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  RefugeeCollection.jpg The United States has a long tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing persecution or war. Since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, the country has admitted over 3 million refugees for resettlement. During that same period, more than 600,000 people were granted asylum. U.S. policy towards refugees and asylees, the product of a shifting amalgam of international protocols and treaties, congressional statutes, and executive branch action, has evolved over time. Under the Trump administration, refugee admissions have slowed to a crawl, while requests for asylum, particularly on the southern border, have soared. This collection of studies deals with the root causes of refugee movements, the nature of the American response to these movements, the components of effective refugee resettlement, and refugee contributions to American life. Other studies examine the reasons for the influx of asylum seekers on the southern border and how the asylum system can respond responsibly and humanely to this formidable challenge.
Arranged in order of publication date with the most recent on top. Scroll down for all entries. We regret that we may not be able to repair broken links promptly.The conclusions and recommendations of the authors are not necessarily endorsed by Diversity Dynamics. 

The Unmet Potential of Community Consultations in U.S. Refugee Resettlement,
Migration Policy Institute, November 2023, 36 pp.
Author: Lillie Hinkle

This report examines the consultation process that is a feature of the U.S. refugee resettlement system. Currently, the federal government requires quarterly consultations with national resettlement agencies and their local affiliates, state refugee offices, and community stakeholders to assess the capacity of communities to resettle refugees. This report summarizes what was learned through a series of interviews and focus groups composed of participants in the resettlement system and other stakeholders. The author concludes that the consultation process must evolve in order to be useful to the growing diversity of stakeholders and humanitarian migrants being admitted to the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan evacuees, displaced Ukrainians, as well as Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan nationals have been admitted outside of the refugee process in the past three years. These individuals are being resettled through a constellation of organizations and private sponsors apart from the traditional resettlement groups. The author discusses weaknesses in the current formal consultation process and highlights a number of promising practices being adopted by organizations and agencies trying to adapt to the new realities. She also makes a number of recommendations to maximize the utility of the consultation process for all stakeholders by, among other things, diversifying participation to include new stakeholders, increasing frequency of communication among stakeholders, and broadening the agenda to better asses the capacity of a community to accept these newcomers. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)


Why Matching Matters: Enhancing Refugee Sponsorship and Similar Pathways,
Migration Policy Institute Europe, October 2023, 24 pp.
Authors: Craig Damian Smith & Emma Ugolini

This report is a detailed analysis of “matching” strategies in Europe and North America. Matching refers to the creation of volunteer initiatives to support refugee resettlement. Evidence suggests that building strong relationships between volunteers and newcomers can improve refugees’ integration and foster social cohesion within receiving communities. The report discusses the evolution of matching initiatives and the role of technology in improving matching processes. The report also highlights the value of data-driven matching and the potential for standardizing indicators for comparative analysis. The report contains an appendix providing details on private sponsorship programs in countries in Europe and North America, including the dates programs were established, the size of sponsorship groups, the number of refugees resettled by such groups, and procedures for matching refugees with sponsorship groups.


New York and Other U.S. Cities Struggle with High Costs of Migrant Arrivals,
Migration Policy Institute, September 27, 2023, 7 pp.
Authors: Muzaffar Chishti et al

This article examines the financial strain placed on cities around the U.S. seeking to integrate the record number of asylum seekers and other migrants entering the U.S. in recent years. The situation is exacerbated by the absence of federal support to defray state and local costs, long waits to obtain work authorization, and the fact that large numbers of recent arrivals do not have any family members in the U.S. Unlike in the past, when migrants arriving without authorization tended to avoid federal authorities, today’s arrivals have already been processed by the government, so may be more inclined to seek government help. The paper reviews steps already taken by the federal government to ease the burden on cities, e.g. granting temporary protective status (and work authorization) to Venezuelans in the U.S. The authors also discuss the “patchy government safety net” which excludes recent arrivals from many government assistance programs. Much of the report focuses on the housing challenges confronting northern cities, some of which, like New York, are under legislative or court mandate to provide housing to anyone who seeks it.  The growing demand for migrant housing tends to exacerbate a preexisting housing crisis in many cities.  The authors conclude that “cities require tools and resources to both meet migrants’ immediate needs and assist their long-term integration.”


