THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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.
to Do Vital Work
ON HUMANITARIAN DIPLOMACY
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
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.
BY JOHNNY YOUNG
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