Explaining the Refugee Absorptive Capacity Act

“Refugee Absorptive Capacity Act”
April 23, 2011

Purpose of the bill:
· to help close the communication gap inadvertently created when the State of Tennessee enlisted a NGO to administrate the state’s refugee resettlement program

· to identify and define the objective factors that constitute “absorptive capacity”, the local resources necessary to support refugee resettlement in a host community

· clarifies that “local government” includes the elected officials of potential host communities

What the bill requires:
· Tennessee Office for Refugees (TOR) to submit information at least quarterly, to representatives of local governments that addresses whether a host community continues to have the ability to absorb refugees
· representatives of local resettlement agencies meet at least quarterly with representatives of local governments to plan appropriate placement of refugees prior to their arrival
· execution of a letters of agreement between TOR and agencies providing refugee resettlement services in Tennessee to ensure that absorptive capacity is still present for any particular host community
· TOR to submit, to the chairman of House and Senate State and Local and to the chairman of the budget committee of the governing body of the host community where refugees are resettled, copies of the letters of agreement stated above, initial refugee placement plans and any complaints received from residents of host communities where refugee resettlement activities are conducted
· permits host communities to request a moratorium on resettlement if absorptive capacity is not present

Important information about the bill:
· codifies federal regulations related to ensuring appropriate refugee resettlement in host communities
· provides accountability for Tennessee’s NGO fiduciary TOR regarding refugee resettlement
· incorporates National Governor’s Association policy on refugee resettlement and recommendations from recent hearing in U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Why we need this bill in Tennessee:
· absent this bill, Tennessee has no means to hold NGO administrating the refugee program, accountable for commitments which implicate state and local resources
· provides a way for elected officials to be more fully informed when making budgetary decisions ensuring that resources are available to meet commitments made for refugee resettlement