Gender and Forced Displacement in Humanitarian Discourse: The Missing Link,
Journal on Migration and Human Security, August 2, 2023, 24 pp. (exclusive of citations)
Authors: Anoji Ekanayake et al

This report discusses the updated Age, Gender, and Diversity Policy of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), focusing on the shift in institutional priorities towards incorporating the capacities and priorities of women, men, girls, and boys of diverse backgrounds into the Agency’s protection programs. The authors trace the historical development of gender-informed policy within the UNHCR, highlighting key publications and guidelines that have shaped the agency's approach to gender equality in humanitarian assistance. The report delves into the lack of systematic analysis on how the UNHCR's gender frameworks have informed humanitarian discourse, leading to a review of policy documents on gender and displacement in Afghanistan, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and Sri Lanka. The methodology for the review, including search strategies and inclusion criteria, is detailed, along with the findings and themes covered in the selected documents for each country. Despite advocacy by the UN, the paper finds “remarkably little integration of gender within the humanitarian literature on forced displacement” and urges partner agencies to strengthen the integration of gender and displacement policies. Specific policy recommendations are provided for Afghanistan, Kurdistan Region, and Sri Lanka to address the gender-specific needs of displaced populations and enhance the protection and inclusion of women, men, and children in humanitarian responses.


At the Breaking Point: Rethinking the U.S. Immigration Court System,
Migration Policy Institute, July 2023, 47 pp.
Authors: Muzaffar Chishti et al

The U.S. immigration court system faces a profound crisis, according to this report entitled "Challenges and Reforms in U.S. Immigration Courts" published by the Migration Policy Institute. This crisis has created a backlog of almost 2 million cases, leading to significant delays in case resolution. In 2022, an unprecedented 708,000 new cases were added. Asylum applicants, making up 40% of the caseload, face a grave situation. They experience an average wait of four years for their hearings, with even longer waits for final decisions. This extended backlog and the low rate of return to their home countries fuel the surge in migration to the U.S.-Mexico border and erode the integrity of the immigration adjudication and enforcement systems. The report discusses the various issues contributing to the court crisis, from long-standing operational challenges to evolving crises in the Americas. The authors suggest reforms that the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) can take to improve court performance and the broader immigration system, many of which have already been initiated by the Biden administration. Recommendations include prioritizing cases on a "last-in, first-decided" basis, terminating cases not meeting prosecutorial guidelines, centralizing case referrals from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), establishing two tiers of immigration judges, expanding specialized dockets, and reinstating the asylum officer rule. Other suggested reforms include greater leverage of technology and expanded access to legal representation. (The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)


Refugees and Asylees in the United States,
Migration Policy Institute, June 15, 2023, 14 pp.
Authors: Nicole Ward & Jeanne Batalova

This report provides a detailed demographic analysis of the refugee and asylee population in the U.S., with special attention to developments during the last decade. Not only does the report cover countries of origin but also resettlement locations in the U.S. Over the decade from FY2012 to FY2022, for example, nationals of three countries – Myanmar, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – made up 50 percent of all U.S. refugee admissions. Five states – Texas, California, New York, Michigan, and Ohio – received one-third of the 508,100 refugees resettled during this period. The report also examines the religions, age, and gender of refugees, finding, for example, that Christians represented 49% of all refugee admissions during the decade. A separate section of the report gives data on the population of asylees, finding that 17,692 individuals were granted aylum in FY2021, a 61 percent decrease from the 45,900 grantees in 2019. More than 1.3 million asylum applications were awaiting processing as of May of 2023.


