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Protections Against Discrimination

Information Memorandum (IM-16-01)

Published: April 7, 2016

Date: April 7, 2016

To: State Refugee Coordinators
      State Refugee Health Coordinators
      Voluntary Agencies

From: Robert Carey
           Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement

This Information Memorandum provides resources on federal protections against national origin and religious discrimination and contact information for federal agencies that enforce anti-discrimination laws.  We hope this information will be helpful in your resettlement work with refugees and other ORR-served populations.


Below, we provide a short list of resources that you can share in your communities to inform refugees and other ORR-served populations of their rights.

  • U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Federal Protections Against National Origin Discrimination (Aug. 2010), available in several languages
  • Welcoming America toolkits and resources to help foster communities that embrace immigration, including the Reframing Refugees messaging toolkit

Agency Contact Information

A variety of federal laws prohibit discrimination based on national origin or religion, although the authority to enforce those laws is divided among different federal agencies.

  • If you believe you or someone you know has been a victim of discrimination based on actual or perceived national origin or religion (or any other protected category), contact the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. You can contact the Division by phone at (888) 736-5551 or email at CRT.NationalOrigin@usdoj.gov. Information regarding how to send complaints or report civil rights violations is on their website.
  • If you believe that you or someone you know has been discriminated against in a program receiving federal financial assistance through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or regarding a program administered by HHS (e.g., Medicaid or TANF), write: HHS Director, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Room 515-F, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201. You may also file complaints using the OCR Complaint Portal. If you need help filing a complaint, contact OCR by email at OCRMail@hhs.gov, or call 1-800-368-1019 (voice) or (800) 537-7697 (TTY).
  • If you believe you or someone you know experienced discrimination when obtaining services from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), participating in a USDA program, or a program that receives financial assistance from USDA (e.g., SNAP or WIC), you may file a complaint with the USDA Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR). You can contact OASCR by phone at 1 (866) 632-9992, email at program.intake@usda.gov, or complete a complaint form.
  • If you believe an education institution that receives federal financial assistance has discriminated against you or someone you know on the basis of race, color, or national origin, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). You may file a complaint for yourself or for someone else. You can contact OCR by phone at 1 (800) 421-3481, email at ocr@ed.gov, or submit an online complaint.
Last Reviewed: January 2, 2018