144. "Refugee Resettlement: The Infighting in Washington," The Public Interest, No. 65 (Fall 1981), pp. 15-29, Part I. "The Refugees Controversy: Federal 'Involvement' of Voluntary Agencies." The Public Interest, No. 68 (Summer 1982), pp. 92-92. Part II.


In early 1979 the Carter administration found itself facing a refugee crisis as mounting political tensions throughout Southeast Asia increased the number of people seeking asylum in America. Refugees began arriving in the spring of 1975 after the collapse of noncommunist regimes in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The flow subsided somewhat until 1978, when renewed fighting generated a new wave of refugees. Thousands of ethnic Chinese fled Vietnam after the war erupted between Vietnam and China in 1979, and Vietnamese expansion also created a new flow of refugees from Laos and Cambodia into Thailand.

By early 1979 Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia were beginning to refuse more refugees, and even threatened to repel them by force. These countries still had thousands of refugees remaining from the initial exodus of 1975; by June 1979 there were approximately 370,000 refugees in camps throughout Southeast Asia. At a special United Nations meeting convened in July 1979 to address this problem, the developed nations, including the U.S., pledged to accept more refugees. In June 1979 President Carter had committed the U.S. to doubling its admissions ceiling for Indochinese refugees from 7,000 to 14,000 per month, or 168,000 per year.

In addition to this influx front Southeast Asia, refugees from Eastern Europe, most of them Soviet Jews, began coming to the U.S. in larger numbers after the Soviet Union relaxed its emigration restrictions in August 1978. As many as 4,000 Soviet refugees arrived each month, compared to the previous level of 1,700 to 1,800 a month.

Faced with increasing numbers of refugees, the U.S. tried to organize its refugee services more effectively. The office of U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs was created, and former Senator Dick Clark was appointed Coordinator in February, 1979. He was to coordinate various activities of federal agencies such as AID, HUD, the Department of Justice, and ACTION. In addition, he was to act as liaison between the federal government and state and local governments and voluntary agencies. With limited authority, funds, and staff, he did not coordinate very much in the short time before he resigned in October 1979.

In March 1979 the Refugee Act was introduced into Congress in an effort to harmonize existing disjointed refugee legislation. Versions of the act passed both House and Senate in 1979, and a final version became law in 1980. This law increased the admissions ceiling for refugees to 50,000 a year, a jump from the previous level of 17,400. (In fact, as many as 200,000 refugees a year have been admitted using the Attorney General's special "parole" authority, with the consent of the President and Congress, to temporarily raise the legal admissions ceiling.)

But these measures, designed chiefly to make refugee entry into the country easier, did not really address the issue of their resettlement. Until the Indochinese influx, private sector voluntary agencies (commonly referred to as "volags") had handled the resettlement of refugees with little government help or interference. Among the better known agencies were Church World Service, the International Rescue Committee, the United States Catholic Conference, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

John McCarthy, of the U.S. Catholic Conference, estimated that such private agencies had resettled nearly two million refugees since World War II. (The volags did not operate completely on their own, however; they received partial funding for their efforts from the federal government, mainly through the Departments of State and HEW.) This traditional process of refugee resettlement was beginning to show signs of strain by the fall of 1979, both because of the rapid increase in the number of refugees entering the country and because these refugees were generally less educated and less easily assimilated than those in the first waves fleeing southeast Asia after the fall of Saigon.

Two tragedies involving refugees helped publicize the growing strain. In Iowa, one family of Hmong refugees (from a Laotian tribe) attempted suicide when they grew frustrated trying to communicate with others in the town and to adjust to life in the U.S. In Seadrift, Texas, tensions flared between Texan and Vietnamese fisherman during an argument. Incidents of violence were also reported in Wisconsin, Colorado, and North Carolina.

The White House becomes involved

These tragedies did not go unnoticed by the White House staff. On November 2, 1979, in a memorandum to Stuart Eizenstat (Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs and Policy), Ellen Goldstein (Assistant Director of the Domestic Policy Staff) warned of "a serious crisis--the inability of current resources, public and voluntary, to meet the needs of the Indochinese refugees, a crisis which, both in human terms and politically needs stronger attention and attack."

