Bridging Divides: The Role of Ethnic Community-Based Organizations in Refugee Integration
This joint report by MPI and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) examines the refugee resettlement process in the United States, taking a particularly close look at the role of ethnic community-based organizations (ECBOs) as drivers of refugee integration. The report represents the culmination of a three-part research and engagement project seeking to profile successful ECBO programs through intensive field research, discuss preliminary findings with stakeholders and experts, and specify the contributions, challenges, and best practice methodologies of refugee-serving ECBOs across the country.
The report finds that ECBOs are particularly adept at identifying and responding to the diverse needs of refugees across various stages of integration, a dynamic process involving both rudimentary short term goals—economic self-sufficiency, acclimation to the host community, and U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident status—as well as broader long term goals—upward mobility, ethnic solidarity, and empowerment. The nine ECBOs featured in the study not only provided services ranging from legal assistance to language education to job training and placement, but also took on roles as advocates, community organizers, and institutional liaisons. However, refugee clients still cited numerous challenges, including inadequate access to transportation and childcare services, barriers to long-term employment, and difficulty balancing investments towards integration goals with immediate family and work obligations.
The report also offers recommendations to ECBOs and the Office of Refugee Resettlement for enhancing the capacity and sustainability of refugee integration services.