High-Stakes Asylum: How Long an Asylum Case Takes and How We Can Do Better,
American Immigration Lawyers Association, June 14, 2023, 25 pp.
Author: Amy Grenier

This report discusses the current state of the asylum process in the United States and offers recommendations for improving the system. The Biden Administration has implemented policies to screen asylum seekers and expand legal pathways for protection, but it has also accelerated and truncated the asylum system with policies like the 2022 asylum processing rule and the dedicated dockets program. The report draws on the expertise of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and its members, who provided detailed responses to a survey about the steps and time required to prepare an asylum case. The report concludes that the minimum time required for an attorney to properly prepare an asylum case is 50 to 75 hours, but cases with complications can take much longer. Factors such as detention, past trauma, language barriers, and procuring evidence from foreign countries or expert witnesses can add time to the process. The report recommends increasing agency resources and capacity, eliminating existing delays, and implementing a system-wide, all-of-government approach to improve asylum processing and manage migration at the southern border. It emphasizes the need for an asylum system that protects asylum seekers, ensures a fair legal process, and efficiently identifies legitimate claims for humanitarian protection. The report also makes specific recommendations, such as allowing adequate time for asylum seekers to obtain counsel and prepare their cases, waiving or exempting asylum seekers from deadlines outside of their control, reducing government delays and inefficiency, improving legal access and representation, reducing immigration detention, and implementing various improvements to the asylum process. Overall, the article calls for congressional action to appropriate the funding required to meet the systemic demands of the asylum system and ensure that America's immigration system is ready for the future.


Allies in Limbo: The U.S. Immigration Response,
Social Science Reseaarch Network, June 13, 2023, 43 pp.
Author: Lindsay Muir Harris

A professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, Lindsay Harris considers U.S. treatment of Afghan refugees since the fall of Kabul as the “latest episode in the long history of racism in the creation, execution, and implementation of immigration policy in the United States.” This bias is most obvious in the disparate treatment of Ukrainians and Afghans in recent refugee policy. Although 67,000 Afghans were admitted to the U.S. after the fall of Saigon, they were only granted temporary parole status lasting two years. Although regularization of status was possible through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, derisively called the “spectacular failure” program by one analyst, very few Afghans were able to qualify for this program. The only other route was the backlogged asylum process, which requires an individualized evidence standard that is hard to comply with, as well as many years of waiting for a final decision. Like Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, not all Afghans will have an individualized fear of harm; many are fleeing generalized violence and very difficult conditions under Taliban rule. In the meantime, Congress has failed to approve the Afghan Adjustment Act, designed to remedy these problems. The author believes that the Afghans admitted to the U.S. should be treated presumptively as refugees, thereby granting them a path to full citizenship. The essay also compares the treatment of Afghans stranded abroad with Ukrainians fleeing their home country. The latter find it much easier to secure parole status in the U.S., while most Afghans have been denied admission, including the thousands of SIV applicants left behind in Afghanistan.


Improving Language Access in the U.S. Asylum System,
Center for American Progress, May 23, 2023, 18 pp.
Author: Zefitret Abera Molla

A lack of access to language services can lead to disastrous outcomes for people in immigration proceedings. In a report for The Center for American Progress entitled “Improving Language Access in the U.S. Asylum System,” the author focuses on the diversity of languages spoken by migrants and asylum-seekers, the challenges government agencies face in ensuring language access, and steps taken by the Biden administration to address the problem. The article concludes with recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to improve language access. While English-to-Spanish interpretation and translation services are largely available, migrants speaking Indigenous, Sign, African or Asian languages -- although a large and growing share of the population -- often lack such supportive services and run the risk of grave consequences, such as deportation, as a result. The Biden administration has taken several steps to address the issue, including appointing a language access coordinator to the DOJ. The DHS has also produced a Draft Indigenous Language Access Plan developed together with Indigenous community leaders. The author concludes with a few policy recommendations, including: providing relevant training of Customs and Border Protection agents, translating essential materials into at least five of the most spoken indigenous languages, and creating alternatives to written materials. (The Immigrant Learning Center's Public Education Institute)


Beyond a Border Solution: How to Build a Humanitarian Protection System that Won’t Break,
American Immigration Council, May 3, 2023, 23 pp.

