Immigrants & Refugees

The refugee population in the St. Louis region has increased since the city was designated as one of the preferred communities for refugee resettlement in the early 1990s. The St. Louis region is home to more than 140,000 foreign-born individuals, a number that has continued to rise in recent years at a rate faster than most of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. Specifically, the region is home to foreign-born individuals from over 80 different countries, with especially large Bosnian, Mexican, Indian, and Chinese immigrant communities.

In 2021, St. Louis became one of 19 cities selected to resettle Afghan and Iraqi refugees coming to the United States. The federal government also designated the International Institute of St. Louis as one of only nine official resettlement agencies in the country. As immigrants and refugees continue to choose St. Louis as a place to start new lives, the region has a responsibility to welcome and support this growing population.

Understanding the Need

Immigrants and refugees face a unique set of challenges, including lack of access to quality education and healthcare, limited awareness of available resources and services, lack of transportation, low-paying employment options, and systemic language barriers. In the St. Louis region especially, refugees cite the lack of reliable public transportation options as a major obstacle. Access to mental and behavioral health services is also limited, with opportunities for screenings and treatment lagging significantly compared to physical health service access. Moreover, individuals’ legal statuses may bar them from receiving some social services or deter them from seeking assistance for which they are eligible. In Missouri specifically, more than 3,500 residents are DACA recipients, a designation that has been subject to threats of deportation and legal challenges.

These obstacles can leave immigrants and refugees especially vulnerable to social isolation, job and housing discrimination, and financial stress. Given the fears that immigrants and refugees face when accessing resources for themselves and their families as a result of a legal system that does not often protect immigrants and the threat of deportation for any misstep, immigrants and refugees can face intense barriers in accessing professional opportunities, healthcare, housing, and the resources needed to support their families.

Marillac Mission Fund’s Response

Marillac Mission Fund is dedicated to supporting the various needs of immigrants and refugees within the St. Louis region by partnering with nonprofits that serve these populations. Funding from MMF generally includes support for basic needs, interpretation services , legal assistance, housing and employment services, and programs that help low-income immigrants to overcome barriers to social justice. 

Beyond funding specific organizations, MMF also engages with philanthropic coalitions aimed at supporting area nonprofits that serve as catalysts for positive, substantive change in conditions and systems to promote a more just, equitable and quality life for individuals and communities. Examples include the Marillac Mission Fund’s support of the St. Louis Welcome Fund and Immigrant Service Providers Network (ISPN). These entities work to bring together resources and fill gaps in funding as nonprofits and service providers respond to the rapidly changing needs of refugees and asylum seekers in the region.

Through our funding and partnership in this focus area, we at MMF continue to work with nonprofits and communities within our 16 county service area to collectively improve the quality of life for immigrants and refugees in the region.