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. With a half-time case manager and many volunteers, the RRCLC has assisted more than 50 refugees and asylum seekers.

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.

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 for refugee admissions at 18,000, a reduction of a third from the limit set in 2018 and the lowest in the history of the United States.

Given these events, in January 2018, the RRCLC and CCS launched a project to assist individuals living in Lane County who have filed for asylum. While asylum seekers flee their countries for the same reasons as refugees, refugees apply for refugee status from a third country and asylum seekers come to the United States first, then apply for asylum. When refugees arrive, they are entitled to some benefits immediately and provided support by a refugee resettlement agency. However, asylum seekers are entitled to very little while their cases are pending. Therefore, the support the RRCLC provides them—including transportation, access to English classes, and information about food banks and other area resources—is significant.

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.