As a "Senior Advisor" brought to the White House to bring the insights of the social sciences to public policy, I immediately became involved in the resettlement issue. Dick Clark had just resigned his post and the refugees simply were not a high priority topic. Stuart Eizenstat, covering all domestic matters, set up an interagency task force to review the domestic resettlement process and make recommendations for its improvement. In a memorandum to the senior White House staff dated November 19, 1979, he expressed his concern:

about the inability of our domestic resettlement machinery to handle adequately the increase in the flow of refugees. I recently asked Matt Nimetz, the Acting Coordinator for Refuge Affairs, and Nathan Stark Under Secretary of HEW, with special responsibility for the refugee program, to put together a Task Force which could, on a short-term basis, assess and make recommendations for upgrading our service effort and capability.

Eizenstat asked the White House staff for volunteers to assist on this project, and instructed interested persons to report to Ellen Goldstein and Frank White (Associate Director for Civil Rights and Justice, Domestic Policy Staff). The refugee issue seemed another opportunity for a social science "input." As there was not exactly a flood of Senior staff eager to work on the issue, I simply dropped by the suite of offices shared by Frank White and Ellen Goldstein and was handed a stack of draft reports that four panels of the interagency task force were preparing on how to deal with the question.

The draft reports struck me as having a leitmotif which, while never explicitly stated or confronted, ran through all four subreports on orientation, employment, community relations, and housing. All in effect leaned toward "federalization" of the problem. The orientation work group, for example, concluded that:

the fomalization of post-arrival orientation . . . must be accomplished through the development of local coordinating mechanisms which will effectively relate the many resettlement resources, private and public, which are found it the local level.

The report made it clear that such local mechanisms were in fact to be branches of the federal government:

A number of possibilities exist to improve local coordination, including the fact that the principal public service agencies involved in resettlement (HEW, DOL, HUD) and resettlement agencies have local offices or representatives in many areas with numerous refugees.

The housing work group urged similar federal involvement:

Immediately, HUD, HEW, or the Coordinator's Office should continue the job begun by the housing work group to effectively identify the communities critically in need of assistance, and the type of assistance required by these highly impacted communities. HUD should provide housing counseling to refugees and resettlement offices, particularly in high impact communities. The Coordinator's Office, the Department of State and HEW should immediately begin a study of the feasibility of redirecting refugees from areas of heavy concentration to areas with relatively few refugees which have been determined to have adequate housing and other resources.

Community relations was another area requiring enhanced federal involvement. The work group recommended:

--That, under the direction of the Coordinator's Office, the Public Affairs and Community Tensions Workgroup be constituted as an ongoing public affairs policy body.

--That the U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs direct each agency to submit by January 15, 1980, a public affairs plan in support of the resettlement effort.

--That federal agencies . . . be directed to provide answers to key questions regarding their role in refugee resettlement by January 11, 1980. These answers will be used to prepare basic speeches and publications and to provide questions and answers to federal and other supportive speakers. It will also permit the Coordinator's office to direct attention to problem areas in which answers are unavailable and unsatisfactory.

Finally, a background analysis of the refugee situation, drafted by HEW, recognized the private sector's role in resettlement:

It would be short-sighted if the consequences of government actions to cope with the current situation were to debilitate those private institutions which, in the past, have taken and, in the future can take a special interest in refugee resettlement.

Nevertheless, the report pushed for increasing the federal government's involvement:

At the same time, it was a public decision that brought the refugees to the U.S. and it will be public actors, by and large, that will be held accountable for the effectiveness of the domestic resettlement process.
After reviewing the existing resettlement process, the HEW background analysis concluded:
If the confusion and fragmentation which exist in many areas of refugee concentration are to be ameliorated, the federal government will need to designate--and fund--lead agencies to carry out this responsibility.

And, more specifically:

The President, in particular, but the Vice President, Domestic Policy Council, the U.S. Coordinator's Office, and Secretaries of various Cabinet Departments as well, need to provide the leadership that is required to translate this national commitment to domestic receptivity, understanding and commitment.

In short, the background analysis and draft task force recommendations called for increased federal involvement in studying the problem, in managing it, in guiding private sector actions, even in orchestrating public relations.

Why not use voluntary groups?

Confronted with a "new" social problem, a sudden increase in the influx of refugees to the United States, I suggested that the federal government refuse to buy into it, and instead turn it over to the private (voluntary) sector. Instead of pursuing the course of the 1960's, throwing a federal bureaucracy and public funds at each new problem, the government should approach the influx of refugees as ideally suited for a dry run of a new 1980's approach. The government, and specifically the White House, would act as a catalyst and convener, but not as the responsible party. It would help launch a National Emergency Coalition for Refugees--composed of voluntary agencies, religious groups, and private charities--and turn the matter over to them. They would raise the funds, fashion the program, mobilize volunteers, and help the refugees to become part of the community.

