provision. In the peak year for this population (1992), over 17,000 youths and family members arrived in the U.S. Last year they numbered only 67.

The Population Profile section and associated tables in Appendix A of this report provide refu-gee, Amerasian, and entrant arrival numbers by country of origin and State of initial resettlement for the period FY 1983 through FY 2003.

Cuban and Haitian Entrants

Congress created the Cuban/Haitian Entrant Program under Title V of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980. The law provides for a program of reimbursement to participating States for cash and medical assistance to Cuban and Haitian entrants under the same conditions and to the same extent as such assistance and services are provided to refugees under the refugee program. The first recipients of the new program were the approximately 125,000 Cubans who fled the Castro regime in the Mariel boatlift of 1980.

By law, an entrant-for the purposes of ORR-funded benefits-is a Cuban or Haitian national who is (a) paroled into the U.S., (b) subject to exclusion or deportation proceedings, or (c) an applicant for asylum.

Under the terms of a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Cuba, up to 20,000 Cuban immigrants are allowed to enter the U.S. directly from Cuba annually. These individuals are known as Havana Parolees and are eligible for ORR-funded benefits and services in States that have a Cuban/Haitian Entrant Program.

Entrant Arrivals, FY 1991 to FY 2003

 

Cuba

Haiti

Total

2003
10,129
931
11,060
2002
16,015
719
16,734
2001

14,499

1,451
15,950
2000
17,871
1,570
19,441
1999
20,728
1,270
21,998
1998
13,492
590
14,082
1997
5,284
42
5,326
1996
16,985
346
17,331
1995
31,195
1,035
32,230
1994
12,785
1,579
14,364
1993
3,452
700
4,152
1992
2,539
10,385
12,924
1991
696
395
1,091

Does not include Cuban and Haitian arrivals with refugee status.

In FY 2003, 11,060 Cuban and Haitian entrants arrived in the U.S. Eighty-one percent initially resettled in Florida. The above table describes the flow of entrants since FY 1991.

Asylees

On June 15, 2000 ORR published State Letter 00-12, which revised its policy on program eligibility for persons granted asylum. Section 412(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides a refugee with benefits beginning with the first month in which the refugee has entered the U.S. In the past, an asylee's arrival date in the U.S. was considered his entry date for the purposes of program eligibility. The months of eligibility for assistance (currently eight) would then begin on this date. This date could precede by months or even years the date that the individual applied for or was granted asylum. Because of the time it normally takes for an individual to apply for asylum and to proceed through the INS adjudication process, this interpretation of "entry" prohibited even individuals who applied for asylum immediately upon arrival from accessing refugee cash assistance and refugee medical assistance.

In 1996 Congress revised Federal immigration laws to use date of admission, rather than date of physical entry, as the important issue in determining an alien's legal status. Accordingly, ORR now uses the date that asylum is granted as the initial date of eligibility for ORR-funded services and benefits.

Reception and Placement

Most of the persons eligible for ORR's refugee program benefits and services are refugees resettled through the Department of State's refugee allocation system under the annual ceiling for refugee admissions. Upon arrival, refugees are provided initial services through a program of grants, called reception and placement cooperative agreements, made by the Department of State to qualifying agencies. In FY 2003, the following agencies participated: Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Iowa Refugee Service Center, International Rescue Committee, Immigration and Refugee Services of America, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and World Relief.

These grantee agencies are responsible for providing initial "nesting" services covering basic food, clothing, shelter, orientation, and referral for the first 30 days. In FY 2003, the agencies re-ceived a per capita amount of $800 from the State Department for this purpose. After this period, refugees who still need assistance are eligible for cash and medical benefits provided under ORR's program of domestic assistance. For more information on these agencies and their activities, see Appendix C.

ORR Assistance and Services

All persons admitted as refugees or granted asylum while in the U.S. are eligible for refugee benefits described in this report. Certain other persons admitted to the U.S. under other immigration categories are also eligible for refugee benefits. Amerasians from Vietnam and their accompanying family members, though admitted to the U.S. as immigrants, are entitled to the same social services and assistance benefits as refugees. Certain nationals of Cuba and Haiti, such as public interest parolees and asylum applicants, may also receive benefits in the same manner and to the same extent as refugees if they reside in a State with an approved Cuban/Haitian Entrant Program. In addition, certain persons deemed to be victims of a severe form of trafficking, though not legally admitted as refugees, are eligible for ORR-funded benefits to the same extent as refugees.

Domestic Resettlement Program

Refugee Appropriations

In FY 2003, the refugee and entrant assistance program was funded under the FY 2003 omnibus spending bill, P.L. 108-7. In addition to this appropriation of $443.8 million, Congress gave ORR permission to spend prior year unexpended funds. Congress appropriated an additional $37.1 million for the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program which was transferred from the Department of Homeland Security to ORR in March of FY 2003. The activities and benefits of this program are explained more fully beginning on page 45. The inclusion of the UAC appropriation brought the total ORR appropriation to $480.9 million. The appropriation table on page 9 explains the FY 2003 appropriations by line-item.

