The United States of America is home to the largest number of international migrants in the world. According to the US Census Bureau (2006 American Community Survey), there are 37,547,789 foreign-born persons legally residing in the US, making up 12.5 per cent of the nation's population. Approximately 53 per cent of the foreign-born in the United States hail from Latin America, 25 per cent from Asia, 14 per cent from Europe and 8 per cent from other regions of the world. The United States employs foreign workers through limited guest worker programmes operated by the US Department of Labor. Additionally, the US is home to a large number of irregular migrants (estimated between ten and thirteen million people) who make up a workforce operating without rights or documentation. Opinions vary greatly over whether these irregular migrants, many residing in the United States for a number of years, ought to be deported or granted amnesty and a path to US citizenship. Construction of a 700-mile border fence along the US-Mexico border has been underway since the passage of the Secure Fence Act in October 2006. All other recent attempts to pass immigration reform in the US Congress have been unsuccessful to date.
IOM's regional office in Washington, D.C., coordinates with offices in North America and the Caribbean and serves as a liaison with United States Government counterparts, Government of Canada counterparts, IOM offices around the world, along with other international and non-governmental organizations.
MRF Washington provides global liaison, technical and direct field support to IOM Missions funded under US Government contracts and grants. The Community Stabilization Unit also spearheads work in transitional and recovery programming for emergency and post-crisis environments, often in close collaboration with offices of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and specializing in sub-grant management mechanisms. Technical support provided by the Unit for US-funded Missions includes contract and grant review, advice on the US foreign assistance framework, monitoring and evaluation, coordination of competitive contract bidding with profit and non-profit sector partners, and use of the Payment Management System. The Unit also deploys staff to the field in support of the Emergency Post-Crisis Unit in Geneva, and provides a range of programme development, implementation and management support to field work in the stabilization of communities, and in the area of forced migration for populations affected by conflict, disaster and development challenges.
- Internally Displaced Persons Assistance – Iraq
- Facilitation of Sustainable Return of Internally Displaced Persons – Sudan
The Migration for Development in Ethiopia (MIDEth) programme aims to strengthen the institutional capacities of the government of Ethiopia for facilitating the return of Ethiopian professionals to address acute human resources constraints in the country. The project institutionalizes a system for the mobilization and utilization of relevant human, financial and other resources of the Ethiopian diaspora and other suitably qualified professionals. A particular focus is placed on human resource constraints in the health sector, especially medical professionals. As of April 2009, the programme has returned 107 Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia for short assignments. The vast majority of those returned were healthcare professionals.
- Migration for Development in Ethiopia (MIDEth) Programme
Return and Reintegration. A 12-month project called "Regional Reintegration of Returnees to CARICOM Countries" aims to contribute to the long-term reintegration of returnees from the United States into their respective societies in three Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states. This voluntary assisted return and reintegration project will significantly strengthen the ability of relevant government agencies in those countries to successfully reintegrate these returnees, and will substantially contribute to national and bilateral efforts to enhance regional security. By providing such assistance to the returnees, the project seeks to turn out individuals who are better equipped to become productive members of society, thereby mitigating the potential for their resorting to criminal activity as the only livelihood option, thus de-stigmatizing returnees within Caribbean society through public information campaigns. The Programme is nearing the end of its second phase in Haiti. Efforts are underway to fully implement the programme in the Bahamas and Guyana.
- Regional Reintegration of Returnees to CARICOM Countries
Counter-Trafficking. Human trafficking is a crime in which traffickers profit from the exploitation of men, women, and children by luring them into situations of control and abuse. IOM has worked closely with government partners and civil society throughout the Caribbean region and in the United States to address the problem since 2004. Activities include baseline research, awareness raising, capacity building in order to strengthen national and regional networks addressing victim needs, and provision of voluntary return and reintegration services (and in some cases, family reunification) for victims of trafficking.