After I reviewed the voluntary option background materials, I write a memorandum to Goldstein and White which explained why I thought a "hinge" decision on the refugee problem was needed:

The question is: What is the proper federal role? While there are many options, and possible mixes of alternatives, all the memos implicitly lean heavily in one direction--that of federal leadership, guidance, coordination, and finance, of a multi-facet drive (employment, housing, etc.), though involving also public leaders, state and local government, and others.

The main alternative is for the federal government to serve as a catalyst for voluntary, religious, community and other private agencies and foundations, expecting that a coalition of these agencies will lead, guide, coordinate, and finance the drive. The Feds, in conjunction with state and local governments, will serve as the refugees' patron of last resort.

I gave two reasons for favoring this alternative:

Regarding the general posture, the public is sick and tired of the Feds taking on more and more issues, often not solving them, at increasing costs, etc., etc. It has been the general orientation of the Carter Administration not to follow the Great Society--throwing millions of dollars and Feds at each problem--but to rely more on the private and voluntary sector.

Second, refugees are particularly well suited for the Feds' backseat approach. It is a relatively limited and transient problem as compared, say, to poverty, unemployment, inflation--hence, relatively easier to handle, more suitable for voluntary-private efforts.

In a later memo I explained further:
The basic concept is of the government acting as a catalyst, an indirect provider of housing and jobs, and patron of last resort--but not the lead, the lightning rod, "visible mailing address" for the whole drive. The Feds' role here would be similar to its role in blood banks--not as in welfare.

There followed a sequence of meetings, usually in Goldstein's office, in which options were discussed. I also briefed Nathan Stark, Under Secretary of HEW, and his staff. These discussions uncovered the first objections to the voluntary option: The first, raised by White, concerned the scope of the task involved; the second, raised by Goldstein, concerned the relations between the small volags and the large ones.

White pointed out that while the volags might be able to handle the "soft" tasks of teaching English, acculturation, and finding community hosts, they could not be expected to generate jobs and provide low-income housing. Both of these, White thought, would require more resources than could be provided by the voluntary community. He was also sensitive to the fact that if newly created housing was specifically set aside for refugees, American minorities would protest. Housing had been a traditional source of friction between refugees and minorities, who competed with each other for the limited number of available low-cost units. This conflict intensified with the concentration of new refugees in a few cities and states, resulting partly from resettlement workers' policy of uniting families or persons of similar backgrounds, and partly from the desire of refugees to find others of their own backgrounds.

The Indochina Refugee Action Center (established by foundations to aid in refugee program planning) found that in cities like New Orleans and Denver, with large refugee populations, it was not uncommon for twenty-five refugees to crowd int a one or two bedroom apartment, According to the Housing Work Group,

nine out of ten refugee-related community tension incidents responded to by the Justice Department's Community Relations Service are triggered by housing issues.

Blacks and Chicanos believed local officials were moving refugees to the top of the waiting list for public housing, (Waiting periods for such housing already lasted as long as five years.) The resulting tensions between minorities and the refugees sometimes erupted in violence. In Denver, a group of Chicano youths smashed apartment windows and vandalized the property of refugees to protest the "special treatment" refugees were receiving in public assistance and housing.

Tensions were also generated over employment, another issue the volags seemed unable to handle adequately. A California newspaper reported:

bitter feelings among Hispanics in the state over what they perceive as competition of jobs and social services because of the refugee influx. The Rev. Warner Brown of the Methodist Church cited Hispanics' fears that refugees are being hired for farm work.

The situation was so hostile that the convening speaker of a regional conference of resettlement workers warned participants that they were working with "social dynamite."

Reworking the voluntary option

In response to White's points, the voluntary option was modified. Refugees, I suggested, should immediately have help from a labor exchange in finding jobs, and they should be eligible for unemployment benefits. The administration should also apply to Congress to provide funds for low-income housing. To avoid tensions with minorities, this additional housing should not be earmarked for refugees, but instead should restore the low-income housing market to the level that existed before the refugee influx. After this modification, White supported the voluntary option in presentations to Stuart Eizenstat and Victor Palmieri, newly appointed by President Carter as U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs.

The second issue, to which Goldstein was particularly sensitive, was the danger that pulling in the big voluntary agencies (such as the Red Cross, the YMCA, and the United Way) would offend the smaller volags that traditionally had handled refugee resettlement. Goldstein had noted earlier that these volags resented outside interference on what was customarily their "turf"--they "have the attitude that, because they've been doing this kind of work for years, they do not need any guidance from the government." She feared they would also resent infringement by other volags.

