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APRIL 2016




hen I retired from the Senior

Foreign Service in 2004, after

a 38-year career, I vowed

that I would only return to

full-time work if I could “do

good.” An opportunity to

do just that came in August

2007, when I accepted an

offer to become executive

director for migration and refugee services at the U.S. Confer-

ence of Catholic Bishops.

In that position, which I held until February 2015, I man-

aged the world’s largest nongovernmental resettlement agency.

The Office of Migration and Refugee Services has a budget of

more than $80 million, a staff of 106, and more than 80 affiliate

resettlement offices across the United States.

MRS, as I will refer to it here, is one of nine faith-based and

secular organizations that partner with the State Department and

the Department of Health and Human Services to resettle and

assist refugees. To give you an idea of how vital its work is, I’ll note

that of the 70,000 refugees the U.S. government admitted in 2014,

MRS resettled more than 16,000—nearly a quarter of the total.

Pitching In

to Do Vital Work



The process begins overseas when the Office of the United

Nations High Commissioner for Refugees interviews a prospec-

tive refugee and determines that he or she meets the criteria

to be designated a refugee, and can neither return home nor

remain in the country of asylum. Candidates approved for

resettlement in a third country must undergo an extensive series

of clearances and multiple security checks, which typically take

between 18 and 24 months for those coming to the United States.

Only then may the refugee travel to the country of referral.

Of the millions of refugees in camps and urban areas around

the world, only about 1 percent may be selected for resettlement

each year.

Work on Many Fronts at Home and Abroad

It was clear to me frommy first day on the job at MRS that

I had entered an incredible world of exceptionally dedicated,

hard-working professionals who are totally committed to the

best interest of refugees. This world included my immediate

colleagues at MRS and contacts and colleagues from the broader

refugee resettlement community, including the network of U.S

government agencies and offices. The role of all of these players

in refugee work is not just to protect refugees, but to offer them

hope and a second chance at a normal life.

My responsibilities at MRS encompassed several areas. First

and foremost was managing our headquarters and its affiliates

so we could continue to process refugees for resettlement fairly,

efficiently and cost-effectively. During my tenure, our budget

increased from $50 million to $80 million, primarily for program-

matic increases to assist refugees at higher levels of allowance,

something for which we had vigorously advocated.

A distinguished ambassador describes work in the world of refugee resettlement.


Johnny Young retired from the Senior Foreign Service in

2004 with the rank of Career Ambassador, after serving

as chief of mission in Sierra Leone, Togo, Bahrain and

Slovenia, among many other Foreign Service assignments.

From 2007 to 2015 Ambassador Young was the executive director of the

Migration and Refugee Services Office for the U.S. Conference of Catholic