Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 5-2016


The migration of refugees and asylum seekers affects them and the communities where they resettle, as people from different backgrounds and cultures come together. In the United States, the federally funded refugee resettlement program supports refugees with welfare benefits, case management, and other services to assist with integration. However, no such federal program exists for asylum seekers, who are considered displaced people, but who have not received immigration status as refugees. This project sought to answer the question: How is the experience of supporting oneself different and similar for refugees and asylum seekers, in the context of Maine?

Research involved a literature review on the use of social capital within immigrant groups, an analysis of recent local newspaper articles on the migration of asylum seekers to Maine, and eleven semi-structured key informant interviews with asylees, refugees, community leaders, and service providers. It appeared that their communities were an important source of information, temporary housing, and served as a forum from which to celebrate culture, for both refugees and asylum seekers, though perhaps more so for asylum seekers. Many refugees and asylum seekers shared the challenges of integrating into a new culture and seeking better opportunities after their credentials were devalued. This study proposes that NGOs develop mentoring programs for asylum seekers modeled on the mentoring programs organized by Catholic Charities Maine Refugee and Immigration Services. These would build bridges of understanding between refugees and members of the receiving community.