Office of Refugee Resettlement Year in Review - FY2013

Publication Date: December 20, 2013

Dear colleagues and friends,

Two thousand thirteen was another busy year for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).  Despite an extended moratorium on overseas refugee arrivals in October, Fiscal Year 2013 brought fairly steady arrivals each month, across all categories. 

The largest group was refugees, with the United States welcoming refugees from 65 countries across the globe this past year. The highest number of overseas arrivals represented a slight switch from those of the past few years, with nearly 19,500 Iraqi refugee admissions and 16,300 Burmese refugees accounting for more than half of all refugee arrivals.  They were followed by Bhutanese (9,100), Somali (7,600) and Cuban refugees (4,200), with Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia rounding out rest of the top ten admissions groups in FY2013.  

The overall population served by ORR and its partners, however, grew to a projected 143,000 new arrivals in Fiscal Year 2013, including almost 72,000 refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders, an estimated 46,000 asylees and Cuban/Haitian Entrants and Parolees; more than 500 Victims of Trafficking, and nearly 25,000 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC). 

The numbers only tell part of the story: most of the 143,000 people ORR served last year are on a path to U.S. citizenship that began the day they arrived.  Former refugees, asylees, and UAC are making positive changes in communities across the country—and will continue to do so throughout their lives—opening businesses, buying homes and raising families, and voting (and running!) in local elections.  Three former refugees ran for public office in multi-cultural Clarkston, Georgia this past November—and for the first time in the city’s history, voters elected a refugee to a seat on the City Council. 

Successes such as these would not have been possible without the unparalleled collaboration of agencies and volunteers such as yourselves, who make the United States Refugee Program and Unaccompanied Children’s Program true public-private partnerships.  I am proud to be part of a program that not only other countries seek to emulate, but one which puts refugees first, and upholds our humanitarian obligation to rescue and restore refugees’ safety and dignity as they become valuable members of the American public. 

Highlights of ORR’s activities and achievements for Fiscal Year 2013 are included here; for additional information about these and other issues, please visit the ORR website, or contact ORR directly.  

Eskinder Negash
Office of Refugee Resettlement


In 2013, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) instituted several new approaches to service, and revamped other mechanisms to enhance programming and interaction with stakeholders at all levels.  Continuing the schedule of regular conference calls with Ethnic Community Based Organizations, State Refugee Coordinators and Health Coordinators; quarterly joint placement meetings with the State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), and expanding outreach meetings with federal partners and technical assistance providers, ORR leadership kept up to date with changes in state programs, successes achieved by ORR’s partners, and other developments affecting the resettlement of refugees in our communities. 

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is pleased to share these leading initiatives and developments from the past year:

ORR Regional Offices

For improved outreach to and closer working relationships with resettlement stakeholders and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Regional Offices, ORR opened regional offices in Atlanta, Georgia for Region IV in August, and  Denver, Colorado for Region VIII in September.  A stakeholder meeting was held in Denver, CO in September to introduce stakeholders to the regional concept and the new regional representative.  A similar meeting will be held for Region IV early next year.  In addition to state analyst duties, Regional Representatives conduct broad local outreach and engagement with refugees and resettlement stakeholders, and work with federal, state and local partners to align services and ensure that services are being provided with the best interests of refugees in mind.

State to State Peer Consultation

As a reinforcement of ORR’s principle of outreach and robust information dissemination, a peer exchange was created by the Division of Refugee Assistance (DRA) for State Refugee Coordinators and Refugee Health Coordinators to share local policies and practices via bimonthly teleconferences.  Through community-based case studies, ORR facilitated calls on the following topics: building a responsive mental health system including access and screenings, gaining socio-political support for the refugee program, coordinating individual employment plans and understanding factors in housing stability.

Technical Assistance

After a hard look and careful consideration, ORR streamed lined and prioritized its technical assistance program going into 2013 focusing on receptivity of refugees into American communities and non-ORR direct services to refugees, such as the Temporary Assistance for the Needy Families (TANF) program.  ICF International conducted five webinars on promising practices in serving refugees through TANF and work force development programs while conducting needs assessment case studies. Welcoming America conducted six webinars on promising practices on welcoming refugees into communities, including special on-site capacity building activities in the states of New Hampshire and Georgia.  Higher, Inc. (formerly RefugeeWorks) has focused on creating a web-based training e-curriculum for both providers and refugees.  The launch is expected in the new year. 

Preferred Communities Program

This year, ORR expanded funding to the Preferred Communities Program, with an increase to $8.4 Million.  This additional funding supports the program’s focus on special populations needing intensive case management, expanding it to include those with special medical and mental health conditions. 