Indeed, this issue kept coming up when I met later with the heads of big voluntary agencies, such as Bill Aramony of the United Way and George Elsey of the Red Cross. While I discussed this with Goldstein and Palmieri, we found a solution. The volag turf could be divided the way the European powers divided Africa into designated turfs during the Conference of Berlin in 1884, at which each power kept to its allotted space. In the same vein, we concluded that the smaller volags could handle the overseas treatment of the refugees and keep "first landing rights." They would continue to find America "sponsors" (without which refugees could not enter) and help the refugees on their way to their sponsors. The big volags would deal with domestic resettlement, the problems which arose when refugees left their sponsors and aggregated in few localities or otherwise overwhelmed the first line of settlement. Once this wrinkle was added, Goldstein was more comfortable with the voluntary option.

The two raised by White and Goldstein and the subsequent modifications of the voluntary option illustrate the process policy ideas typically go through in the White House. The modifications introduced in response to their concerns did not change the essence of the voluntary option, but they did make it more practical, smaller in scale, and politically acceptable.

After these first objections to the voluntary option had been worked out, Victor Palmieri raised a second set, harder to resolve than White's and Goldstein's. Palmieri doubted that the big voluntary agencies would take on the mission. At my suggestion the agencies feelings on the subject were informally explored. Their responses varied from cautious endorsement to considerable enthusiasm. The cautious endorsement came from Bill Aramony of the United Way. The United Way is an uneasy coalition, and constantly, faces demands from member groups for a larger share of its resources; to take on a major additional mission would further strain the coalition. At the same time, Aramony was challenged by the task and the voluntary approach. He suggested that the United Way executives could play a key role in bringing it about. In addition, he invited me to a seminar the United Way held for seventeen major voluntary groups, including the National Urban League, Catholic Charities of America, and the Salvation Army. I discussed the voluntary idea briefly with many present, and nobody thought it was infeasible.

The head of the Red Cross, George Elsey, was outright enthusiastic about taking on a new mission, once assured that he would not be invading other voluntary turf. In informal, not-for-attribution comments, so were the heads of the YMCA, the National Council of Churches, and representatives from the American Jewish Congress.

Landrum Bolling, Chairman of the Council on Foundations, offered to take the voluntary idea to Mrs. Carter. In a later interview, he commented: "I personally was very much taken with the idea and still am." He added,

It's very important to integrate the refugees into the communities, and voluntary agencies can do this more effectively than the government.

Hamp Coley, Senior Vice President of United Way, seconded this sentiment:

Because there is no longer a "typical" American community nor a "typical" refugee, federal programs cannot hope to completely replace the flexibility, commitment and reflection of local attitudes that voluntary agencies provide and successful assimilation requires.

In all but two of the discussions I had before I reported back to the White House, the question of federal funds was raised. The volags were used to getting federal funds to support their work (both in bringing refugees to the U.S. and in other areas, such as social services), but these were small amounts. I insisted, though, that they would have to raise their own funds, pointing out that $200,000--twice the anticipated amount--had been raised by the Theater Committee for Cambodian Refugee Relief in a few nightly collections on Broadway. I agreed that this was possible only for an emergency period (say two years); once the issue's mobilizing effect declined, it might well be more difficult to raise funds. But for now, with housing and jobs excluded, the voluntary agencies were to raise the funds; otherwise it would not be a "voluntary" effort.

A chilly reception

I reported my findings in a memorandum to Palmieri:

Following our lunch and your suggestion, I explored informally if major voluntary agencies and foundations would be willing to share the burden of helping to absorb into the community large numbers of refugees. The answer is clearly in the affirmative.
It was assumed, in these explorations that:

1. They would raise all or most of the funds needed for their part of the mission and/or provide volunteers.

2. It was assumed that they will not seek to compete with, duplicate, or otherwise interfere with the specialized voluntary agencies now involved; that they would focus on refugees after arrival in the country and after initial service; absorption into the community would be the focus.

3. It was assumed that the focus will be "soft" services: not building low-income houses or creating jobs.

4. It was assumed that if funds and volunteers would be provided by the volunteer sector, this would be in the context of a full partnership with the government, not as a step-cousin.

