The year 2006 was another step forward in the historic story of refugees, representing a variety of ages, nationalities, and cultures, finding a new life of freedom and hope on America’s shores. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) contin- ued to experience success, as it funded and coor- dinated a network of service providers who serve refugees, as well as Cuban-Haitian entrants, asylees, victims of torture, unaccompanied alien children, and victims of human trafficking.
Refugee admissions in FY 2006 totaled 41,279, compared with 53,813 the previous year (in 2003 and 2002, refugee admissions averaged only 27,594). An additional 16,700 entrants arrived from Cuba and Haiti. The principal groups of arriving refugees in FY 2006 included Hmong and Burmese from Thailand, Bantu from East Africa, Liberians from West Africa, Vietnamese from the Philippines, and Meskhetian Turks from Russia. ORR provided resource material and hands-on technical assistance and emergency funding to agencies resettling Hmong and Bantu refugees.
ORR worked in close cooperation with Federal, State, and local partners, and with national volun- tary agencies (VOLAGs) and Refugee Mutual Assistance Associations (MAAs). ORR’s goal was to ensure that incoming refugees had the needed services and assistance to help them attain economic self-sufficiency as early as possible after their arrival.
Through careful budget control and data analysis, ORR was able to preserve eight months of cash and medical assistance for newly arrived refugees during 2006. ORR also provided funding for for- mula and discretionary social services to serve refugees up to five years after their arrival.
Major accomplishments during 2006 included the following:
From July 19 to August 2, 2006, ORR offered so- cial services to over 12,400 U.S. citizens and others returning to the U.S. from Lebanon, due to the international conflict between Lebanon and Israel. ORR mobilized personnel from the Federal government, state agencies, and non-profit social service agencies, to be on site at four major airports to meet incoming Americans from Lebanon, to ensure their safe and expeditious processing. During the 17-day operation, HHS/ACF/ORR and its partners offered services to incoming citizens and their dependents who arrived on 61 different flights. This successful emergency opera- tion effort resulted in the largest repatriation of Americans since World War II.
The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Program continued to make strides in helping to identify, certify, and provide care for victims of human trafficking. In 2006, ORR awarded a per capita contract to make financial support available to organizations throughout the country that provide services to victims. ORR also awarded 18 street outreach grants to organizations in direct contact with vulnerable populations. The street outreach grantees were on-the-ground in their communities to identify victims, make referrals to law enforcement for their rescue, and to initiate support services. In 2006, the street outreach grantees identified over 1,000 potential victims of human trafficking. Overall, ORR certified 234 victims of human trafficking in 2006.
With an operating budget of $77.3 million in 2006, ORR’s Division of Unaccompanied Children’s Services (DUCS) funded approximately 1,300 beds and placed 7,746 children in its various shelter facilities, which number more than 30 in eight states nationwide. In FY 2006, DUCS hired four additional Federal Field Specialists to work in areas of high immigration apprehensions (Chicago, Harlingen/Brownsville, El Paso, and San Antonio).
ORR focused on addressing some of the long- standing challenges that can, at times, impede refugees’ assimilation into American society. The Office of the Director created five Work Groups to investigate and recommend solutions in areas that are consistent challenges for new arrivals. The Work Groups were designed to provide creative strategies to help refugees establish a new life in America, founded on dignity and self sufficiency. Specific Work Groups were created for integration, economic self-sufficiency, social services formula funding, housing, and health. Part- ners include members from state governments, VOLAGs, Mutual Assistance Associations, technical assistance providers, and federal partners.
In support of measures to increase the health and well-being of high-risk incoming refugee populations, ORR continues to conduct activities under the Points of Wellness refugee health promotion and disease prevention initiative. Those measures include providing State and local governments, as well as local community based organizations, access to the Points of Wellness Toolkit and training workshops to help them develop and implement refugee health promotion and disease prevention activities and programs.
Additionally, ORR provided national leadership in examining and promoting the relationship of refugee health and access to health and mental health services, with healthy social integration into American society. In partnership with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ORR convenes the Refugee Medical Screening Protocol Work Group to update the medical screening services for refugees when they are admitted into the U.S. All States revised their State Plan to permit the continuation of operations in the event of a pandemic or other emergency. All of these activities were completed in partnerships under interagency agreements with HHS’ Office of Global Health Affairs and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
In other areas of its operations, ORR:
- Continued its support for development of Refugee Mutual Assistance Associations, eth- nic community-based organizations estab- lished and run by various refugee groups. In 2006, 45 such organizations in 21 States were funded through discretionary grants for a total of $7.3 million.
- Awarded $4.4 million in Healthy Marriage grants to 11 grantees to promote stable mar- riages and family life and to prevent family conflict and divorce.
- Supported 12 Wilson/Fish projects in 11 States and one California county, and also launched a new Wilson/Fish project operation in Louisiana.
- Provided $19 million to localities most heavily impacted by Cuban and Haitian entrants and refugees, particularly where their arrival numbers in recent years have increased. Services under this program include health and hospitals, employment, adult and vocational education, refugee crime or victimization and citizenship and naturalization preparation.
ORR’s FY 2007 goals include:
- Ensuring that all ORR programs provide for the safety and well being of children;
- Expanding efforts to increase the number of persons identified, certified, and served as victims of trafficking;
- Identifying and addressing changing needs of our increasingly diverse refugee population;
- Focusing on the importance of integration, self-sufficiency, and civic responsibility;
- Continuing to improve the quality of care, and family reunification and foster care services provided to unaccompanied alien children, and;
- Developing relationships and fostering greater collaboration with Federal partners to enhance the availability of services to incoming populations.