This paper is organized around a series of 13 recommendations to improve the U.S. system for handling the increased numbers of asylum seekers crossing our southern border. Recommendations cover short-term, urgently-needed improvements in capacity to handle the flow of migrants—for example, by improving Border Patrol capacity for humanitarian processing; medium-term changes for the handling of asylum seekers once they are in the U.S.—for example, by increasing the use of case management alternatives to detention; and longer-term solutions to address the root causes of migration and bringing our humanitarian protections and immigration system in line with the needs of both migrants and the U.S. in the 21st century—by, for example, creating new legal pathways for permanent immigration. For each recommendation, the authors provide a background section that clearly explains the problem and (where appropriate) a section that proposes actions that can be taken through the President’s executive authority, and another section describing policy changes and funding decisions that ultimately must be made by Congress. The goal of the recommendations is to move the U.S. away from what the authors consider to be a failed, decades-long focus on deterrence and towards a system better able to respond to today’s reality, in which increasing numbers of people are forced from their homes for reasons that may not fit conventions established many decades ago. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)

Durable Displacement, the Search for Solutions, Promising Programs and Strategies,
Journal on Migration and Human Security (Introduction to a special issue devoted to research on protracted displacement), April 18, 2023, 19 pp.
Authors: Elizabeth Ferris & Donald Kerwin

The problem of prolonged displacement, experienced by as many as 100 million people globally in 2022, has not generated any meaningful and durable solutions in recent years. In a special collection of cutting-edge work gathered by the Journal on Migration and Human Security, editors Elizabeth Ferris and Donald Kerwin discuss the causes and consequences of forced displacement, the failure of traditional solutions, and the need for new strategies to address the growing problem. They also summarize the ten papers that appear in this special issue, each of which examines a displaced group such as Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh or Syrians in Turkey. The authors then try to synthesize a set of recommendations from the ten papers that might help to lessen or alleviate the problem. The resourcefulness and initiative of persons in protracted displacement was a recurring theme, making the formation of refugee-led organizations an important strategy. The authors also attached great importance to the economic integration of refugees in countries of first asylum, and suggested that refugee-serving agencies might be better off funding care and maintenance operations, rather than trying to relocate people to other countries. The authors also condemned “the failure of sovereign states to create the conditions that would allow residents to remain in their states” even in times of internal conflict.


Review of Challenges in Afghan Placement and Assistance Program,
Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of State, March 2023, 25 pp.

This report examined challenges faced by the agencies implementing this program. Because the Afghan Placement program was a one-time, emergency program, the report’s authors did not make formal recommendations, but sought to identify lessons for future similar efforts. The biggest challenge faced by the agencies was the rapid pace of Afghan arrivals at a time when staffing of the agencies and their affiliates had been greatly reduced due to the lowering of refugee admissions during the Trump administration. Amid a housing shortage in many areas, finding permanent housing for the refugees proved to be a major challenge, in part due to increasing corporate ownership of rental property. Resettlement agencies also noted that a lack of cultural orientation prior to arrival in the U.S. (a feature of the regular refugee resettlement program) led to, among other things, unrealistic expectations among Afghans being resettled. The report also describes challenges from delayed or inaccurate documentation for the Afghans; unclear program guidance; a tracking system that was difficult to use; and inadequate access to health care for the Afghan parolees, especially mental health care. The report also listed aspects of the program that worked well from the perspective of the resettlement agencies. While many of the challenges reported by the resettlement agencies were beyond the control of the State Department, the report concludes that lessons learned from this program will be useful for future situations in which a large population must be resettled in an emergency. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)


Making Protection Unexceptional: A Reconceptualization of the U.S. Asylum System,
Social Science Research Network, March 13, 2023, 57 pp.
Author: Denise L. Gilman

