Welcoming Refugees and Asylum Seekers to Lane County
The Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Lane County (RRCLC) is a coalition of faith-based groups, service organizations, and people from the Eugene-Springfield community coordinating with Catholic Community Services of Lane County (CCS) to welcome and support refugees and asylum seekers settling in Lane County. The all-volunteer RRCLC has provided support to local refugees since May 2016 and launched a pilot project to assist asylum seekers in January 2018.
The refugees who have been settled in Lane County are part of a program that seeks to unite refugees with family members and friends already living in the United States. CCS manages the local program as part of the national refugee resettlement program administered by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration & Refugee Service. CCS provides case management support, and works in tandem with the RRCLC to set these families on the path toward English-language fluency, employment, cultural acclimatization, and self-sufficiency. As a practical sign of self-sufficiency, refugees are required to reimburse the U.S. State Department for the full cost of their plane tickets to this country.
All refugees who arrive in this country have undergone extensive vetting that involves processing by the United Nations and multiple federal agencies, as well as providing biographical and biometric information. The process includes 20 steps, with two additional steps for Syrian refugees. The average time for a refugee to complete the U.S. government’s screening process is 18 to 24 months. This screening process has prevented individuals with ties to terrorism from entering the United States.
Since President Trump signed executive orders in 2017 banning refugees from a number of Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, the number of refugees coming to the country has plummeted, despite courts initially blocking the bans. This fiscal year, the Trump Administration has set the cap at refugee admissions at 45,000, the lowest in the history of the United States; based on the current pace of arrivals, only about 15,000 to 20,000 refugees are expected to be admitted this year.
In addition, in October 2017, the Trump Administration said it would increase vetting for all new refugees admitted. Details were not provided but refugees are required to provide more information on past addresses and family members than they did before, which is reducing admission rates even further, according to resettlement agencies that work with the government.
Given these events, RRCLC and CCS launched a three-month pilot project in January 2018 to assist individuals living in Lane County who have filed for asylum. At the end of the three-month period, the groups will determine whether to continue beyond the pilot phase of the project.
The RRCLC also engages in advocacy and community education, holding an annual World Refugee Day in June, sponsoring films and speaking events, and providing information about refugees and asylum seekers to individuals and groups.