ORR is actively engaging in outreach to other ACF programs/offices, as well as other federal agencies, to pursue new partnerships and expand upon previous collaborations that will better serve refugees and other ORR-eligible populations. Please be on the lookout for webinars and other partnership initiatives in the New Year, designed to facilitate your own outreach/partnership efforts at the regional/state/local levels.

ORR’s partnership/outreach efforts include offices/agencies within ACF, such as the Early Childhood Division, including the Office of Child Care (OCS) and the Office of Head Start (OHS); the Office of Community Services (OCS), and the Office of Family Assistance (OFA). Additionally, ORR is developing and expanding partnerships with other federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Visit disclaimer page (close collaboration with the RAPP program, and other partnership efforts to come);The Corporation for National and Community Service Visit disclaimer page , and the U.S. Census Bureau Visit disclaimer page .

Subscribe to the ORR listserve via the ORR website, to keep apprised of new initiatives, and ways in which local communities may create similar linkages toward our shared goals.

ORR-PRM Joint Stakeholder events

In strengthening coordination with the State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and promoting collaboration among stakeholders, DRA helped organize outreach meetings for ORR Director Eskinder Negash, Deputy Director, Ken Tota and PRM Director of Admissions Larry Bartlett with city and state officials, health providers, local resettlement agencies, ethnic community leaders, and refugees.

The purpose of these visits was to have an open discussion on resettlement and continue to receive input from stakeholders.   Events were held in January in Atlanta and Clarkston, Georgia; Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, and Portland and Lewiston, Maine; and in August in Oakland and Hayworth, California.

Quarterly Placement Meetings

In support of well-informed refugee placement and resettlement, ORR, in collaboration with PRM, held two Consultation Meetings (in December 2012 and July 2013) with attendance per meeting averaging 200 incoming calls (multiple participants per phone line). Themes covered included: Fostering Community Engagement/Welcoming Communities/Consulting with local stake holders; Resettlement considerations for LGBT and concrete recommendations to strengthen the resettlement network's response to the LGBT population; and The Affordable Care Act and Refugee Resettlement.

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Refugees

Heartland Alliance International continued to provide training and technical assistance on resettlement of LGBT populations through the Rainbow Welcome Initiative.  A four-part webinar series titled “Strengthening Services for LGBT Refugees and Asylees” was conducted with a thematic focus to reach different intended audiences on topics such as:  LGBT terms, concepts, and conditions; creating safe spaces; ensuring mental health and wellness; and case management and community support.  Heartland also produced three videos touching on topics of religion and resettlement, shared experiences of refugees during their journey, and supportive attitudes and perspectives of refugees and immigrants in the U.S. 

Heartland garnered support from three pilot sites providing comprehensive services and continued trainings from the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, Heartland’s Refugee and Immigrant Community Services in Chicago, and Church World Service in Miami.  These project sites helped strengthen relationships with LGBT organizations and other community partners.  The nation’s first ever clinical institute on LGBT survivors of torture attended by practitioners and mental health experts, was hosted by Heartland exploring the clinical needs of LGBT survivors and proposed or proven best practices in the field.

ORR also extended trainings and technical assistance to the Unaccompanied Children’s Program where Heartland conducted four regional training workshops on LGBT issues regarding adolescents.  A curriculum for clinicians on child trauma, stress, and mental health issues affecting LGBT youth and adolescents was developed, as well as a “Healthy Adolescence Guide” for UAC’s focusing on self-esteem, body image, boundaries, and gender identity issues.  A publication on “Best Practices” was written highlighting success stories from the field and synthesizes key messages and tips for providers.

Webinars, publications, videos, and additional resources can be found on the Rainbow Welcome Initiatives website at Visit disclaimer page .

Information about these and other programs may be found on the ORR website, or by contacting ORR directly.


Anti-Trafficking in Persons

The Anti-Trafficking in Persons (ATIP) Division supports the Rescue & Restore Campaign to raise awareness of the fight against human trafficking.  One of ATIP’s key partners is the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Visit disclaimer page , which operates a national, toll-free hotline that works to protect victims of human trafficking in the U.S. by providing callers with a range of comprehensive services including: crisis intervention, tip reporting, comprehensive anti-trafficking resources, and technical assistance for the anti-trafficking field and those who wish to get involved.  

In 2013, the ORR/ATIP-funded National Human Trafficking Resource Center received over 29,000 phone calls, while the National Human Trafficking Resource Center assisted a total 1,083 participants, including family members.  HHS also distributed free of charge approximately 747,000 pieces of original, branded public awareness materials publicizing the NHTRC in 2013.

