Who are refugees?
Refugees are people who are forced to leave their country due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, ethnicity, religion or other group affiliations. Most refugees flee because of war.
Although most people who flee their homes end up in another part of their country, many flee to countries outside of their own. Displaced people who don't leave their country are called Internally Displaced Peoples or IDPs. People who leave their country are called refugees.
To become a refugee, someone has to prove that they fit the accepted definition (i.e. ex-combatants or war criminals cannot become refugees). If someone is given refugee status, they will be protected by the United Nations or another organization/country until they can either safely return home, integrate into the local community or resettle in a third country that accepts them, such as the U.S., Germany or Australia. Most refugee situations are not resolved for many years. Less than 1% of refugees are resettled in a third country but most remain in refugee camps for years or decades.
Refugees in the U.S.
The U.S. resettles about 70,000 refugees each year. The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement is in charge of resettling refugees.
All refugees in the U.S. are legal residents and have passed extensive background checks. They are eligible to work and for the same benefits that U.S. citizens are offered such as SNAP or TANF. Refugee specific support ends after about 4 months for most families. After 4 months, refugees are expected to be economically 'self-sufficient'. The challenges that refugees face in becoming self-sufficient are not attainable for most families in 4 months. Therefore, it is important for researchers, service providers and advocates to work together to develop programs that support refugees better and to advocate for public policies that reflect realistic expectations from refugee families.
Click here for a short video by PBS about refugees in the U.S.
Click on the video below to learn more about the refugee screening process.
Click here to watch a documentary about the interviewing process that asylum seekers and refugees go through before being granted refugee status.
Refugees in New Mexico
New Mexico welcomes about 250 new refugees into Albuquerque each year. Although the nationalities that the refugees represent changes by year, many refugees in Albuquerque come from Afghanistan, Iraq and the Great Lakes Region of Africa (mainly the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi).
Lutheran Family Services is the organization responsible for resettling refugees in NM and serving them for the initial months.