The Costs of Secondary Migration: Perspectives from Local Voluntary Agencies in the USA

Abstract

In recent years, as the need for global refugee assistance has increased, so have fears and concerns of the costs of refugee resettlement in Western nations. Now, seemingly more than ever, international security and regional development depend largely on the composition and distribution of the world population. In many Western nations, dispersal policies are specifically designed to manage the distribution of recently arrived refugees. Secondary migration presents a challenge to the goals of dispersal policies and raises questions regarding regional development, population pressures, job security, welfare dependency, and the future of global refugee assistance. We survey administrators and caseworkers in a series of qualitative interviews about their experiences with secondary migration. We conclude that the US refugee resettlement system is ill-equipped in handling the complications of secondary migration. These results lead us to reimagine a better strategy for achieving the goals of refugee resettlement.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    At the time this research was performed, a popular narrative included the idea that one of the “costs” of refugee resettlement was in terms of domestic security. Indeed, in 2015, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Michael McCaul, wrote a letter to the White House National Security Advisor saying he was, “concerned about the possibility of groups like ISIS exploiting the refugee resettlement process to mask the deployment of operatives in the West via a federally funded Jihadi pipeline.” Although this narrative remains strong, there is little evidence of refugees causing problems relating to domestic security (Nowrasteh 2016). Additionally, we heard nothing of this narrative from our interviews of refugee service providers.

  2. 2.

    Some researchers use the term “onward migration” in place of “secondary migration.” For the remainder of this paper, consistent with the bulk of the literature, we use the term “secondary migration” to refer to refugees who have moved over a state boundary within their first 8 months in the USA.

  3. 3.

    Although many consider ORR data on secondary migration to include errors, this is the best method available for estimating the scale of secondary migration in the USA. Another methodological option is to impute refugee status using U.S. Census data (Capps et al. 2015; Evans and Fitzgerald 2017). This method of imputing refugee status is also potentially plagued by measurement error and faces additional challenges due to non-disclosures.

  4. 4.

    Wyoming does not resettle refugees.

  5. 5.

    These dynamics are summarized elsewhere (Bloem and Loveridge 2017), but are discussed with greater depth in this paper.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the United States Department of Agriculture for support of this work.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey Bloem.

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Bloem, J., Loveridge, S. The Costs of Secondary Migration: Perspectives from Local Voluntary Agencies in the USA. Int. Migration & Integration 19, 233–251 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-018-0538-4

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Keywords

  • Migration
  • Refugees
  • Resettlement
  • Regional development