ATIP is also the sole federal agency authorized to certify adult foreign victims of human trafficking, and provide eligibility letters to minor foreign victims of human trafficking.  In 2013, ORR issued nearly 400 Certification Letters and more than 110 Eligibility Letters, which granted recipients access to benefits and services to the same extent as refugees.

In 2013, ATIP Child Protection Specialists presented the ATIP training, “Responding to Foreign Child Victims of Trafficking,”  to Unaccompanied Alien Children’s (UAC) programs located in Arizona, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania and provided information on child trafficking at the orientation training for new Case Coordinators and Federal Field Specialists.  Child Protection Specialist Jessie Mansilla traveled to El Paso, Texas to train Customs and Border Patrol Agents and Jackson, Mississippi to train direct service providers on identifying and responding to foreign national minor victims of trafficking.  Child Protection Specialists also presented in Washington, DC to Rescue and Restore grantees and college students, and served on a panel session on human trafficking at George Washington University.

In FY 2013 the division conducted several In-Reach Campaign events, including two showings of the film "Not My Life" at the HHS main building and for ACF staff; a presentation on human trafficking 101, victim identification, the NHTRC, and the ATIP Program for the HHS Violence Against Women Steering Committee; and a webinar to Non- Emergency State Coordinators for the Repatriation program hosted by International Social Service-USA. 

ATIP also hosted three webinar trainings on the following topics:  Returning Home, Reintegration and Family Reunification for Foreign Human Trafficking Victims in the United States (presentation by Mariana Rendon and Emmanuel Martinez of IOM); Justice for Trafficking Victims: How social service providers can work with trafficking victims to bring civil suits against their traffickers (Martina Vandenburg, Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center); and Assisting Foreign Child Trafficking Victims: How to request assistance from HHS for foreign child trafficking victims and best practices for screening potential child victims (presentation by Kathryn Naomi Taylor and Jessie Mansilla, ATIP Child Protection Specialists). 

For more information on upcoming webinars and events, please sign up for the Rescue & Restore listserv, or visit the Rescue & Restore page on the ORR website.

Refugee Health

ORR’s newest division, the Division of Refugee Health, continued its work with the resettlement network and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on outreach activities around the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  This included two State Letters (SL13-09, SL13-10) related to the ACA’s impact on Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA), providing policy guidance to service providers and state partners. 
DRH continues to partner with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and work on policy issues related to the ACA.  Several innovative products were developed through these partnerships, and are available on the Refugee Health pages of the ORR website
These products included:

  • a 6-minute video made in collaboration with the Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center (RHTAC), introducing refugees to ACA and the Health Insurance Marketplace, available in 6 languages;
  • a fact sheet to explain immigration statuses that qualify for Marketplace coverage, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan;
  • translation of the health insurance application into 15 languages, achieved in partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and
  • development of a training curriculum to educate Navigators and Certified Application Counselors (CACs) about refugees and other vulnerable populations, to ensure that these populations have equal access to benefits under the ACA.

DRH also continued its efforts to promote refugee mental health, including:

  • hosting several webinars in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA);
  • engaging with the resettlement network and other federal partners on the distressing issue of suicides in the Bhutanese refugee community, and
  • hiring a mental health specialist to work with the resettlement network and expand ORR’s work to support refugee mental health.

DRH is currently finalizing a series of women’s health videos, culturally and linguistically specific for Somali refugee women; look for a notice to be sent out soon.  The video links will also be posted to the ORR website when they are available. 

ORR also funds a program for Survivors of Torture (SOT), with 30 direct service grantees located across 19 states, and two technical assistance (TA) providers who operate nationally.  In FY2013, SOT grantees served approximately 6,750 people.  Additionally, TA providers worked with grantees and program participants on a variety of topics, including Emergency Preparedness Trainings for man-made and natural disasters such as the Sandy Hook shooting, Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing; Suicide Prevention; Case Management Assessment Tools, and Trauma-Based Mental Health for children, adults and families.  They also conducted monthly webinars on a variety of mental and physical health issues, and mental health under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

Refugee Resettlement

The Voluntary Agency Matching Grant (MG) Program is a true public/private partnership and one of ORR’s largest programs for initial resettlement with $63,448,000 in obligated Federal funds.  ORR awards $2,200 per capita which is matched with $1,100 in goods, services and cash by the local resettlement agencies and their respective Voluntary Agency (Volag).   Thus, the actual dollar amount available for program implementation exceeds $95,000,000.  The program is administered through the nine Volags and their local resettlement sites.  Of the 340 such sites nationally, 240 participate in the MG Program. 