This article argues that the American asylum system has “exceptionality” as its basic feature, meaning that most applications for asylum are presumed to be invalid, and actual grants of asylum are made only on rare occasions. The current system tends to discredit claims for asylum from neighboring countries, particularly Central America, while favoring asylum seekers form distant nations such as China. Among the reforms promoted by the author is a new procedure for granting group-based asylum when large numbers of people from a threatened nationality or background show up at the border.  By acknowledging wide-scale refugee arrivals, the United States might be able to slow refugee flows over time by identifying critical human rights and developmental problems in sending countries, and by convincing other countries to also provide protection to the same groups of refugees. The author also argues for a “non-adversarial” review process where well-trained asylum officers would make initial determinations, rather than judges in immigration courts. A negative decision by the asylum officer could, however, be appealed to an immigration court.  These changes would resemble the approaches taken by European countries faced with similar challenges.


Refugee Resettlement per Capita: Which States do the Most?
Immigration Research Initiative, March 7, 2023, 5 pp.

The United States takes in refugees from many different countries, but policies, capacities, and outcomes vary by state. In a new report from the Immigration Research Initiative titled “Refugee Resettlement per Capita: Which States Do the Most?” the size of the refugee population in different states is examined from varying perspectives. First, the report lists the states with the highest total refugee arrivals in the past 10 years. The top five in this category were Texas (43,527), California (39,509), New York (26,586), Michigan (22,769) and Ohio (20,892). The report then lists the states with the highest number of refugees per 100,000 population. The top five states in this category were Nebraska (379), North Dakota (378), Idaho (346), Kentucky (325) and South Dakota (312). Finally, the report lists the states with the highest number of refugees per 100,000 immigrants. The top five in this category were South Dakota (9,015), North Dakota (8,662), Kentucky (8,061), Vermont (7,356) and Idaho (5,700). The report concludes by identifying general trends in refugee resettlement in the U.S. -- highlighting the dramatic decrease in refugee arrivals since the Trump administration.

Going North on a Plane Rather Than a Train: Regulated Visas as an Alternative to Irregular Migration from Central America,
The SAIS Europe Journal of Global Affairs, Spring 2022, 24 pp.
Authors: Cristobal Ramón & Reva Resstack

This article provides recommendations to make the H-2B visa a more effective tool for managing irregular migration from Central America. The authors argue that the H-2B program and other regulated employment-based programs are important instruments in developing a migration management framework in the region. Regrettably, relatively few (4.7%) of the H-2B seasonal work visas awarded from 2014 to 2020 have gone to people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Almost all have gone to Mexicans, in part explaining the reduction in irregular migration from Mexico during this period. In 2020, however, the Biden Administration set aside a quota of 6,000 H-2B visas for people from the Northern Triangle countries. In order for these quotas to achieve their intended purpose, the authors recommend that U.S. policymakers work closely with the labor and foreign ministries in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to promote safe recruitment in countries of origin and compliance with labor law in the United States. The respective Ministries of Labor could report to the U.S. Department of Labor regarding the compliance of recruiters and employers with U.S. law and the laws in countries of origin.

Welcoming Afghans and Ukrainians to the United States: A Case in Similarities and Contrasts,
Migration Policy Institute, July 13, 2022, 9 pp.
Authors:  Muzaffar Chishti & Jessica Bolter

In the past year, Ukrainian and Afghan citizens made up the largest nationality-specific parole programs since the modern refugee resettlement system began in 1980. Welcoming Afghans and Ukrainians to the United States: A Case in Similarities and Contrasts highlights the parallel, yet dissimilar treatment that Ukrainian and Afghan arrivals have received from the U.S. government over the past year. The authors emphasize the importance of parole status in successfully admitting both Ukrainians and Afghans to the United States, yet also stress its problematic nature, as parole status offers no pathway to permanent residency. Data drawn from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and NBC News further highlights the disproportionately strong significance that parole has played for these people, over other difficult admission channels such as the refugee resettlement program. The authors suggest that Congress pass legislation to allow parolees a path to permanent residency, as historically has been the case with large parole programs in the past. They additionally recommend that combining Ukrainian and Afghan Adjustment Acts into one piece of legislation could provide greater momentum for passage, helping both groups find paths to permanent residency and stability in the U.S. (Stephanie Depauw for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

