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Annual ORR Reports to Congress - 2005: Executive Summary

Published: May 5, 2014

Executive Summary

The Refugee Act of 1980 (section 413(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit an Annual Report to Congress on the Refugee Resettlement Program. This report covers refugee program developments in FY 2005, from October 1, 2004 through September 30, 2005. It is the thirty-ninth in a series of reports to Congress on refugee resettlement in the U.S. since FY 1975 and the twenty-fifth to cover an entire year of activities carried out under the comprehensive authority of the Refugee Act of 1980.

Key Federal Activities

  • Congressional Consultations: Following consultations with Congress, the President set a worldwide refugee admission ceiling at 70,000 for FY 2005.


  • The U.S. admitted 53,937 refugees, including 75 Amerasian immigrants, in FY 2005. An additional 15,061 Cuban and 8 Haitian nationals were admitted as entrants, for a total of 69,006 arrivals.
  • Refugees and entrants from Cuba (21,420) comprised the largest admission group, followed by arrivals from the successor republics of the Soviet Union (11,272), Somalia (10,101), Laos (8,473), and Liberia (4,215).
  • Florida received the largest number of arrivals (18,181), followed by California (7,540), Minnesota (6,357), Texas (3,469) and Washington (2,851).

Reception and Placement Activities

  • In FY 2005, ten non‑profit organizations were responsible for the reception and initial placement of refugees through cooperative agreements with the Department of State.

Domestic Resettlement Program

  • Refugee Appropriations: In FY 2005, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) received an appropriation of $430.9 million to assist refugees and Cuban and Haitian entrants.
  • Cash and Medical Assistance for refugees was provided from grants totaling $172.5 million awarded to States for maintenance during the first eight months after arrival.
  • Social Services: In FY 2005, ORR provided $79.1 million in formula grants to States and non-profit organizations for a broad range of services for refugees, such as English language and employment‑related training.
  • Targeted Assistance: In FY 2005,ORR provided $49.1 million in targeted assistance funds to supplement available services in areas with large concentrations of refugees and entrants.
  • Voluntary Agency Matching Grant Program: ORR awarded grants totaling $50 million during the past year. Under this program, ORR awards Federal funds on a matching basis to national voluntary resettlement agencies to provide assistance and services to refugees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, asylees, and victims of trafficking.
  • Refugee Health: ORR provided funds to State and local health departments for refugee health assessments. Obligations for these activities and technical assistance support amounted to approximately $4.8 million in FY 2005.
  • Wilson/Fish Alternative Projects: In FY 2005, Wilson/Fish projects continued operation in Alaska, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nevada, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alabama, Vermont, Idaho, Colorado and San Diego County, CA.
  • Cuban/Haitian Initiative : ORR provided $19 million in funds to increase services to Cuban/Haitian refugees and entrants in the areas of access to health, mental health, crime prevention, employment and vocational/education.
  • Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program: An additional $53.8 million was appropriated for the UAC program, which was transferred to ORR from the Department of Homeland Security in March of 2003.

Refugee Population Profile

  • Southeast Asians remain the largest group admitted since ORR established its arrival database in 1983, with 670,411 refugees, including 75,895 Amerasian immigrant arrivals. Nearly 506,858 refugees from the former Soviet Union arrived in the U.S. between 1983 and 2005.
  • Other refugees who have arrived in substantial numbers since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980 include Afghans, Cubans, Ethiopians, Iranians, Iraqis, Poles, Romanians, Somalis, and citizens of the republics of the former Yugoslavia.

Economic Adjustment

  • The Fall 2005 annual survey of refugees who have been in the U.S. less than five years indicated that about 58 percent of refugees age 16 or over were employed as of October 2005, as compared with about 63 percent for the U.S. population.
  • The labor force participation rate remained at about 65 percent for the sampled refugee population, slightly lower than the 66 percent for the U.S. population. The refugee unemployment rate retreated to 6.7 percent, compared with 5.5 percent for the U.S. population.
  • Approximately 71 percent of all sampled refugee households were entirely self‑sufficient. About 18 percent received both public assistance and earned income; another 7 percent received only public assistance.
  • Approximately 22 percent of refugees in the five‑year sample population received medical coverage through an employer, while 39 percent received benefits from Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance. About 22 percent of the sample population had no medical coverage in any of the previous 12 months.
  • The average number of years of education was the highest for the refugees from Latin America (11.6 years), while the lowest was for refugees from Southeast Asia (5.7 years). About 13 percent of refugees reported they spoke English well or fluently upon arrival, but 60 percent spoke no English at all.
  • The most common form of cash assistance was Supplemental Security Income, received by about 14 percent of refugee households. About 53 percent of refugee households received food stamps, and 11 percent lived in public housing.


The Trafficking Victims Protection Act 0f 2000 authorizes the “certification” of adult victims to receive certain federally funded benefits and service such as food stamps. Victims who are minors receive “letters of eligibility” for the same types of services. In FY 2005, ORR issued 196 certifications to adults and 34 eligibility letters to minors for a total of 230. This brings to 841 the total number of letters issued during the first five years of the program.

Unaccompanied Alien Children Program

ORR placed 7,787 unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in its various housing facilities during FY 2005. This averaged to about 869 children in care at any point in time, nearly one-third more than the year before (662). In response to the, ORR added nearly 500 beds to its capacity of care.