Having ascertained that the big voluntary agencies seemed willing to take on the task of domestic resettlement, I suggested as a next step an informal meeting between Palmieri and the heads of these agencies. He refused. In a memo to me dated March 18, 1980, he explained:

While I think your suggestion is a good one, attempting to organize this right now would complicate some of my first priorities.

Palmieri's motives were quite evident. If a national emergency coalition were to take over, what would his job be? His idea was to create a new federal agency, or at least federal "network," coordinated by him.

Palmieri had a strong management orientation that, more than any other factor, may account for his approach to the refugee problem. Before being named Coordinator he had been chairman of his own management company, where he gained a reputation as an expert corporate crisis-manager. In various meetings Palmieri put the emphasis on data collection, analysis, improving internal management systems, accountability, and establishing evaluation mechanisms, all of which were presented as part of "good management." There is no question that work by the volags was not "efficient," as voluntary work often is not. Palmieri favored rendering their effort more efficient, without worrying that in the process he would "federalize" them. I would have preferred living with less efficiency, and less of a federal role. I did not think we were discharging those duties the Carter administration had already undertaken.

Others who knew Palmieri believe his reluctance to support the voluntary option reflected more the intense pressure he was under than his views of the private voluntary agencies. Among them is Robert Stein, former director of the Indochina Refugee Action Center. Stein talked with Palmieri early in 1980 about increasing private sector involvement. He comments,

Trying to introduce a new type of coordinating mechanism during the crisis was more than the system could handle. It was not that Palmieri didn't believe in the private sector or that he favored a heavy federal role; rather, it may be that he was just unable to seriously consider a new approach when be had so few resources and time.

White and Goldstein made several attempts to prod Palmieri to consider the voluntary option but he continued his opposition. On March 18 Palmieri wrote to White:

Carol Hecklinger informed me that at a recent meeting you expressed a strong interest in acting on Dr. Etzioni's "voluntary option."

I think Dr. Etzioni's idea is useful because one of our major problems in the resettlement area is the incapacity of the traditional organizations to maintain contact with the refugees and to follow up with support after the initial reception activity. Right now, however, given the other priorities in the picture, I do not intend to try to follow up in a major way.

White and Goldstein maintained their stance:

We continue to believe the proposal should be carefully considered and that, if it has any value, we should know now while we are planning new and/or expanded services.

To the uninitiated, it might seem that the White House could simply order Palmieri to follow a particular policy line. This was not the case. First, the White House was as a rule reluctant to order agencies around; it preferred to convince or cajole, and Palmieri was not moved by these approaches. Second, Palmieri did not outright refuse; he just dragged his feet. And third, middle-level White House staff were dealing with the issue, and they did not find it wise to confront him. It would have taken at least a presidential directive to move Palmieri, and the president was busy with more weighty matters.

Success in failure

What happened next? The predictable unpredictable. Suddenly, out of the blue, the whole Indochinese refugee issue was swept aside by a massive influx of Cuban refugees. Beginning in late April, 1980, the flood of Cuban refugees swamped the flow from Southeast Asia. By fall, over 125,000 Cubans had entered the U.S., and over 12,000 Haitians as well.

This helped Palmieri, since it seemed obvious that the federal government had to be involved in refugee resettlement. As security and health checks were not conducted in preparatory camps overseas, these tasks had to be carried out in the U.S. These refugees came without sponsors to receive them and help integrate them into American communities. It seemed the federal government had to handle the matter.

For a while, Palmieri seemed to have won. Congress granted him funds and a staff; the Office received approximately $750,000 during this period and had an authorized position complement of fifteen people. He was on his way to setting up yet one more bureaucracy. The federal government sought to play a central role not only in the inevitable first screening of Cuban and Haitian refugees, but also in their settlement.

As the weeks and months passed, it turned out that despite the huge increase in the number of refugees and federal involvement the small volags and individual volunteers actually did most of the resettlement work on their own. Significantly, voluntary agencies took the responsibility for finding sponsors for the Cubans and Haitians in the federal camps, a crucial step in the resettlement process. The U.S. Catholic Conference alone volunteered to resettle 65 percent of the incoming Cubans. Approximately 100,000 Cuban refugees were resettled over the summer, mostly with families, friends, or private employers. Indeed, many refugees simply "disappeared" once they landed and were absorbed into the community. In addition, Cuban-American associations raised large donations and provided free medical services for the refugees in the government's camps. By September about 20,000 Cubans remained in federal camps, most of them "difficult" cases--2,000 were convicted felons, and another 10,000 to 15,000 were physically handicapped, unskilled, or juveniles without parents in this country. By November 1980 only 6,900 Cubans and 600 Haitians remained to be resettled.

