About Refugees and Immigrants

The terms Refugee and Immigrant are often used interchangeably. In fact they represent two very distinct groups.


A refugee is a person who has been approved by the US Department of State to come to the US for safe haven. They are persons from around the world who have been persecuted because of their race, ethnic origin, religion, political ideology or social group and were forced to flee their homeland to a neighboring country. They applied for protection to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and after a lengthy and strict screening process were accepted for admission into the US Refugee Program. Upon entrance, a refugee is granted most all of the same rights, protections, and responsibilities as a US citizen.

When arriving in our community each refugee embarks on a personal journey. Most have significant needs and are also healing from the pain and trauma of the past. These needs, compounded by extremely high expectations about life in America, may for some lead to initial disappointment. Even with a dedicated staff, many of whom are former refugees themselves, the severe limitations of Federal funding (and therefore limited hours of service) are often incomprehensible and frustrating to a new refugee. Adjusted for inflation, funding for resettlement is 88 percent less today than in 1980.


An immigrant comes to the US by choice. They are persons that meet the US criteria for admission as an immigrant, in some cases this including having a sponsor. They may have experienced economic hardship or personal difficulty, but these are not reasons why an immigrant is given entrance into the US. The immigration program is primarily one based on economics and opportunity. An immigrant is not eligible for many services provided by the US government.

Most refugees quickly rebound and land on their feet. Refugees have proven over and over that, as a group, they are capable, competent, resilient, motivated survivors, and a wonderful addition to the communities where they live and work.

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