Federal and Local Acceptance of Refugees: The Dual Structures Promoting Community Inclusion

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Virginia Tech


This thesis asks the question: what roles do local governments and nongovernmental organizations play in resettling refugees in U.S. cities? To answer this question, I conducted a case study of the refugee resettlement structure and process as it occurs in the city of Roanoke, Virginia. I find that two governance structures dictate how refugees are resettled into the city. The first stems from federal refugee policy, which establishes the use of a public-private partnership between federal and state governments and federated civic organizations. The second is an evolving local-level grassroots organizational structure that assesses the needs of refugees in Roanoke following their initial resettlement. In the case study on Roanoke I examine the support roles and practices of government institutions and nongovernmental organizations during the initial refugee resettlement period. Additionally, I examine aspects of long-term service provision and additional supports that move refugees towards social and economic inclusion. I conducted interviews with government and non-governmental leaders to grasp their understandings of existing practices and norms of local-level refugee resettlement. I also examined local survey data, economic and demographic data, media reports, and other public documents prepared by government agencies and nonprofit organizations. I identify who offers, or influences decisions about, specific supports for refugees at different times throughout the resettlement/integration process. I will suggest further implications of the supports provided for how they structure the pattern of refugees' economic and social inclusion. This thesis is designed to contribute to the limited literature on the process of local-level refugee resettlement in U.S. cities.



Refugee resettlement, public-private partnership, hierarchical, community-based, nonprofits, local government, integration, inclusion