Refugee Resettlement Program
The Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs’ (OIRA) helps refugee families attain economic independence and cultural adjustment as soon as possible after their arrival in the United States.
Funding for OIRA is provided through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The OIRA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1991 to distribute federal funds available through the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and the Refugee Act of 1980.
Refugees are people living outside their country of origin who cannot return to their home due to fear of persecution based on their race, religion, ethnic group, or membership in a particular social or political group.
Texas receives approximately 4,500 refugees every year. The Refugee Resettlement Program is an all-nationalities program, with the number and nationalities of refugee arrivals to the United States determined by the U.S. Congress and the president of the United States before the beginning of each federal fiscal year.
Currently, eligible recipients under the refugee-funded programs include:
- Entrants and parolees from Cuban and Haiti.
- Spcial Immigrant Visa holders from Iraq & Afghanistan
- Certified victims of severe forms of trafficking.
The Refugee Resettlement Program provides:
- Temporary cash assistance.
- Medical assistance for refugees who have lived in the United States for eight months or less.
- Social services to eligible refugees who have lived in the United States for five years or less.
The actual resettlement of refugees in the local communities is conducted by local voluntary resettlement agencies (VOLAGs) that work with the U.S. State Department. The Texas Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs distributes funds to help refugees become employed, learn English and adjust to cultural differences.
Asylees, parolees are eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as refugees.
The following describe the components of the program under the purview of HHSC:
Refugees who are not eligible for cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program may receive Refugee Cash Assistance if they meet eligibility criteria. Cash assistance is available for the first eight months after arrival in the United States or date of eligibility.
HHSC works with local organizations in providing Refugee Cash Assistance to eligible refugees.
Refugees receiving Refugee Cash Assistance may also receive Refugee Medical Assistance under the state’s Medicaid program. Refugees who are not eligible for Refugee Cash Assistance may still qualify for Refugee Medical Assistance if they meet the eligibility requirements. Medical assistance is restricted to those who are eligible for refugee services for eight months or less.
Refugee Social Services consist of employment services; vocational training; education services, including English as a Second Language instruction and immigration assistance; case management services; and other support services which encourage economic self-sufficiency and social adjustment. The majority of services are available to refugees who have lived in the United States for five years or less.
Citizenship and outreach services can be provided beyond the five year time limit. HHSC works with organizations located in areas of the state with the largest numbers of refugee arrivals: Abilene, Amarillo, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.
Federal discretionary grants and formula allocations are awarded to the state for additional refugee social services. Discretionary grants are awarded through national competition, while formula grants are awarded to the state based on the number of refugees residing in a county or the total number of refugee arrivals in comparison to other states.
HHSC works with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to provide foster care and other services for refugee children who arrive in the United States without parents or other relatives.
HHSC receives funding to provide health screenings for all newly arrived refugees through local health departments. The program screens refugees for health problems and conducts follow-up services for treatment.
The Cuban/Haitian Program provides discretionary grants to fund assistance and services in localities most heavily impacted by an influx of Cuban and Haitian entrants and refugees. The program supports employment services, hospitals and other health and mental health care programs, adult and vocational education services, refugee crime or victimization programs, and citizenship and naturalization services.
The Refugee School Impact Program provides grants to some school districts to pay for activities that will lead to the effective integration and education of refugee children. Services target school-age refugees between the ages of 5 and 18 with activities that include: English as a Second Language instruction; after-school tutorials; programs that encourage high school completion and full participation in school activities; after-school and summer clubs activities; parental involvement programs; bilingual/bicultural counselors; and interpreter services.
The Targeted Assistance Discretionary Grant Program funds programs that address the employment needs of refugees that cannot be met through other assistance programs. Activities under this program supplement and complement existing employment services to help refugees achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Services funded through this program are required to focus primarily on those refugees who, either because of their protracted use of public assistance or difficulty in securing employment, continue to need services beyond the initial years of resettlement. This funding requirement also promotes the provision of services to refugees whose circumstances make it difficult to integrate, such as refugee women who are not literate in their native language and the elderly.
The Services to Older Refugees Program provides grants to programs that ensure that refugees age 60 and above are linked to mainstream aging services in their community.
HHSC has an interagency agreement with the U.S. Administration on Aging to identify ways in which the aging and refugee networks can work together more effectively at the state and local levels to improve elderly refugees’ access to services. Program objectives are to:
Establish and/or expand a working relationship with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services and local community agencies on aging to ensure all older refugees in the community will be linked to mainstream aging services in their community.
Provide appropriate services to all older refugees that are not currently being provided in the community.
Create opportunities to enable older refugees to live independently as long as possible.
Develop services for or link older refugees to naturalization services, especially for those who have lost or are at risk of losing Supplemental Security Income and other federal benefits.