The Director’s Message

FY 2005 marked continued growth and success in the development and provision of assistance programs for refugees and other eligible groups at the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Arrivals of new refugees in 2005 continued the pattern of the prior year, following two years of relatively low arrival numbers after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Refugee admissions in FY 2005 totaled 53, 937, compared with 52,858 the previous year. (In 2002 and 2001, admissions had averaged only 28,565.) The principal groups of arriving refugees in 2005 included Hmong and Burmese from Thailand, Bantu from East Africa, Liberians from West Africa, Vietnamese from the Philippines, and Meskhetian Turks from Russia. ORR Task Forces provided resource material and hands-on technical assistance and emergency funding to agencies resettling Hmong and Bantu.

ORR worked in close cooperation with our Federal, State, and local partners and with the national resettlement agencies (Volags) and Refugee Mutual Assistance Associations ( MAAs) to assure that assistance and services were available for incoming refugees to help them attain economic self-sufficiency as early as possible after their arrival. The Director and staff of ORR consulted with the Congress on program and funding needs, especially with respect to the migration of Hmong to California, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Through careful budget control and data analysis, ORR succeeded in averting a shortfall in TAMS funding and preserving eight months of cash and medical assistance for newly arrived refugees during 2005. The strategy included utilization of unspent prior year funding, reprogramming of certain social service funds, and curtailing new discretionary grant programs. Nonetheless, ORR also provided funding for formula and discretionary social services to serve refugees for the first five years after arrival.

Major accomplishments during 2005 included the following:

  • ORR continued its strong support for development of Refugee Mutual Assistance Associations, ethnic community-based organizations established and run by various refugee groups. In 2005, 46 such organizations in 17 States were funded through discretionary grants for a total of $8 million.
  • ORR provided coordination and counseling to community-based and faith-based agencies working in Houston with some 10,000 refugees and former refugees who were victims of Hurricane Katrina and who later were evacuated to Dallas. No trouble for any of these evacuees was subsequently reported. ORR successfully evacuated Unaccompanied Alien Children’s shelters in Harlingen and Brownsville, Texas due to a threat by Hurricane Rita. All children and staff subsequently returned safely.
  • In support for measures affecting refugee health, in cooperation with Office of Global Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), on behalf of its Points of Wellness Initiative of health information, ORR developed a toolkit and list-serve to help refugee MAAs promote disease prevention and cultural adaptation to the U.S. medical system. Confronted with active tuberculosis among Hmong refugees arriving in California, ORR coordinated activities among California, the Office of Global Health Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of State. This action led to both post-arrival and pre-departure TB screening and treatment to refugees who tested positive. Finally, reflecting world-wide concern for the possibility of an avian flu pandemic, ORR developed a refugee-specific plan for meeting a national flu emergency as part of the national plan under development by the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • ORR continued to develop information on the potential for agricultural opportunities for refugees under its Refugee Rural Initiative. A Memorandum of Understanding was executed between the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, which serves to guide the project’s development, and in FY 2005, 11 demonstration projects were funded, some of which leveraged substantial resources in addition to the modest grants provided by ORR.
  • ORR’s program for Unaccompanied Alien Children continued to grow dramatically, with an average weekly caseload in excess of 1,100 children, making it necessary to recruit new shelter facilities and expand existing ones. The ORR DUCS staff was expanded to 15 Federal staff and seven contract staff, with four field representatives in Arizona, Florida, and Texas.
  • The rate of identification of trafficking victims has doubled since ORR instituted its “Rescue and Restore” outreach effort in 16 major metropolitan areas in 2004. Media events generated 178.7 million media impressions and ORR has printed more than a million pieces of educational material. The number of victims certified as of September 2005 totaled 841.
  • ORR conducted partner consultations with State Refugee Coordinators and Refugee Health Coordinators, with Mutual Assistance Associations, and with national resettlement agencies, emphasizing the open and frank discussions of issues of each of these groups.
  • In support of a White House initiative, ORR awarded $2.6 million in Healthy Marriage grants to promote stable marriages and family life and prevent family conflict and divorce.
  • ORR continued its successful programs of economic development, victims of torture, unaccompanied minor refugees, and technical assistance for grantees. Economic development was promoted through the discretionary grant programs of Microenterprise and Individual Development Accounts.
  • ORR issued grants totaling $50 million to volags, to be matched by them to provide services to newly-arrived refugees. As of the end of the year, grantees reported a national achievement average of 76 percent self sufficient at 120 days and 78 percent self-sufficient at 180 days.
  • ORR supported Wilson/Fish Alternative Projects in 10 States and one California county.
  • ORR provided $19 million to increase services to Cuban and Haitian refugees and entrants in the areas of access to health, mental health, improved education for youth, crime prevention, employment and vocational/education.

ORR’s objectives for FY 2006 include:

  • Identifying and addressing emergent needs of our increasingly diverse refugee population;
  • Expanding the resources required for unaccompanied alien children and improving the quality of care provided to them;
  • Expanding further outreach efforts to increase the number of persons identified and served as victims of trafficking; and
  • Advancing the “Points of Wellness” Program of illness prevention, and preparation of contingency plans in the event of an avian flu pandemic.

We are grateful for the cooperation of our many partners in this great humanitarian effort, and we look forward to continuing success in FY 2006.

Martha E. Newton
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Last Reviewed: June 24, 2019