The Missing Link: Connecting Eligible Asylees and Asylum Seekers with Benefits and Services,
Migration Policy Institute, July 2022, 40 pp.
Authors: Essey Workie et al

The United States has a history of providing humanitarian protection, including resettling refugees from abroad and granting asylum to those applying within the country or at its borders. Refugees and asylees are often fleeing from persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality or political opinion. Asylees are eligible for many of the same services and benefits as refugees, but information about their eligibility is limited to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) website and a pamphlet by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This report, from the Migration Policy Institute, describes the benefits and services for which asylees and asylum seekers are eligible, the mechanisms connecting them with these programs, and opportunities to improve their access to such assistance. Research has found that asylees experience service gaps in health screening, education, employment, housing stability and food security. Asylum seekers cannot legally work for at least six months after they file their application for asylum. Cases often take years, and without the ability to work or access benefits, asylum seekers can face deep poverty, labor exploitation and human trafficking. The report suggests that the federal government can address this problem by developing a national system of outreach, information and referral services, and improving data collection to better measure program participation. State and local governments and philanthropic organizations can play a greater role in linking children of asylum seekers to available services. Not only would this result in greater program participation, it would also allow these residents to contribute more to their local economies. (The Immigrant Learning Center’s Pubic Education Institute)

The Economic and Fiscal Effects on the United States from Reduced Numbers of Refugees and Asylum Seekers,
Center for Global Development, March 2022, 52 pp.
Author: Michael A. Clemens

This piece of research departs from the usual studies of the sharp drop in refugee admissions from 2017 to the present – studies which focus on humanitarian concerns and treaty obligations -- to explore the economic ramifications of this drop in numbers. The author makes it clear that he is not questioning the moral, humanitarian, and legal arguments for a robust refugee resettlement program. Rather, he simply wants to explore how refugees and asylees are “economic actors,” incurring both costs but also generating revenue, either directly or indirectly.  The author calculates that there are roughly 295,000 refugees “missing” from the U.S. population due to an 86 percent reduction in refugee admissions starting in 2017. These missing persons cost the overall US economy over $9.1 billion per year ($30,962 per missing refugee per year on average). This loss could never be rectified even if the number of refugee admissions rose again to 2016 levels. The paper reviews the existing research literature touching on the economic and fiscal effects of reducing refugee resettlement. The author questions the often narrow and incomplete balance sheet of existing studies.  For example, the benefits of hiring refugees often extend beyond the taxes paid by workers, but also include those paid by employers and investors. Finally, the author suggests that the Congressional Review Act of 1996 gives the U.S. Congress authority to block any decision by the administration to reduce refugee arrivals by even 3,300 people in a single year.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum,
Human Rights First, January 2022, 20 pp.
Authors: Julia Neusner et al

Since the Biden administration took office, Human Rights First has counted more than 8,705 reports of kidnappings and other violent attacks on migrants and asylum seekers who were blocked in and/or ejected to Mexico by the U.S. government. Their report, A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum, details the administration’s continued implementation and expansion of what the authors call illegal and deadly Trump administration policies preventing asylum-seeking at U.S. ports of entry and on the southern border, exposing them to extensive and grave danger. The administration’s use of the Title 42 and Remain in Mexico (RMX) policies has "perpetuated their inherent cruelty, disorder, and the racist tropes in which they are rooted,” resulting in extensive human suffering. For this report, Human Rights First researchers interviewed migrants and asylum seekers, attorneys, shelter and other humanitarian workers, Mexican government officials, and legal monitors, both in-person and remotely. They tracked the implementation of the RMX policy in Ciudad Juárez in person in December of 2021 and interviewed 18 individuals returned due to RMX. They also utilized data from an electronic survey of asylum seekers in Mexico from September of 2021 to December of 2021 conducted by Al Otro Lado, among other sources. The report makes several recommendations, including ending Title 42 expulsions, resuming the ending of the RMX policy, and restoring access to asylum at U.S. ports of entry and on the southern border. (Erika Hernandez for the Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Department of Homeland Security Operation Allies Welcome Afghan Evacuee Report: Fiscal Year 2022 Report to Congress,
Department of Homeland Security, December 2021, 10 pp.

