Who are refugees?
Under U.S. and international law, refugees are individuals who are outside of their country of origin who have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, political opinion, national origin or particular social group. Globally, there an estimated 35.3 million refugees who meet this definition. Back in 1980, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that requires the president of the United States to determine the maximum number of refugees who will be resettled to the United States on an annual basis. The president recently set the ceiling for the current fiscal year at 125,000, which represents approximately 1/3 of one percent of the world’s refugees. Those selected by the U.S. State Department for resettlement are vetted overseas, lawfully admitted to the United States and then welcomed and provided initial resettlement support by faith-based or other non-profit organizations such as World Relief that partner with the U.S. State Department (Sources: UNHCR, Refugee Act of 1980).
How many refugees will be arriving in the Chippewa Valley?
By September 30, 2024, we anticipate that World Relief-Wisconsin will resettle approximately 75 individuals in the Chippewa Valley, likely representing fifteen to twenty family units.
Are refugees vetted prior to being admitted to the United States?
Absolutely. Refugees come at the invitation of the U.S. government only after being thorough vetted overseas by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in a process that also involves several other federal agencies and often takes multiple years to complete (View the process here). The Heritage Foundation analyzed the refugee vetting process and concluded that “It is a fact that refugees undergo more vetting than any other immigrants to the U.S.” That vetting process has also proven remarkably effective: since the Refugee Act of 1980 established the current process for refugee resettlement, not a single American life has been lost in an Islamist terrorist attack perpetrated by someone who entered the United States as a refugee, and resettled refugees have a far lower incarceration rate within the United States than native-born U.S. citizens (Sources: Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, National Foundation for American Policy).
What countries will the refugees resettled to the Chippewa Valley be from?
We do not know with certainty which countries the refugees resettled to the Chippewa Valley will be from, but the top two countries of origin for refugees resettled to Wisconsin last year were Burma and the Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 80% of refugees resettled to Wisconsin in Fiscal Year 2023 came from one of these two countries, and we anticipate receiving individuals and families from these two countries in the coming year (Source: U.S. Department of State Refugee Processing Center).
What is the economic impact of refugee resettlement?
In the long-term, refugee resettlement has a very positive economic impact on the United States. While there are governmental costs associated with the vetting that refugees receive overseas, their initial resettlement and some public benefits for which they qualify when they first arrive, the refugee resettlement process has a strong focus on helping refugees find employment, helping to meet our state’s very serious labor shortage. Most refugees are able to become economically self-sufficient relatively quickly and ultimately become net fiscal contributors: a study by economists at the University of Notre Dame finds that, by twenty years after arrival, the average refugee adult has contributed approximately $21,000 more in taxes at all levels than the combined cost of governmental expenditures on their behalf, including the cost of initial resettlement (Sources: Forward Analytics, University of Notre Dame).
What sort of persecution have refugees fled prior to being resettled?
All refugees admitted to the U.S. have been found by the U.S. government to have a well-founded fear of persecution on one or more of the following grounds: race, religion, political opinion, national origin or particular social group. In recent years, that has included individuals who faced threats of persecution on account of their association with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, those facing genocide directed at them on account of their ethnicity and those fleeing religious persecution. In fact, persecuted Christians and other persecuted religious minorities have long relied upon the U.S. refugee resettlement process as a beacon of refuge, and when the U.S. dramatically restricted overall refugee resettlement between 2017 and 2022, the number of Christian refugees resettled from the countries where Open Doors US says Christians face the most severe persecution globally fell by 70%. By expanding resettlement into the Chippewa Valley, we are pleased to be able to help the U.S. once again stand with those fleeing religious persecution and those fleeing persecution on account of other reasons (Source: Open Doors & World Relief).
Are refugees here legally?
Yes, each refugee is legally admitted under the authority of the Refugee Act of 1980. In most cases, refugees qualify to apply for naturalization to become U.S. citizens five years after their arrival in the U.S. While our nation certainly faces complex challenges with illegal immigration, asylum seekers and dynamics at the U.S.-Mexico border, that is an entirely separate question from refugee resettlement, as refugees arrive on airplanes and are admitted lawfully.
What is World Relief Wisconsin?
World Relief is a global Christian humanitarian organization that was founded nearly 80 years ago as the “war relief” commission of the National Association of Evangelicals, responding to a crisis of displacement in Europe after World War II. The organization’s mission all around the world is to empower local churches to serve the vulnerable. Since the 1970s, World Relief has lived out that mission in the United States by partnering with both the U.S. government and with many local churches and volunteers to resettle approximately 300,000 refugees. World Relief’s local office in the Fox Valley region of Wisconsin opened with offices in 2012. As we expand to the Chippewa Valley, we have rebranded our local presence to be World Relief Wisconsin, with offices in Appleton, Oshkosh and Eau Claire.
What sort of services and support will World Relief provide?
As we begin resettling refugees in the Chippewa Valley, we will coordinate with volunteers, churches and other community partners to ensure that refugees have adequate housing, furniture and basic household goods and support in cultural adjustment, then ensure that they have the support that they need to enroll children in school, to learn English and to find employment. Our most intensive services are for the first 90 days after a refugee has arrived, but we also provide longer-term integration support through employment and health services as well as in partnership with volunteers and other community partners.
What was the process for opening a new World Relief office in the Chippewa Valley?
Under the authority of the Refugee Act of 1980, the federal government is responsible for selecting new locations for refugee resettlement in consultation with state and local governments and with the “voluntary agencies” such as World Relief that actually lead resettlement efforts.
The City of Eau Claire contacted World Relief in March 2023 about the prospect of opening a resettlement office in the city. World Relief then conducted a series of consultations with local stakeholders over several months, including the Eau Claire Police Department, Eau Claire School District, Eau Claire County Health Department, Eau Claire Department of Human Services, as well as multiple employers, housing providers, churches and a community volunteer group.
World Relief also conducted a thorough review of the area’s employment prospects, cost of living, housing availability, school, English language education programs and other stability factors necessary for newcomer integration, finding that Eau Claire would be well suited to resettle a small number of refugees in the coming year.
World Relief submitted the proposal for the potential new resettlement location of the Chippewa Valley to the federal government in close consultation with Wisconsin’s State Refugee Coordinatorand State Refugee Health Coordinator. The federal government ultimately made the decision to begin resettlement in the Chippewa Valley, which they are authorized to do by the Refugee Act of 1980.
Is World Relief a Christian organization?
World Relief was founded by and remains a subsidiary of the National Association of Evangelicals, a network of Christian denominations, churches and organizations. Our biblical faith is the central motivator for the work that we do, and we partner in particular with many local churches to accomplish our mission, representing the 70% of American evangelicals who, according to a recent study by Lifeway Research, believe the U.S. has a moral responsibility to receive refugees. But we also partner with other community organizations and stakeholders who may not share our faith perspective. We are deeply committed to religious freedom – for ourselves and for all those whom we serve (Source: Lifeway Research).
Is World Relief a partisan organization?
World Relief is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization and will never endorse specific candidates or political parties. We’re not motivated by politics, but by the biblical principles that guide us as a Christian organization and by the American tradition of being a refuge for those fleeing persecution and hardship, which we hope Americans of all political perspectives share. We’re encouraged by recent polling that finds that 73% of all Americans – including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats – affirm receiving refugees as an important goal of U.S. immigration policy (Source: Pew Research Center).
What is my role?
Why should I care?
For those motivated – like us at World Relief – by the Christian faith and the teachings of the Bible, there are many reasons to care: Christians are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, and Jesus made clear in his parable of the Good Samaritan that our “neighbor” could include a vulnerable traveler of a different ethnicity or religious tradition (Luke 10:25-37). The Old Testament includes repeated commands to show love and seek justice for foreigners, who are mentioned repeatedly alongside orphans and widows as being uniquely vulnerable (Deuteronomy 10:18-19, Psalm 146:9). The New Testament includes commands to practice hospitality, which literally means the love of strangers (Romans 12:13), and Jesus said that by welcoming a stranger, we actually could be welcoming him (Matthew 25:35).
Of course, we recognize that not everyone in our community shares our faith – but all Americans can recognize the central role of immigration in our national story, a commitment to affirming the dignity of each human life and a desire to ensure we remain a place of opportunity and refuge for those “yearning to breathe.”
How can I help?
Please join us by:
- Praying for refugees and others in positions of vulnerability
You can learn more about each of these opportunities here.
Who can I talk to if I have questions or concerns?
Stay in touch with us at World Relief Wisconsin! To stay connected and learn about local updates, sign up here. You can reach out with general questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about our work in the Chippewa Valley, including office information, here.