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Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

This section of the toolkit includes a glossary of terms, materials for welcoming actions, and additional resources. Click on the headers to go directly to that section.

Frequently Asked Questions

Welcoming Event Materials

Iftar Resources for Ramadan

Glossary of Terms

Additional Resources


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I have a spare room in my house and I am interested in hosting a refugee family. What can I do?

A: The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program aims to promote independence and self-sufficiency for refugees, and therefore does not use in-home hospitality. However, if you own a separate rental unit with its own kitchen and bathroom and would like to offer a discounted rate for refugee families, inform your local resettlement agency. Even if you cannot host, there are many ways you can provide much-needed early support to new arrivals and on-going assistance to your local refugee community once the resettlement program resumes. See Welcoming Actions for specific ideas related to volunteering and expressing your friendship.

Q: How do I find out what refugee resettlement agencies exist in my area?

A: The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement has a national map to help you find resettlement agencies near you.

Q: Can I sponsor a refugee or a refugee family? If so, how do I do that?

A: Sponsorship means very different things in the United States and Canada. In the United States, there is no official process for sponsorship – although there are still many ways to support families and individuals receiving refugee status here.

In Canada, groups can apply directly through a government program to sponsor a specific refugee family to come to Canada. They make a financial commitment to cover basic expenses including relocation, and a personal commitment to help with social support and community integration.

In the United States, however, there is no way to sponsor a family to relocate here. Instead of private volunteers, government-funded refugee resettlement agencies are responsible for supporting refugee families upon arrival to the country. Some resettlement agencies invite groups to co-sponsor a family by providing additional support such as furnishing a home, and helping with job searches, English, and cultural orientation. Other agencies welcome volunteers but do not march groups with individual families.


Welcome Event Materials

Downloadable Materials


Interfaith Iftar Resources for Events During Ramadan

During the holy month of Ramadan, most Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year, and is holy because it is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed. Because the Islamic Calendar is a lunar calendar, Ramadan begins 11 days earlier in each Western Calendar year, and therefore it circulates through all four seasons every 33 years. In 2016, Ramadan is expected to run from June 6 to July 5, beginning and ending with the first sighting of a new moon. Because these dates overlap with the summer solstice in 2016, Muslims will be required to fast for an exceptionally long number of daylight hours.

If you are planning for a #RefugeesWelcome event to occur between June 6 and July 5 (including a World Refugee Day event on Monday, June 20), it will be important to consider the needs of Muslims who will be fasting during that time. One way to host a meaningful event during the month of Ramadan is to host an interfaith Iftar. Iftar is the evening meal for breaking the fast, beginning after sundown.

Shoulder to Shoulder has a full guide to hosting an interfaith Iftar If you are interested in hosting an interfaith Iftar that is open to the public, please check the calendar and register here.



Asylum: The grant by a State of protection in its territory to persons from another State who are fleeing persecution  or serious danger. Asylum encompasses a variety of elements, including non-refoulement, permission to remain on the territory of the asylum country, and humane standards of treatment. [UNHCR]

Asylum-seeker: An individual who is seeking refugee status “based on a well founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion.” In host countries with legal requirements for granting protection, an asylum-seeker is someone whose claim is pending approval. International law recognizes the individual right to seek asylum, but does not require states to provide it. [U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants]

Immigrant: A person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence. These same individuals are emigrants from the country they left behind. [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

Integration: The incorporation of individuals or groups as equals into a society or organization (emphasis added). This is not to be confused with “assimilation,” which is the act of adjusting or adapting to a new culture, group, or nation. Assimilation often implies that the person being assimilated will lose or at least hide certain behaviors, norms, beliefs, preferred languages, or traditions  — essentially losing one’s earlier identity.  [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

Internally displaced person: Those persons forced or obliged to flee from their homes, “…in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflicts, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights, or natural or human-made disasters. Unlike refugees or asylum-seekers, they are individuals who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border.”  [UNHCR]

