Overview of Refugee Resettlement in the United States

Report Author: 
Kristie De Peña
Original Date of Publication: 
2017 Mar

Overview of Refugee Resettlement in the United States

Though the federal government retains control of the refugee resettlement process in the United States, it must consult with individual states for effective and responsible resettlement. The Niskanen Center's report, Overview of Refugee Resettlement in the United States, provides a summary and assessment of U.S. refugee resettlement. Currently, 21.3 million refugees worldwide require some form of assistance from the world community; 4.9 million Syrians have registered as refugees since 2011. Individuals seeking refugee status in the U.S. must receive a referral from the United States Refugees Admissions Program. All applicants are vetted through rigorous biometric security checks and medical screenings by several government bodies before being interviewed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, while Syrian refugees undergo an additional "Enhanced Syrian Review." Applicants may be deemed inadmissible on health-related grounds or a variety of criminal grounds. Once a refugee is evaluated and allowed entry, the federal government must work within the state's resettlement structure. Most states are enrolled in state-administered programs and are reimbursed for the total costs of their refugee cash assistance and refugee medical assistance programs, though several states use models involving volunteer agencies and nonprofits or public-private partnerships. While states are crucial to refugee resettlement, recent legal challenges from governors have aimed to stop or curb the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states. The author maintains that such directives contradict traditional American principles and suggests that the federal government give stronger consideration to state recommendations so that refugees are resettled in areas where they are more likely to be welcomed and supported. (Sarah Purdy for The ILC Public Education Institute)

View or download the report.

Get more information from the Niskanen Center.


De Peña, K. (2017). Overview of Refugee Resettlement in the United States. Niskanen Center. Available at:


Source Organization: