Utah admitted more than 3,200 refugees from 2012—2014 in spite of growing tension in recent years about the number of people coming to the U.S. from war-torn countries.
The size of the state is one of the variables that determine the number of refugees that are accepted in the state. The government tries to make sure families are either reunited or kept together, and that new refugees are placed within their own ethnic community, if possible.
Burmese refugee Chapter Doh recounted his experience of being assigned to the U.S.
“After a while I had to go to a process(ing) interview. Later on, I had to do a medical check, make sure I don’t have disease, and whenever some people have it, they needed to get treated to come to (the) country. And for me, I didn’t have any (disease) … (in) six months they put me in Utah, Salt Lake City,” Doh said.
Doh didn’t have family in Salt Lake City to ease the transition from being a refugee to integrating with American society and culture.
After arriving, he was greeted by a caseworker at Catholic Community Services who helped him apply for Social Security, food stamps, Medicaid, housing and employment. A translator also accompanied him because Doh barely spoke English. He received immunizations, orientation and training on how to live in America. He was hired at Kmart as a custodial worker a few weeks after arriving.
The U.S. government provides $2,025 to resettlement agencies for each refugee to provide basic necessities and core services during their initial resettlement period.
Refugees who don’t speak English require further assistance. The federal refugee program provides state funding for approved services to refugees up to five years after arrival. Such services include English as a second language.
Refugees can also find services from other nonprofit organizations, such as the Asian Association of Utah (AAU). This private nonprofit organization provides a wide range of services: mental health, English classes, employment and social services and after-school programs. The AAU is connected to Catholic Community Services, which manages the refugee’s initial resettlement. If the refugee needs more assistance, they will be referred to the AAU after two years. The association has caseworkers to help resolve situational conflicts for each refugee.
There are more than 30 government entities and private institutions in the state of Utah involved in the refugee resettlement effort. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has encouraged its members worldwide to volunteer with local community organizations to help ease the transition for refugees who find themselves in a new country, trying to start a new life.