At Arrive Ministries, we serve people with refugee status and other immigrants who have been in the country for less than five years. Below is a short description of the individuals with whom we work.
Who is a refugee?
A refugee is someone who, due to a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or affiliation with a particular social group, must flee his or her country of origin and cannot safely return home. The individual who has experienced the persecution must actually cross into another country in order to be considered a refugee, because if she remains inside her country’s boundaries, she is instead consider an internally-displaced person, or IDP (see below). Once in a neighboring country, he must then register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is the UN Refugee Agency responsible for coordinating everything from refugee camp operations to referrals for refugee resettlement. The process of actually being resettled in a country like the United States takes many, many years, with most of the families we serve having spent one to two decades, or more, in a refugee camp.
Individuals who register with the UNHCR as refugees and are ultimately approved for refugee resettlement are the only immigrants who can receive Reception & Placement (R&P) services at a resettlement agency like Arrive Ministries. Similarly, nobody can enter the United States as a refugee except for through the R&P program. While different resettlement agencies across the nation vary in how they complete core services for their clients, all resettlement agencies must abide by the federal guidelines for program implementation. More information about the program, as well as the process for being resettled in the United States, can be found under the Resources tab at the top of this page.
Finally, while the word refugee denotes a particular legal status, both when the individual registers with the UNHCR as well as when a person formally resettles in a country like the United States, it is important to recognize that the people we serve here are just that: people. As such, we at Arrive Ministries and throughout the local refugee resettlement community make a concerted effort to refer to our newest neighbors as people with refugee status, rather than simply “refugees,” as this seeks to restore and re-humanize those who have felt unwelcome and unwanted for so long. It is our privilege to know those who have lived the refugee experience, and who are now prepared to begin the next chapter of their lives with us here in Minnesota.
Who is an asylum-seeker or asylee?
Oftentimes, someone who arrives in the United States asking for asylum has a very similar persecution story to that of a person who comes to America as a fully-vetted refugee through the Reception & Placement (R&P) program. The difference, however, is that an asylum-seeker does not already have a legal status upon arriving in the United States. As such, the person who is seeking asylum takes the risk of presenting himself at the border, and requesting asylee status from the American government – a request that can either be approved or denied.
Usually after asking to be granted asylum, an asylum-seeker spends the following several months in a detention facility awaiting a court date for that claim to be adjudicated. Sometimes, though, she can be outside a detention center, also waiting for her interview date. In this scenario, an asylum-seeker is very dependent upon friends and family for shelter, food, and other basic needs, since until she is approved for asylum, she is not eligible for any government programs, including SNAP (food support). An asylum-seeker is not allowed to work until she has received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This is the official government document acknowledging an immigrant’s legal ability to work in the United States. An asylum-seeker cannot apply for an EAD until several weeks or months after her asylum claim has been filed. This length of wait time in addition to the six months or longer for EAD processing is a waiting period during which an asylum-seeker often depends on the continued support of family and friends.
When an individual is granted asylum, there are still very limited services available to him. As noted above, asylees are not eligible to enroll in an R&P program at a resettlement agency like Arrive Ministries. An asylee can, however, now apply for SNAP, cash assistance, health insurance, and is allowed to work. At Arrive Ministries, we are only able to provide limited services to those whose asylum status has already been approved. We can help with applications for health insurance, as well as make a referral to an employment counselor, either in-house or at another local organization that offers these services. We can also connect individuals who are eligible for Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) to one of two agencies in the Metro that assist asylees with this program – International Institute of Minnesota (St. Paul), and Minnesota Council of Churches (Minneapolis). Occasionally, we are also able to match both asylum-seekers and asylees with Refugee Life Ministries teams, but again, we cannot enroll these individuals in the R&P program, nor can we provide any direct case management assistance.
Who is an internally-displaced person (IDP)?
Many people who either fear or have experienced persecution also remain in their countries of origin, whether because they do not have a means to escape or are perhaps actually trapped inside their borders by conflict. These individuals are called internally-displaced persons, or IDPs. IDPs are often considered the most vulnerable group of forcibly-displaced persons, because there are usually not formal mechanisms in place to provide assistance to those who have had to move within their own country for safety. They are also likely still very much affected by insecurity, food shortages, and other consequences of war. IDPs often suffer the same problems as those who register as refugees or seek asylum in another country, but since by definition they have not left their own country, Arrive Ministries has no means of working with IDPs.