Ironically, the failures of the voluntary resettlement process, rather than its successes, made the headlines. For instance, a New York Times headline, dated December 18, 1980, read: "Many Cubans Remain Hard to Place in U.S." The story reported that about 8,000 of the 125,000 Cuban refugees were still in camps and in prison. It also noted that many of the "resettled" refugees had problems with their initial sponsors. But the reporter's assertion that many were "at loose ends on the street" was not substantiated. Indeed, most who had "first sponsorship" problems were subsequently resettled elsewhere, either through second sponsors, or by making, it on their own.

Other newspapers showed the same kind of misplaced emphasis. A Washington Post headline, dated February 10, 1981, read: "Resettling of Cuban Refugees Is Proceeding at a Slow Pace." The story concerned one Luis Valladares who was "finally" on his way to a sponsoring family, "joining the 120,000 Cubans who have been resettled in the last several months." Another 4,750 therefore remained unsettled. Slow? Well, maybe--but what is the right pace for settling 125,000 refugees, especially when the ones remaining in camps were especially hard to place because of criminal backgrounds, handicaps, and the like?

Many other news reports had the same tone. The press is often charged with stressing problems rather than "good" news. Reporters counter that they report events as they find them. In the case at hand, the press emphasized the situation of the few Cubans remaining in the camps rather than the vast majority who were resettled, making it seem as though most were not taken care of for long periods of time.

To be sure, the resettlement work was not problem-free. Some of the Cubans who had been resettled over the summer experienced sponsorship problems and had to be resettled yet again. The Cuban-Haitian Task Force, a federal agency, estimated that "the sponsorship breakdown rate among the 116,000 Cubans who had initial sponsors was from 3 to 5 percent"; other sources placed it higher. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of the refugees were resettled successfully.

The future of voluntary action

As I see it, the bureaucrats won all the battles but lost the "war." Most refugees, including the Cuban-Haitian tidal wave and those who arrived without sponsors, were resettled the voluntary way.

What remains unsettled, though, is the question I brought up months earlier: What is the proper federal role? This question is being asked by others as well, and the search for alternative methods of resettlement continues. Hamp Coley, Senior Vice President of United Way, favors a government-private sector partnership:

A true partnership of the public and voluntary sectors--with an appropriate mix of funds, with a mechanism for continuing support of Voluntary efforts, and with a planning and management process that allows for action instead of reaction--is the way to optimize America's response to these people in need.

Robert Stein suggests another possibility, one that he advocated at the same time that the voluntary option was being discussed. Specifically, he recommended:

a mechanism at the national level to stimulate new private sector involvement at the local level, perhaps initially in 10 to 15 communities heavily impacted by the refugee flow. Organizations such as the United Way, Red Cross, foundations, corporations, unions, and the national voluntary resettlement agencies could work with their local affiliates to develop a scenario, strategy, budget, and time line to increase coordinated private sector involvement aimed at integrating refugees into the communities. If this experiment worked, there would be a basis for encouraging new and dynamic private sector involvement in refugee work throughout the rest of the country.

Stein notes that it is time to explore ways of increasing private sector involvement in refugee resettlement. Now that the frantic edge is off, and the new administration is reducing the federal government's involvement in many areas, the volag affiliates at the local level are more ready than ever to expand private sector involvement and assistance.

What remains a barrier to discussion of these options, though, is something Landrum Bolling brought up in discussing the "voluntary option": government's mistrust of the voluntary sector. He comments,

One of the problems we face is that the "voluntary option" runs counter to a well-entrenched tradition in government; if the federal government puts money up, then a government agency must guide it along. There's a fear by some in government that if they hand control of the refugee resettlement process over to the voluntary agencies, they would waste money. There's a whole complex of negative thinking in the way many government people look upon voluntary agencies.

Bollino, terms this a "failure of imagination." As I see it, this barrier could be removed by letting the voluntary agencies raise the funds rather than using taxpayers' money. This would leave the government as employer of last resort, as a source of tax incentives for those who train and employ refugees and other unemployed, and as a source of low-income housing. Voluntary agencies and communities would take responsibility for all the other aspects of refugee resettlement, and the government would not need to worry about guiding, controlling, or managing their efforts. Indeed, as the volags often undertake these tasks anyhow, the government "concern" seems as much an excuse for intervention, where it is not truly needed in the first place, as a valid reason for avoiding the voluntary option.

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