Cultivating Civic Belonging for Resettled Refugees

27 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2020

See all articles by Megan J. Ballard

Megan J. Ballard

Gonzaga University - School of Law

Date Written: May 2020


Migrants continue to seek refuge in the United States despite harsh deterrence policies. The failure of even the most punitive exclusionary tactics points to the need for new immigration strategies. Rather than constructing additional ineffective and inhumane barriers, an alternative strategy should focus on building the scaffolding for successful immigration. This Article explores one way of supporting successful immigration: practices encouraging newcomers to cultivate an identity of civic belonging. To do so, it identifies and analyzes implied messages about civic participation conveyed to refugees prior to being resettled in Canada and the United States.

When a refugee is accepted for permanent resettlement to a new country, the receiving government’s first meaningful opportunity to welcome and impart a sense of civic belonging occurs during a pre-departure orientation program. The present study examines how law is framed during the pre-departure orientation programs offered by Canada and the United States, providing insight into a newcomer’s official introduction to conceptions of citizenship, rights, and obligations. The research is based largely on a qualitative analysis of the orientation textbooks conducted within a critical legal theory framework, and is informed by fieldwork in Amman, Jordan.

This Article reveals that Canada’s approach to law signals that resettled refugees are new participants in a polity in which members have rights and obligations to one another. By contrast, the U.S. treatment of law implies that refugees are outsiders and suspected of harboring criminal tendencies. Legal scholars and sociologists posit that government policy towards newcomers influences their civic incorporation. Consequently, by offering orientation materials that infer that refugees are potential offenders, the United States could well be impairing the future civic belonging and integration of these newcomers.

Keywords: refugees, resettlement, citizenship, immigration

Suggested Citation

Ballard, Megan J., Cultivating Civic Belonging for Resettled Refugees (May 2020). Georgetown Immigration Law Review, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Megan J. Ballard (Contact Author)

Gonzaga University - School of Law ( email )

721 N. Cincinnati Street
Spokane, WA 99220-3528
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics