Resettlement and Placement


The Refugee Empowerment Center’s Reception and Placement (R&P) department is comprised of 3 multi-lingual, multi-cultural staff – caseworkers and case aides – who resettle about 300 refugees per year in Omaha. For fiscal year 2016, REC was allocated an admissions number of 325 refugees by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Due to increased security measures and travel restrictions, our numbers for fiscal year 2018 have been reduced to 215.

The R&P program is responsible through the Department of State cooperative agreements to provide the following services to refugees during the first 90 days of their arrival to the U.S.:

  • housing, furniture, household items, weather-appropriate clothing, and more
  • food stamps and cash and medical benefits applications
  • medical referrals
  • social security enrollment
  • school enrollment
  • english classes enrollment
  • employment services enrollment
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) application

Every refugee across the U.S. has a per capita fund of $1,125 designated for payment to or on behalf of the refugee during the R&P period of 90 days. The $1,125 is available in its entirety to the refugee for cash disbursement or material goods to meet the requirements of the R&P program.

For additional assistance for the well-being of our clients, the R&P caseworkers refer eligible clients with mental health issues to our on-site Provisionally Licensed Mental Health Practitioner, who offers guidance through REC’s Preferred Communities program.


Preferred Communities (PC) aids refugees with special needs who require intensive case management. To be referred to this program, the refugee must have completed the R&P period and be within 3 years of resettling to the U.S. The PC program provides further financial and integrative support for refugees with Behavioral Health, Intensive Case Management, and Employment needs. PC-Behavioral Health is managed by our Provisionally Licensed Mental Health Practitioner. PC-Intensive Case Management is for Nebraska DHHS benefits, housing, and Secondary Migrants’ special needs and is managed by the R&P staff. PC-Employment is managed by the Employment staff.

PC is funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. REC’s PC program, like our R&P program, is administered by our national voluntary agency, the Ethiopian Community Development Council.


What is a refugee?

A refugee is a person who is “unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of origin because of previous persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution, based on the person’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Secondary Migrants

Secondary migrants are refugees who have originally resettled in one part of the country and have subsequently moved to another location. While a variety of reasons exist for people coming to Omaha, some themes are consistent. Refugees look for places where employment opportunities are favorable, support systems are in place, living costs are within their means, and the community environment is receptive. Over the years Omaha, Lincoln, and the surrounding areas have provided the type of community in which refugees may thrive. Initially, the community welcomed a large number of Sudanese refugees. Now, people are arriving from all around the world and are experiencing the same benefits of “The Good Life.”

Once a refugee has been resettled in one location there are no additional resettlement funds available should they choose to move to another location. Secondary migrants do qualify for refugee program services for as long as 6 years after their arrival in the United States. Additionally, they may qualify for state benefits in the same manner as any other person legally in the country.

What is an immigrant?

The official definition of an immigrant is a foreign-born individual who has been admitted to reside permanently in the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). Unofficially, the term “immigrant” is used to describe any foreign-born individual regardless of whether he/she is legally present in the U.S. or whether he/she intends to be in the U.S. temporarily.

What is the difference between a refugee and an immigrant?
An immigrant voluntarily leaves his/her country of origin to work, study, or live in the United States. A refugee is a person in flight from a desperate situation. The key difference, then, is that an immigrant chooses to leave his/her country of origin. A refugee, on the other hand, is compelled to seek asylum in another country.

Where do refugees come from?

Over the years, refugees have come from several different countries. In the mid-1970’s and 1980’s, refugees came primarily from Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In the 1990’s, we continued to see refugees from Southeast Asia, but also began seeing large numbers from Eastern European countries of Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Croatia. Refugees have also migrated from African countries, particularly Sudan.

How many refugees are there in the world?

According to the World Refugee Survey, 60 million people are refugees and asylum seekers, unable or unwilling to return to their native country and in need of protection. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s refugees are in the Near East and Africa. Large refugee populations today include Kurds, Burundians, Burmese, Afghans, and Sudanese. Women and children make up 80% of the world’s refugee population.

How many refugees are resettled in Nebraska?

There are three agencies in Nebraska designated as refugee resettlement agencies: Refugee Empowerment Center in Omaha, Lutheran Family Services in Omaha and Lincoln, and Catholic Charities in Lincoln. There are an estimated 30,000 refugees in Nebraska.