Who is a Refugee?

We often hear and see the word refugee in the news, on social media, on television and in politics. Although each refugee has their own unique story, Hands Producing Hope aims to educate ourselves and others about the global refugee community and correct any misconceptions about who a refugee is, how they live and their journeys. Through education and advocacy, the HPH community can continue to provide resources and make lasting impacts in communities near and far. 

Who is a refugee?

According to U.S. Department of State, a refugee: 

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a refugee is an alien who, generally, someone has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Photo: The UN Refugee Agency 

Individuals outside of the U.S. seeking admission as a refugee are processed through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), which is managed by the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services. According to the Department of State, the process includes individual screening, including biographic information, interviews and additional information of the applicant, to ensure that they meet the legal requirements and are not a threat to the national security or health of the U.S. The American Immigration Council describes the process as "rigorous" and "extensive" and says applicants can be denied on health-related, criminal and security grounds. 

In most cases, according to the Immigration Forum, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) screens applicants and refers them to the U.S. and other countries. After referral, the long and tedious admissions process begins. In other cases, refugees are referred by a U.S. Embassy, specially-trained nongovernmental agencies, certain groups with family members in the U.S. or who served in the U.S. missions in Iraq. From an applicant's referral to the time the newcomer arrives in the U.S., the average process takes 18-24 months

Before being referred, refugee applicants seek asylum in other countries to escape their unlivable conditions in their homeland. During this time, they live a life of "limbo" according the the UN Refugee Agency. Although they reside in different conditions, many applicants will be displaced for nearly two decades. Approximately 60 percent of the refugee population live in cities while the others live in refugee camps. These camps provide immediate, but not permanent, assistance and protection to those who have fled their countries due to conflict. The UN Refugee Agency reported that 2.6 million refugees live in refugee camps around the world and millions more live in urban areas and informal dwellings. 

The Department of State partners with 9 resettlement agencies across the country who welcome and help refugees get acquainted with their new homes and communities. One of the agencies, The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, has several programs in place to support refugees in their journey to self-sufficiency such as the Reception and Placement Program, the Matching Grant Program, the Preferred Community Program, the Refugee Family Strengthening Program and the Refugee Loan Collection Services. 

Here at Hands Producing Hope we hold issues regarding refugees and refugee programs very close to our hearts. We believe all people regardless of gender, ethnicity or geographic location be afforded opportunities to have dignified work, provide for their families and flourish in their communities. We value the impact that refugees have on our country and believe in embracing newcomers with hope, love and equality.