Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to submit this testimony on
behalf of the President's recommendations for fiscal year 1998 refugee
admissions. As the Director of the office of Refugee Resettlement, in the
Administration for Children and Families, I am responsible for administering the
refugee and entrant assistance program.
The President's budget request of $395,732,000 (including $3.4 million
carryover for FY 196) for the refugee and entrant ,assistance program in FY 1998
is based on an expected 90,000 refugee and entrant arrivals. With this budget
request, we would be able to maintain current services in the program.
Since 1975, over 2 million refugees have been resettled in the United
States. The major goal of the refugee and entrant assistance program is to help
refugees achieve economic self- sufficiency and social adjustment within the
shortest time possible following their arrival in the U.S. For FY 1997,
approximately $426.6 million was available through six different programs: cash
and medical assistance, so-called "alternative programs" under the Wilson/Fish
authority, social services, preventive health services, the voluntary agency
matching grant program, and the targeted assistance grant program.
Cash and medical assistance (RCA/RMA) are available to needy refugees who
are not eligible for other cash or medical assistance programs such as
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income
(SSI), or Medicaid, and who arrive in the U.S. with few or no financial
resources. This refugee assistance is State-administered and is paid entirely
from federal funds. It is available to refugees only for a limited number of
months following arrival in the U.S.; currently RCA/RMA are available for a
refugee's first 8 months in the U.S.
We also reimburse States for the costs incurred on behalf of refugee
children in the U.S. who are identified in countries of first asylum as
unaccompanied minors. Depending on their individual needs, refugee children are
placed in foster care, group care, independent living, or residential treatment.
At the State and local level, there continues to be a good deal of activity
around creating alternative programs using the "Fish/Wilson" authority. -Under
this authority we develop alternative projects which promote early employment of
refugees. States, voluntary resettlement agencies and others have the'
opportunity to develop innovative approaches for the provision of cash and
medical assistance, social services and case management. Some projects were
established when the State government decided not to continue administering the
program, such as in Kentucky and Nevada, and some projects, such as the one in
Massachusetts, are, being established as refugee-specific alternatives to
categorical aid programs.
To help refugees become self-supporting as quickly as possible, we also
provide funding to State governments and private, non-profit agencies to provide
services, such as English language and employment training. Refugees receiving
cash and medical assistance are required to be enrolled in employment services
and to accept offers of employment.
For FY 1997, ORR provided grants to State public health departments for
preventive health assessment and treatment services to refugees for protection
of the public health against contagious diseases.
Under the Voluntary Agency Matching Grant Program agencies match Federal
funds from private funds or in-kind goods and services. About one-quarter of
all newly arriving refugees are enrolled in this program. During the refugees,
first four months in the U.S., several voluntary resettlement agencies take
responsibility for resettling refugees and assisting them to become
self-sufficient through private initiatives without recourse to public
The Targeted Assistance Grants program targets additional resources to
communities facing extraordinary resettlement problems because of a high
concentration of refugees and a high use of public assistance by the resident
refugee population. Special efforts are directed to those refugees who depend
upon public assistance.
As a result of increased funding available for the Targeted Assistance
program, eight additional counties have been added to the formula program.
These new counties reflect changes occurring in the program as different
communities offer greater opportunities for resettlement. The new counties
range from Ingham County, Michigan to Maricopa, Arizona.
Recent changes in the program
In 1997, we continued to focus on newer refugee arrivals, stressing the need
to provide refugee-specific, culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
Final regulations published in FY 1995 for the first time directed States to
target refugee specific employment and social adjustment services to refugees
and entrants who have been in the United States for less than five-years.
As I have indicated previously to the Committee, we believe that the
domestic refugee resettlement program must be able to respond quickly, visibly,
and flexibly in providing refugee- specific services in response to refugee
crises. A recent example was Operation Pacific Haven where ORR assisted in the
resettlement of over 6,500 asylees from Northern Iraq.
One new ORR discretionary initiative called, "Unanticipated Arrivals" has
had an excellent beginning. This initiative provides timely funding to public
and private providers in order to respond to unforeseen refugee arrivals. For
example, ORR provided funds to North Carolina for services to Montagnard
refugees who arrived on short notice.
Similarly, the Preferred Communities discretionary program initiative
encourages resettlement where refugees have the best opportunity for early
self-sufficiency. For example, ORR funded affiliates of the Immigration and
Refugee Services of America in Twin Falls, ID; Bowling Green, KY; Erie, PA;
Burlington, VT; and Houston, TX, to increase placements in these communities
where refugees have had histories of lower welfare utilization and higher
In addition, we have begun a partnership with the Department of State and
the public and private sectors on refugee placement planning which will increase
collaboration among the refugee resettlement organizations at all levels to
improve opportunities for refugees, social adjustment and self-sufficiency.
Last fall, we established the Refugee Placement Academy made up of participants
from all sectors in the refugee program. Its mission is to develop
recommendations for improving communication, coordination, and collaboration in
refugee resettlement placement planning. We expect the Academy's report to be
published before the end of this fiscal year.
I hope I have presented to this committee a concise overview of the domestic
refugee program. We will continue to work closely with Congress, the States and
voluntary agencies to identify creative and effective ways to help refugees
achieve economic self-sufficiency and social adjustment as quickly as possible.
We believe the Administration's proposed 3-year reauthorization package
provides the framework for accomplishing this goal. We look forward to working
with the Committee to reauthorize the refugee and entrant program this year.
I would be pleased to answer any questions.