In FY 2013, the MG Program was subject to sequestration that reduced the number of clients that could be served.  Demand for the program far exceeded the available slots as refugee arrivals increased from 58,235 to 69,930.  Still, more than 29,000 clients were enrolled in the Program including 22,965 refugees, 4,012 C/H entrants,  2,231 Asylees,  431 SIV’s and 57 Victims of Human Trafficking.  The Program strives to assist clients to become economically self-sufficient through employment within 180 days.  In FY 2013, grantees report 69 percent of all participants achieved FT placements contributed more than $80,000/hr to the national economy in aggregate.   Texas, with nearly 4,000 MG enrollments, led the country with fully 81 percent of enrollees becoming economically self-sufficient by day 180.  Florida and Georgia were close behind with 79 percent self-sufficiency by the 180th day!

ORR’s Microenterprise Development Home Based Child Care (HBCC) program assists refugees to start their own child care businesses in their homes.  In FY 13, the program counted 39 grantees in 28 different states.  The primary goal of the program was to assist women/men refugees to become economically self-sufficient and integrated into the mainstream. ORR is very pleased to see the overwhelming successes achieved this past year through this program.

In FY2013, HBCC grantees collectively:

  • Enrolled 3069 refugee women in the program;
  • Trained 545 refugees;
  • Helped 373 refugees obtain business licenses;
  • Assisted 247 refugees to start home-based child care programs;
  • Created 1,322 child care slots for children;
  • Assisted 300 refugees find and secure jobs, and
  • Taken 194 refugees taken off public assistance.

In the regular ORR Microenterprise Development Program, there were 18 grantees funded at $4 million in FY 2013. Collectively, these grantees have:

  • Provided various technical assistance including training and one-on-one counseling to nearly 4,000 refugee entrepreneurs;
  • Despite the uncertainties due to the sequestration, made approximately 470 business loans totaling about $3 million investment;
  • Leveraged nearly $7 million from other sources such as the Small Business Administration, the Community Development Financial Institution Fund, and other financial institutions, and
  • Created/retained more than 1,000 full time and part time jobs—mostly for other refugees!

The Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program is connected to a broader food movement in this country. RAPP objectives include supplemental income, the consumption of healthier foods, improved physical and mental health, integration into this society and for some a pathway to becoming independent farmers.   Across the country, hundreds of refugee community gardens were started, many with the benefit of adjoining farmer’s markets in low income areas.

Eleven new projects were funded starting on October 1 in locations ranging from New York to Florida to Hawaii.  In order to shorten the learning curve for new grantees, representatives of 10 of the previous grantees agreed to serve as one-to-one mentors to new grantees.  Previous grantees have made five conference call presentations on program and technical topics to new grantees, and six more conference calls are scheduled after the first of the year.  Additionally, the RAPP program has a listserv with nearly 400 participants exchanging ideas and resources throughout the country.  Sign up today!


Through its Repatriation program, ORR facilitates the repatriation of American citizens from foreign countries following natural disaster or crisis, or personal distress.   A total of 592 Repatriation cases were opened during FY2013, including services to more than 900 individuals, of whom nearly a third were children, with 37 children unaccompanied by parents or guardians.

Repatriates arrived from a total of 80 countries in FY2013, and resettled to a total of 48 states.  The five most common departure countries were Mexico, United Kingdom, Philippines, Germany and Thailand.  The top states of final destination were California, Florida, Texas, New York, Missouri and Ohio.

Unaccompanied Children

ORR’s Unaccompanied Alien Children’s (UAC) program continued to experience increasing referrals from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during FY2013. There were 24,668 UAC placed in care, as compared to 13,625 UAC in FY12.  The annual average prior to the influx was 6,700 UAC.  The modified FY2013 projection was realized in December 2012, allowing implementation of streamlined policy and procedure to safely and quickly reunify children with sponsors, and allowing additional funds to accommodate the increased demand.  In the past year, more than 19,000 children were reunified with family members and other sponsors. Increased capacity and streamlining of the reunification process in FY2013 helped ORR avoid the need for emergency operations, as had been the case in FY2012.  

In FY 2013, the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program served over 1,500 children and youth, with 372 entering placement during the fiscal year. The URM Program also launched access to a web-based system that permits URM States and Providers to upload information on the newly updated ORR-3 and ORR-4 report forms. The new system will simplify information collection and review by States, ensure rapid information collection by ORR, standardize data entry, and improve data integrity and long-term analysis of program quality.

Current as of: