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U.S. Tradition To Welcome Refugees


A Center for Disease Control (CDC) volunteer helped distribute clothing, toys, and household items to Bhutanese refugees resettled in the United States. (file)

This month marks the celebration of World Refugee Day, a time to reflect on the United States’ historic commitment to welcoming refugees.

This month marks the celebration of World Refugee Day, a time to reflect on the United States’ historic commitment to welcoming refugees. Since 1975, the United States has resettled more than three million refugees into hundreds of communities around the United States. The refugees come from more than 70 countries. Last year alone, the U.S. resettled 56,000 refugees from 65 countries around the world.

The United States recognizes its international responsibility to respond to humanitarian crises, particularly crises that force people to flee their home, communities, and often cross borders into other countries.

There are three general solutions for refugees that the U.S. pursues. The first is for refugees to return home when possible. When that is not an option, the next solution is for refugees to integrate in the country where they first found asylum. The U.S. works with those countries to provide opportunities for refugees to build new lives there.

But for some refugees neither of these two options is possible. In those cases, the U.S. offers them resettlement in the United States, as do about 23 other countries around the world. The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are about 15 million or refugees in the world. Of those, an estimated 700,000 will need relocation or permanent resettlement in a third country.

The United States is by far the largest resettlement country and works with the United Nations overseas to identify refugees that need help. The U.S. works through a series of voluntary agencies domestically to bring refugees into the country and to relocate them in local communities in all 50 states. The goal of resettlement in the U.S. is self-sufficiency and a path to citizenship.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. As such, welcoming refugees is intrinsic to American values and virtues. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, the United States “is proud to support the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the many other organizations that work on behalf of refugees worldwide, and recommit ourselves to provide protection and assistance to some of the world's most vulnerable people.”

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