Islamophobia: Islamophobia (or anti-Muslim sentiment) is sometimes used to describe prejudice against, hatred or bigotry toward, or fear of the religion of Islam. It is also used to describe similar prejudice and hostility toward Muslim people. There is a growing debate about whether the term “Islamophobia” can be used interchangeably for both of these definitions, or if “anti-Muslim sentiment” is a better description of the reasons why people are being prevented from escaping armed conflicts in their home countries, or are facing prejudice and bigotry in more “peaceful” countries due to their religion or ethnic identity. [Atlantic Monthly]

Migrant: A person who moves periodically or regularly, often used to refer to people who move to find work. The term is also used for people in transit between their country of origin and their chosen destination. [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

Non-Refoulement: A core principle of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees The principle of non- refoulement is a part of customary international law and is therefore binding on all states, whether or not they are parties to the 1951 Convention. “No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” [UNHCR]

Refugee: An individual who is outside his or her country of origin due to the same “well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion” as an asylum-seeker (see definition above). A refugee is an asylum-seeker whose claim for legal protection has been granted by the United Nations or a host country. This definition is sometimes expanded to include anyone fleeing war or other armed conflict. [UNHCR]


Refugees Welcome poster
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UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally, or resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.

“Since 1950, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of more than 9,300 people in 123 countries continues to help and protect millions of refugees, returnees, internally displaced and stateless people.”

United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
This federal agency was created in 2003 by the Bush Administration to “prevent terrorism and enhance security; manage U.S. borders; administer immigration lawa; secure cyberspace; and ensure disaster resilience.” Its broad mandate results from the reorganization of several agencies that were part of other executive departments, including the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), which was part of the Department of Justice and became three new entities within DHS: U.S. Citizenship and immigration Services (USCIS); U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP); and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). DHS also became the home for the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA); the Coast Guard; the Secret Service; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). DHS’s emphasis on security has in many cases replaced previous agencies’ provision of services to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. This has been particularly true for asylum-seekers and refugees, who have been subject to restrictions on entry, deportation, and involuntary detention. (American Immigration Council DHS Progress Report)

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
This is the branch of USDHS that oversees lawful immigration to the United States, granting U.S. citizenship and lawful permanent resident status; adjudicating asylum claims; and reviewing petitions for employment authorization documents (EADs). In addition to these rights-granting responsibilities, USCIS provides all immigration benefits and other services through its national network of USCIS Service Centers, which are organized into four multi-state regions. The USCIS does not engage in any enforcement activities (these are the responsibility of ICE). As the agency responsible for processing all immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers, USCIS is under increasing pressure to reduce its backlog of applicants for citizenship, visas, and other legal status that has resulted from The USDHS’s emphasis on national security and enforcement operations. The need for improved coordination between USCIS procedures and the enforcement of federal and state laws which may affect the rights of some individuals seeking legal status is another challenge many refugees and asylum-seekers face in the United States today. [Migration Policy Institute]

United States Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)
This office, part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provides rehabilitative, social, and legal services to refugees, asylum-seekers, and other individuals who have resettled in the United States. While refugees and asylum-seekers must first be processed by the USCIS in order to receive ORR benefits, other “special populations,” including victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture, and unaccompanied children, may receive benefits from ORR regardless of immigration status. Individuals who are part of these special populations can apply for services upon entering the United States, but these procedures are also defined and enforced in an arbitrary and inconsistent way. For example, DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents must refer unaccompanied children from all countries except for Mexico and Canada to the HHS ORR, where they have access to legal proceedings in U.S. immigration court. However, unaccompanied children from Mexico or Canada may be summarily deported by CBP agents without any legal proceedings.  [American Immigration Council Guide to Children Arriving at the Border]


Additional Resources

News Outlets and Articles


  • Salaam Neighbor: The story of Syrian Refugees restarting their lives in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf): This classic explores how racial, class, gender, and nationality dynamics play out in Germany as the country grapples with welcoming the first wave of Muslim and Arab immigrants in the 1970s. One is left with asking what, if anything, has changed over the years.
  • Refugee Kids: One Small School Takes on the World
    This heart-warming documentary looks at how one New York City public school offers a special summer program to prepare immigrant children for life in their new home.


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