The domestic refugee program consists of three separate resettlement approaches: (1) the State-administered program, (2) the Wilson/Fish program, and (3) the Matching Grant program.

State-Administered Program

Federal resettlement assistance to refugees is provided primarily through the State administered refugee resettlement program. States provide transitional cash and medical assistance and social services to refugees, as well as maintain legal responsibility for the care of unaccompanied refu-gee children.

 
  • Cash and Medical Assistance

Refugees generally enter the U.S. without income or assets with which to support themselves during their first few months here. Families with children under age 18 are generally eligible for support from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Refugees who are aged, blind, or disabled may receive assistance from the Federally administered Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Refugees eligible for these two programs may be enrolled in the Medicaid program which provides medical assistance to low-income individuals and families.

Refugees who meet the income and resource eli-gibility standards of these two cash assistance programs, but are not otherwise eligible-such as single individuals, childless couples, and two-parent families in certain States with restrictive TANF programs-may receive benefits under the special Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) programs. Eligibility for these special programs is restricted to the first eight months in the U.S. except for asylees, for whom the eligibility period begins with the month that asylum is granted. Due to funding constraints, ORR does not reimburse States for their costs of the TANF, SSI, and Medicaid programs.

In FY 2003, ORR obligated $143.8 million in current year funds and $5.2 million in prior year funds to reimburse States for their full costs for the RCA and RMA programs and associated State administrative costs. Cash and medical assistance allocations for each State are presented in the table on pages 10 and 11.

  • Social Services

ORR provides funding for a broad range of social services to refugees, both through States and in some cases through direct service grants. With these funds, States provide intensive services to help refugees obtain employment and achieve economic self-sufficiency and social adjustment as quickly as possible. After deducting set-asides mandated by Congress, ORR, as in previous fiscal years, allocated 85 percent ($71.1 million) of the remaining social service funds on a formula basis. ORR supplemented its FY 2003 formula award with $2 million in unexpended prior year funds for a special social service set-aside. With these funds, States provided services to strengthen refugee families through family conflict resolution ser-vices.

Altogether, through both current year appropriations and prior year funds, ORR obligated $73.1 million for formula social services. Program obligations varied according to each State's proportion of total refugee and entrant arrivals during the previous three fiscal years. States with small refugee populations received a minimum of $75,000 in social service funds. Of total social service funds, ORR obligated $65.2 million to States under the State-administered program and the remainder ($5.9 million) to other agencies through privately administered Wilson/Fish programs. For both programs, social services are provided only to refugees who have resided in the U.S. for fewer than 60 months.

In addition to these funds, ORR obligated social service funds to a variety of discretionary programs. A discussion of these discretionary awards may be found beginning on page 24.

  • Targeted Assistance

The targeted assistance program funds employment and other services for refugees and entrants who reside in local areas of high need. These areas are defined as counties or contiguous county areas with unusually large refugee and entrant populations, high refugee or entrant concentrations in relation to the overall population, or high use of public assistance. Such counties need supplementation of other available service resources to help the local refugee or entrant population obtain employment with less than one year's participation in the program.

In FY 2003, ORR obligated $49.2 million for targeted assistance activities for refugees and en-trants. Of this, $44.2 million was awarded by formula to 28 States on behalf of the 53 counties eligible for targeted assistance grants. States in the State-administered program received $40.2 million of these funds; the remaining formula funds were allocated to statewide Wilson/Fish alternative pro-grams. Funds not allocated in the formula program were reserved for communities in the form of discretionary grants through the Targeted Assistance Discretionary program. A discussion of these discretionary awards may be found be-ginning on page 27.

The accompanying table presents the amount of funds awarded to individual counties. The amounts awarded to States under the allocation formula are provided in the table on pages 10-11.

Targeted Assistance by County, FY 2003

Maricopa

AZ

$1,329,805

Los Angeles

CA

1,941,653

Orange

CA

466,978

Sacramento

CA

1,382,794

San Diego

CA

729,050

San Francisco

CA

357,999

Santa Clara

CA

631,687

Denver

CO

343,251

Dist. of Columbia

DC

258,678

Broward
FL
726,962
Dade
FL
9,783,181

Duval

FL

561,209

Hillsborough
FL
558,077

Palm Beach

FL

554,684

DeKalb
GA
1,058,336
Fulton
GA
480,421

Ada

ID

274,470

Cook/Kane

IL

1,486,552

Polk
IA
424,692
Blackhawk
IA
193,682
Jefferson
KY
741,840

Warren

KY

220,960

Hampden

MA

307,229

Suffolk
MA
487,469

Ingham

MI

404,593

Kent
MI
478,202

Wayne

MN

400,155

Hennepin/Ramsey

MN

1,304,746

St. Louis
MO
1,128,683

Kansas City

MO

295,483

Lancaster
NE
262,463
Clark
NV
449,098

Erie

NY

388,409

Monroe

NY

392,063

New York

NY

2,874,044

Oneida
NY
469,197
Onodaga
NY
404,723
Guilford
NC
355,520
Cass
ND
234,794

Cuyahoga

OH

344,165

Multnomah
OR
1,445,570

Erie

PA

241,842

Philadelphia
PA
462,410

Minnehaha

SD

204,907

Davidson

TN

339,336

Dallas/Tarrant

TX

1,204,512

Harris
TX
1,126,073

Davis/Salt Lake

UT

620,593

Fairfax

VA

532,366

Richmond

VA

290,002

King/Snohomish

WA

1,564,991

Spokane

WA

363,872

Total

 

