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Office of Refugee Health

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It has been the policy of the United States to provide asylum and humanitarian assistance to persons subjected to persecution in their homelands. This humanitarian resettlement assistance is provided through the states but is funded through the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.  Approximately 50,000-80,000 refugees resettle in the United States each year with California historically receiving the largest number of new refugee arrivals.  Newly arriving refugees in California are the most ethnically diverse groups in the nation originating from more than 85 different countries and speaking more than 80 different languages at any given year.


Who We Serve

Refugees are individuals who have been granted special immigration status ("refugee") by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) while outside the U.S. These refugees are unable to return to their country of origin because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The definition for refugee also includes individuals who have been subject to or have a well-founded fear of being subject to coercive population control methods such as forced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Asylees are individuals who are in the U.S., either legally or without documents, and fear that they will be persecuted if they return to their home country. To become an asylee, the person must go through an immigration hearing or court process and granted asylum by USCIS.

Cuban and Haitian Entrants are nationals of Cuba and Haiti who are in the U.S. and may be determined to be unable to return to their respective countries, and granted a special status by USCIS.

Certified Human Trafficking Victims  are victims of modern-day slavery, which include young children, teenagers, men, and women. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 made adult victims of severe forms of trafficking who have been certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as refugees. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 made certain family members of trafficking victims also eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as refugees. Victims of severe forms of trafficking who are under 18 years of age are also eligible for benefits to the same extent as refugees but do not need to be certified.

Certain Amerasians from Vietnam who are admitted to the U.S. as immigrants pursuant to Section 584 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1988 as amended.  These immigrants are children born in Vietnam between January 1, 1962, and before January 1, 1976, who were fathered by an American citizen.   

Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrants are displaced persons from Afghanistan and Iraq admitted to the U.S. with Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). These Afghans and Iraqis were employed by or assisted the U.S. Armed Forces with translation or interpreter services.

Afghan Humanitarian Parolees are nationals of Afghanistan who have been granted temporary lawful presence in the U.S. Parolees must apply for another form of immigration relief such as asylum before their parole expires to remain in the U.S. legally.

Program Description

The Federal Refugee Act of 1980 created the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to fund and coordinate post-arrival health assessments, time-limited medical services and cash assistance, and other benefits to newly arrived refugees, asylees, and other eligible entrants to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible after their arrival to the United States.  In California, the Office of Refugee Health (ORH) coordinates the following programs supported with ORR funds:

  • Refugee Health Assessment Program (RHAP)

    Impacted local health jurisdictions provide culturally and linguistically-appropriate comprehensive health assessments to newly arrived refugees, asylees, federally-certified victims of severe forms of trafficking, and other eligible entrants.  The RHAP focuses on screening of and prevention of communicable diseases; early identification and diagnosis of chronic diseases and other important conditions; assessment of immunization status for children and adults; mental health screening; and referral to health providers for further medical evaluation, treatment, and follow-up. 

    In coordination with the Department of Health Care Services, Medi-Cal Eligibility Division, the ORH provides time-limited RMA-based Medi-Cal benefits to refugees, asylees, federally-certified victims of human trafficking, and other entrants who are not eligible to receive Title XIX Medi-Cal benefits.  This benefit is available only for the first eight months from the date admitted to the U.S. or from the date of certification.
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