You’ve seen them; you know them. They’re soldiers, doctors, restaurateurs, vendors, teachers, custodians and, yes, taxi drivers. They’re our neighbors, friends, family and colleagues. They’re refugees who came to the U.S. — against great odds — to build a better life and contribute to their new country.

This year we are using the global observance of World Refugee Day, June 20, to draw attention to the plight of the nearly 60 million refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide forced to flee their homeland due to war, conflict and persecution. This is the highest levels of displacement since World War II, with 53 percent of these refugees fleeing the violent upheavals in recent years in Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria.

The citizens of the United States have a proud tradition of being generous and resourceful in our support for those who are most vulnerable. Over 3 million refugees from more than 70 countries have been promised a safe haven and provided a clear path for resettlement in the U.S. since the Refugee Act of 1980 was signed into law. Last year alone, Louisiana welcomed and resettled 135 refugees, with many coming particularly from Burma, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States. Only after all checks are completed is a refugee applicant cleared to travel to the U.S. Once they arrive, the men, women and children forced to flee their homes, families, schools and communities begin the difficult task of starting a new life in a new country.

Just like all of our families at some point in the past, the new arrivals are rising to the challenge. Today, the federal government supports a network of refugee-serving organizations located in communities across the country that provide initial vital services including: meeting refugees at the airport upon arrival; arranging for housing, food and clothing; providing cultural orientation; and assisting with access to other social, medical and employment related services focused on self-sufficiency and longer-term integration. Until the world is free of conditions that force people to flee their homes, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will continue to play our part in helping to welcome and integrate newcomers and their children into the fabric of our communities. In return, our economy and our nation will continue to be strengthened by diversity and the new talent contributing to welcoming communities across the U.S.

Robert Carey

director, Office of Refugee Resettlement, Administration for Children and Families

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Washington, D.C.