You Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee: An Analysis of Selected Refugee Resettlement Programs to Improve Comprehensive Integration Outcomes in ‘Free Case’ Refugee Resettlement

NPS-CHDS master’s graduate Will Bierman (MA1803/1804), Field Office Director at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security, talks about how, by law, refugees entering the United States must become self-sufficient as quickly as possible. But successful integration means more than achieving this benchmark. True integration involves social inclusion and ties to community and nation–particularly difficult for ‘free case’ refugees who have no family in the U.S. and are wholly reliant upon resettlement organizations. Will’s thesis asks the question: How can free case refugee resettlement practices be improved to enhance the likelihood of sociocultural integration and create stronger ties to the United States? A comparative assessment of three resettlement programs was undertaken to identify best practices. Integration success was assessed through statistical measures such as percentage of refugees who self-migrated after initial resettlement, and subjective measures of wellbeing and satisfaction as reported by refugees themselves. The analysis found refugees served by programs that lasted two years, as opposed to one year or less, reported a high degree of wellbeing and satisfaction, and less secondary migration. Moreover, refugees who were required to stay in a location for an extended period were less likely to engage in secondary migration afterward. Will’s thesis recommends national refugee resettlement policy be updated to require local resettlement programs last a minimum of two years and that free case refugees must remain in their original resettlement location in exchange for three years of resettlement assistance.

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