In addition to implementing several counter-trafficking projects, MRF Washington serves a liaison function with key US donors supporting IOM counter-trafficking programmes worldwide, and provides technical assistance to IOM missions with project development and donor reporting.
- Capacity Building for Counter-Trafficking in the Caribbean
- Return, Reintegration, and Family Reunification for Trafficking Victims in the US
- Counter-Trafficking Technical Assistance and Training: A Global Rapid Response
- Counter-Trafficking Training for Criminal Justice System Personnel
- IOM Counter-Trafficking Training Modules
- Caribbean Counter-Trafficking Model Legislation
- Child Migration in the Caribbean
Technical Cooperation on Migration Management and Capacity Building. In late 2004, IOM began a project to assess border management and migration issues through direct liaison with Caribbean governments. In partnership with the Inter-American Committee on Counter-Terrorism (CICTE) of the Organization of American States (OAS), IOM is working with these governments to assess their current migration organization, border controls, and management of regular and irregular migration. IOM completed in-country assessments in the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines between 2005 and 2007. As a follow-up measure, IOM is implementing Capacity Building on Migration Management Programmes in Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and The Bahamas.
In order to get updated information about the Haitian population living and working in Turks and Caicos, IOM and the College of The Bahamas are planning with the Government a survey in Providenciales and Grand Turk.
- Assessment Missions in Thirteen Caribbean Countries
The Caribbean's location makes it an attractive transit point for regular and irregular migration. To help regional governments better manage migration, IOM will continue to provide the necessary management tools. Every year, IOM organizes a regional seminar/workshop to build capacities of government officials in the region to address issues related to migration policy.
In addition, management of migration processes in the Caribbean continues to be hampered by the lack of timely, objective and reliable statistics on migration. Although a lot of data are collected, their application in policy-making differs significantly among the individual countries: from countries with more advanced systems to situations where the gathered statistics are very rarely shared at the national inter-institutional and, even less so, at the inter-state level. IOM will implement a Data Sharing Mechanism (DSM) pilot project in Barbados, Guyana, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and, based on the principles and best practices of the DSM in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Project partners are the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME), the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the Danish Immigration System.
- Annual Regional Seminar on Mixed Migratory Flows in the Caribbean
- Migration Data-sharing Mechanism in the Caribbean: A Pilot Project
Refugee Admissions Program. The International Organization for Migration provides extensive support to the US Government in carrying out its US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). In US fiscal year 2008, some 60,000 refugees from over 80 countries around the world were resettled through the USRAP. IOM delivers a range of case processing, medical, training, transport and other services to the USRAP that vary according to the diverse contexts in which the USRAP operates. IOM New York serves as the principal liaison between IOM and the US Department of State for refugee admissions oversees and coordinates IOM's global support to the USRAP, and, through its network of satellite offices in Chicago, JFK airport, Los Angeles, Miami and Newark, provides assistance to refugees arriving at these designated Ports of Entry.
All refugees arriving in the United States are offered interest-free travel loans by IOM. Refugees who accept these travel loans are required to sign a promissory note prior to departure, committing themselves to repayment of the debt within 46 months after arrival in the United States.
IOM arranges for refugee travel using funds furnished by the Department of State, and is mandated to subsequently effect collections on behalf of the Department of State. Repayments made by refugees toward their loans are returned to the Department of State for use by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) to defray the cost of future refugee travel.
Travel Loans are initially assigned for collection either to IOM itself or to one of the following loan collecting resettlement agencies:
- Church World Service, Immigration & Refugee Program (CWS)
- Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society, Episcopal Migration Ministries (DFMS)
- Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
- International Rescue Committee (IRC)
- U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (IRSA)
- Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)
- U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB)
- World Relief Refugee Services (WRRS)
The majority of refugees successfully repay their loans within this timeframe.
Refugees should feel free to contact their resettling agency or the IOM/Irvine, California office at +1-866-466-5660 with any questions or concerns regarding the terms and status of their travel loans.
- US Refugee Travel Loan Program
Main text: January 2010
Facts and figures: February 2016