Changing Policies and Ideologies of Refugee Resettlement

By: Jessica Lee   Kimberly Moffett  

This study provides a comparative discussion of immigration and refugee resettlement policies among the thirty-seven countries that participate in the UN Refugee Agency’s resettlement program. The 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees and the 1967 Protocol outline the legal concept of the “refugee” (UNHCR, 2018). In the United States, the Refugee Act of 1980 adopted the UNHCR’s definition of refugees; this has shaped US refugee resettlement policies. It established a presidential privilege for deciding on annual allocation to determine refugee admission numbers for each fiscal year (Uzabakiriko, 2011). Among the resettlement countries, the United States has received the largest numbers of refugees through the UNHCR program. However, due to policy changes since 2016, the number of refugees admitted into the US has sharply declined. Presently, policy changes and nationalist sentiments worldwide are polemical. This focused discussion will examine the social and legal construction of forced migration by posing the question, “who is a refugee?” Using a human rights framework and examples from qualitative data, the presenters will facilitate a timely dialogue on changing immigration policies in multiple countries and analyze the implications for the human rights of refugees worldwide.

Refugees, Policy, Refugee resettlement, Human rights, Forced migration
2019 Special Focus—Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience
Focused Discussion

Jessica Lee

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Indiana University, United States
United States

Kimberly Moffett

Indiana University, United States
United States

I have been with the Indiana University School of Social Work for over eleven years as a full-time lecturer and prior to that had worked as an adjunct for 12 years. My professional experiences include working with child welfare, juvenile justice policy and programming, mental health research, school social work, and both clinical and community practice. Because of the lecturer role, I originally taught courses across the spectrum in the undergraduate and graduate programs. That opportunity was a gift as I identified early on the value of consistently relating content areas like practice, theory, research and policy as a way of preparing students thoroughly for the professional arena. In recent years, I have concentrated on graduate courses that address policy, community and global practice, issues of oppression, and human rights. Additionally, I have been fortunate to work with outstanding colleagues and have benefitted greatly from research and experiences that highlight international efforts. Indiana University has a robust study abroad program and the School of Social Work has capitalized on the resources available and fostered others so that numerous students each year are completing international short-term study courses or one-to-two semester practicums. Over the last several years, in conjunction with accreditation, we have also developed new courses that students take in their first two semesters. One course offers a foundation in diversity, human rights and social justice, while the other emphasizes social work practice in a global context. Initial assessments of these courses have shown the effectiveness of this content area in advancing a more comprehensive knowledge base and an expanded worldview. For this particular conference, Dr. Jessica Lee and I hope to share some of these results through an interactive workshop in an endeavor to communicate relevant information, engage with other professionals who work in a large-scale milieu, and augment collaborative learning partnerships. Our primary goal is to create a study abroad program that explores refugee migration in relation to human rights and policy, comparing and contrasting the refugee experiences in the United States with other countries.