top of page

Who Are Refugees?

Refugees are people who have been forced to seek refuge outside of their native country due to a serious fear or threat of persecution, war, violence, or other danger. By the time they have reached refugee status, they have already made great sacrifices and impossible decisions.

children at refugee camp playing with water hose
Photo by Jonathan Ramalho on Unsplash

Where to Go

Refugees are assigned to countries. Refugees are not in America because they chose to come here—they are here because the United Nations Refugee Agency considered their needs and recommended them to the United States because of this country’s ability to help meet their needs.

And following that recommendation, after a year or two of a thorough vetting process consisting of numerous federal agencies screenings, security checks, and official, in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officers, some refugees might end up in America. Any refugee in America has been through the wringer to say the least, and that’s before they even get here.

Refugees in America

Once refugees are here, they are faced with a competitive job market, unattainable housing prices, and a foreign language. Parents and children have to learn to maneuver in a new education system.

All individuals and families have to navigate a new healthcare system and many other complex structures and institutions that are difficult and frustrating even for U.S. citizens and native English speakers. As they strive to assimilate an unfamiliar culture, they are often met with willful misunderstanding and rejection from many citizens of the country they were sent to.

Official refugees are placed and resettled in new countries. However, some people fit the description of a refugee but do not have the defined legal status and are seeking asylum once they are already in the United States or at a port of entry.

They are looking to our country for safety. They don’t expect us to give them the shirts off our back or even to share our umbrella in a storm, although wouldn't that be humane if not simply human? But maybe at minimum, they can expect to sit beside us on the bus or light rail, to earn a decent pay for hard work, and to participate in public education for their children.

Many hands clasp together
Photo by Marlis Trio Akbar on Unsplash

Where You Come In

In June, we celebrated World Refugee Day by sharing ideas for how to support refugees. Today, as part of Welcoming Week, a week of embracing newcomers and showing them they belong right here where they are, we are highlighting another way to welcome refugees: co-sponsorship.

Sponsoring refugees means providing assistance to newcomer refugees during their first 90 days in the country. This assistance includes supporting them financially, helping them find jobs and a place to live, getting children enrolled in school, connecting them with community resources, and so on. Sponsors help integrate refugees into their new communities and worlds and welcome them to America with a soft place to land.

The Biden administration launched a new program in 2023 called the Welcome Corps that empowers all Americans to get involved in supporting refugees through private and community sponsorship. Groups of five or more individuals can become sponsors and work with a resettlement agency to support arriving refugees.

Some non-profits with experience in resettling refugees are receiving funding from the Department of State to help sponsors become certified, trained, equipped, and supported every step of the way. Some of these organizations work with potential sponsors from anywhere, and other organizations are available to work with depending on your location. To find a qualifying non-profit that can help you become a co-sponsor wherever you are, search the Welcome.US directory.

Refugees arrive here in pursuit of their final shot at survival. Maybe along the way of allowing them to survive, we can bolster them and give them a chance to thrive.

132 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page