The Unmet Potential of Community Consultations in U.S. Refugee Resettlement
The U.S. humanitarian protection system is in a period of rapid change. After several years of record low refugee resettlement during the Trump administration and the COVID-19 pandemic, refugee admissions have risen sharply but been constrained to some extent by the need to rebuild resettlement infrastructure. At the same time, the Biden administration has created a range of population-specific temporary protection programs, including those for evacuees from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s seizure of power in 2021 and Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s 2022 invasion of their home country. Some programs have also involved private citizens as sponsors of refugee or parolee newcomers.
The impact of large, fluctuating arrival numbers and the rise of novel or previously underutilized pathways on U.S. communities cannot be overstated. These changes have also made coordination and communication among key national, state, and local actors more important than ever.
This report explores the United States’ formal consultation processes through which resettlement agencies and state refugee coordinators are required to brief receiving communities on anticipated refugee arrivals, gauge local capacity to receive them, and solicit input. Drawing on interviews with key stakeholders, the report finds that these consultations are coming up short due to the narrowness of their scope and a rigid structure that allows little time for two-way dialogue and relationship building.
The report explores the goals and design of the quarterly consultations, how they play out in practice, and their implications within the context of recent refugee resettlement and immigration policy changes. It concludes with promising practices and recommendations for federal partners, state and local governments, state refugee coordinators, and resettlement agencies—suggesting that if the consultations process does not adapt to changing realities, it will wane in relevance.
2 U.S. Resettlement: A Patchwork of Actors and Interests
3 What Is Consultation and Why Does It Matter?
4 Goals versus Reality: The Pitfalls of Consultation in Practice
5 Principles for Effective Consultation: Promising Practices and Recommendations