What and whose histories, meanings, contexts, powers, possibilities (Finn’s social justice framework) are (not) reflected in their leadership?

What and whose histories, meanings, contexts, powers, possibilities (Finn’s social justice framework) are (not) reflected in their leadership?

Refugee-Run Grassroots Organizations: Responsive Assistance beyond the Constraints of US Resettlement Policy

ODESSA GONZALEZ BENSON

School of SocialWork,Detroit School ofUrbanStudies,University ofMichigan—Ann Arbor, 1080 S. University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA odessagb@umich.edu

MS received June 2019; revised MS received December 2019

Refugee-resettlement policy as constitutive of neoliberal governance has been crit- ically examined as delimiting service provision by state-contracted refugee-serving agencies.Whatremainsunexaminedishowstate-detachedrefugee-runorganizations at the grassroots fit into the privatized, marketized and technocratic modalities of such governance. This study examines Refugee Community Organizations (RCOs) in the US and their scope of services in relation to publicly funded resettlement services, drawing on focus groups and 40 interviews with RCO leaders of Bhutanese communities in 35US cities. Findings illustrate RCOs with a wide scope of services, in termsof eligibility, time limits, proximityandmodality.Whoandwhen: RCOs target those neglected by work-oriented policies and provide assistance well beyond policy time limits.Where and how:RCOs are closer to communities in terms of both geographical and sociocultural proximity. Issues of equity and social justice are thus raised, as RCOs aim to assume important functions of the state and pursue the mandates of federal policy, without adequate resources and legitimacy.

Keywords: refugee-resettlement policy, Bhutanese refugees, neoliberal governance, grassroots organizations, service provision for refugees