U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)


* Seeks to help “uprooted people” to “build new lives in the United States” and “achieve their American dream”
* Charges that border patrol agents, prison officials, and Department of Homeland Security officials commonly mistreat people in their custody

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) was established in 1911 as the International Institute, which was the brainchild of the YWCA and was founded under the leadership of social worker Edith Terry Bremer. Incorporated under its new name in 1958, USCRI is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian charitable agency registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization. Its mission is to “protect the rights and address the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide by advancing fair and humane public policy, facilitating and providing direct professional services, and promoting the full participation of migrants in community life.” The Committee focuses chiefly on helping “uprooted people”—regardless of their “nationality, race, ideology, or social group”—to “build new lives in the United States” and “achieve their American dream.” This ideal was significantly aided, says USCRI, by the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationalization Act which “relax[ed] the restrictive immigration system of the 1920s.”

USCRI performs its work through a nationwide network of parther agencies, community organizations, state and local governments, and private-sector enterprises. The most notable of its partner agencies are branches of the International Institute, located in California, Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

USCRI currently administers 4 major programs:

1) The Refugee Resettlement & Employment program assists newly arrived refugee families with such tasks as finding and furnishing their first apartments, learning how to use their local public-transportation system, enrolling their children in school, finding a doctor, learning English, obtaining employment, understanding credit, managing money, training for a new career, and re-establishing professional credentials in the United States.

2) The Refugee Rights program seeks to ensure that the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers anywhere in the world meet the international standards outlined in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. In cases where such rights are being denied, USCRI brings them to the attention of media, policymakers, and citizens around the world.

3) It was under the auspices of its Child Migrants program that, in 2005, USCRI established its National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children (with support from United Nations Commission on Human Rights goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie and the American Immigration Lawyers Association). This Center recruits and trains immigration lawyers, furnishes immigrant children with free legal services and access to attorneys willing to provide pro bono representation, and refers such children to free healthcare and social-service providers.

4) The National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Project seeks to provide comprehensive case management and referral services to foreign victims “and potential victims” of sex and labor trafficking who seek asylum within the United States.

In December 2005, USCRI—citing alleged abuses by border patrol agents, prison officials, and Department of Homeland Security officials—called for Congress to pass new legislation requiring all such workers to undergo “mandatory training” on “existing laws and regulations concerning the treatment and transfer of children in their custody.”

In January 2007, USCRI supported Senator Ted Kennedy‘s call for Congress to appropriate $250 million to help resettle Iraqi refugees in the United States, assist Iraqis in Jordan and Syria, and assist communities inside Iraq that were trying to deal with sudden influxes of people displaced by the war.

In June 2008, Tricia Swartz, director of USCRI’s National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children, spoke at a press conference convened by congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

In February 2012, USCRI president Lavinia Limon praised President Barack Obama for proposing a fiscal year 2013 budget that “imposes no cuts” to U.S. refugee programs. Four months later USCRI again lauded President Obama, this time for his announcement that the United States would not follow through on deporting some 800,000 illegals under age 30 who had come to America as children and had not been convicted of any serious crimes.

In the course of its work today, USCRI deals with immigrants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Burma, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nepal, Somalia, Thailand, and Yemen.

For additional information on USCRI, click here.

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