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Office of Refugee Resettlement

After the fall of Vietnam in 1975, the U.S. was faced with the task of resettling hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians displaced by the war. Congress formed a Refugee Task Force to help complete the task, and in 1980, it decided to form the Office of Refugee Resettlement as a permanent office.

The United States officially took in its first refugees in 1948, when it admitted 250,000 Europeans displaced by World War II. That year, Congress passed legislation allowing the admission of another 400,000 people.

The ORR now falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has one of the largest federal budgets of any agency and is preoccupied largely with public health, social services and humanitarian disaster response. The department works closely with local ethnic and religious organizations to facilitate the resettlement process. The Refugee Act of 1980 standardized the resettlement process for all refugees being moved to the United States. Refugees are often given a stipend per person in their household and a few months of free rent. Since 1975, the U.S. has resettled more than 3 million refugees, with most being from Southeast Asia or the former Soviet Union.