$44,239,860

  • Unaccompanied Refugee Minors

ORR continued its support of care for unaccompa-nied refugee minors in the U.S. These children, who are identified in countries of first asylum as requiring foster care upon their arrival in this country, are sponsored through two national vol-untary agencies-the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Lutheran Im-migration and Refugee Services (LIRS)-and placed in States with licensed child welfare

programs operated by their local affiliates, Catho-lic Charities and Lutheran Social Services, respec-tively.

Each refugee minor in the care of this program is eligible for the same range of child welfare benefits as non refugee children in the State. Where possible, the child is placed with a local affiliate of USCCB and LIRS in an area with nearby families of the same ethnic background. Depending on their individual needs, the minors are placed in home foster care, group care, independent living, or residential treatment. ORR reimburses costs incurred on behalf of each child until the month after his eighteenth birthday or such higher age as is permitted under the State's Plan under title IV B of the Social Security Act.

Since January 1979, over 12,000 children have entered the program through local affiliates in 41 States. Of these, 1,400 subsequently were reunited with family and 10,229 reached the age of emancipation.

FY 2001 saw the revival of the program. More than 3,800 Sudanese youths from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya arrived in the U.S. to begin life in America. These youths-dubbed the Lost Boys of Sudan due to their mass exodus from the terrors of the war in Sudan-ranged in ages from 11 to 27 years of age. Almost 500 of these had not attained the age of 18 and were placed in the unac-companied minor program.

In FY 2003, 158 youths entered the program from 18 countries. By the end of the year, 811 youths remained in care, 618 males and 193 females. The majority of the youths arrived from the following countries of origin:

Afghanistan 43
China 24
Haiti 107
Honduras 25
Liberia 24
Somalia 27
Sudan 403
Vietnam 68
Other Countries 90
Total in Care 811

These youths resided in the following States:

Arizona 22
District of Columbia 19
Massachusetts 64
Michigan 247
Mississippi 87
New Jersey 6
New York 76
North Dakota 32
Pennsylvania 86
South Dakota 8
Texas 4
Utah 7
Virginia 95
Washington 58
Total 811

ORR Appropriations

FY 2003

Transitional and Medical Services

State-administered Cash/Medical/Administrative $157,805,000

Matching Grant Program 45,992,000

CMA-Wilson/Fish Program 12,400,000

Other 3,600,000

Trafficking 9,935,000

Sub-total, Transitional and Medical Services $229,788,000

Social Services

Social Services Formula $65,171,000

Social Services-Wilson/Fish Program 5,922,000

Social Services Discretionary 12,546,000

Difficult to Assimilate Programs 26,000,000

Cuban/Haitian Communities 19,000,000

Welfare Reform Program 14,000,000

Refugee Education 7,500,000

Subtotal, Social Services $150,139,000

Preventive Health $4,804,000

Targeted Assistance

Targeted Assistance Formula $44,240,000

Targeted Assistance Discretionary 4,915,000

Subtotal, Targeted Assistance $49,155,000

Victims of Torture $9,935,000

Total ORR Appropriation $443,821,000

Unaccompanied Alien Children Program $37,082,000

Total ORR Appropriation $480,903,000

New budget authority only. Does not include prior year funds available for FY 2002 re-authorization.

  • See Table "Obligations" in file "Tables-03
 
  • Public/Private Partnerships

In March 2000, ORR published a final rule which amended the requirements governing refugee cash assistance. The final rule offered States flexibility and choice in how refugee cash assistance and services could be delivered to refugees not eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

States have the option of entering into a partnership (grant or contract) with local resettlement agencies to administer the cash assistance program through a public/private refugee cash assistance (RCA) program. The partnerships facilitate the successful resettlement of refugees by integrating cash assistance with resettlement services and ongoing case management. Through these public/private RCA programs, States are permitted to include employment incentives that support the refugee program's goal of family self-sufficiency and social adjustment in the shortest possible time after arrival. To be eligible for the public/private RCA program, a refugee must meet the income eligibility standard jointly established by the State and local resettlement agencies in the State.

The goal of the Public/Private Partnership is to-
 
  • Promote more effective and better quality resettlement services through linkage between the initial placement of refugees and refugee cash assistance program.
  • Unite more firmly the two sectors into a partnership to help refugees.
Six states have been approved by ORR to operate Public/Private Partnerships: Maryland, Texas, Oregon, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Minnesota. States and local resettlement agencies are encouraged to look at different approaches and to be creative in designing a program that will help refugees to establish a good economic foundation during the eight-month RCA period.