This report is a summary presented by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to Congress of the first 60 days of resettlement in the U.S. of 76,000 Afghan evacuees. While there were evacuees admitted who were already legal permanent residents, had valid nonimmigrant visas, were admitted under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, or were Priority 1 or Priority 2, the vast majority had no official status and were paroled into the country. Many of those could be deemed priority 1 or 2, or even be eligible for SIV status, but up to November 2021 had only been granted humanitarian parole while their cases could be sorted out. The report also gives numbers for evacuees still at the U.S. base at Qatar, those who were further resettled to Canada and Australia, and a few who were deemed inadmissible and who were deported. All the data presented in the report is accurate as of November 15, 2021. (William Westerman, New Jersey City University)

The Impact of Nationality, Language, Gender and Age on Asylum Success,
TRAC Immigration, Syracuse University, December 7, 2021, 14 pp.

This report sheds light on how certain characteristics of asylum seekers have affected asylum outcomes over the past 20 years, Since the Biden Administration took office, asylum grant rates have increased from 29 percent during the previous administration to 37 percent. During some quarters (e.g., July-September 2021), the rate jumped to nearly 49 percent, which is higher than the asylum grant rate during the Obama Administration. In analyzing these numbers in greater detail, the report finds that the nationality, language spoken, gender, and age of the applicant are factors that have significant effect on asylum success rates. The authors at the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found that under the Biden Administration, the nationality and primary language of asylum seekers mattered in similar degrees as under the Trump administration, noting that asylum seekers from certain regions of the world experienced a higher rate of success than others. The authors also found that, unlike under the previous administration, the Immigration Courts under the Biden Administration are more likely to grant asylum to women and children. (Jaisang Sun for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

University Sponsorship of Refugee Students:  Initiatives on Increasing U.S. Education Pathways for Refugee Students,
Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, November 2021, 49 pp.

After a four-month study jointly undertaken by several organizations, this report urges the university community in the U.S. to participate in a new pilot, private sponsorship program for refugees announced by the Biden administration in its report to Congress in 2021. At the same time, it also urges the government to take a number of necessary steps to facilitate university participation in the program. The report begins by explaining the need for such a program, i.e. the growing numbers of displaced people around the world, and the low number of refugees able to access higher education, despite being otherwise qualified to pursue post-secondary education. Structural barriers in the United States include the employment restrictions placed on students requesting F-1 student visas, combined with the contradictory expectation that all arriving refugees should rapidly achieve economic self-sufficiency. The report identifies key principles that should be reflected in a university sponsorship program, including allowing participating students to study full-time and postpone entry into the workforce; allowing immediate family members of enrolled students to enter the country; postponement of travel loan repayments until after graduation; and allowing private sponsorship numbers to supplement, not replace traditional refugee quotas. A key feature of the proposed model is that an Implementing Organization (IO) would act as a bridge connecting refugee students overseas, higher education institutions in the U.S., and the US Refugee Admission Program. The IO would set minimal standards for university participation in the program. The report envisions an initial cohort of 30 refugee students in the first year, increasing to around 500 students in the fifth year of the program.


Getting Refugees Out of Afghanistan,
Center for Migration Studies, September 7, 2021, 7 pp.
Author: Susan Martin

The perilous and chaotic exodus of Afghans from Afghanistan after the fall of the government gripped the world in the summer of 2021. Susan Martin, Donald G. Herzberg Professor of International Migration Emerita at Georgetown University, suggests that the global response to the flight of Indochinese refugees in 1979 from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries offers a model for responding to the Afghan crisis. She details how the Secretary-General of the United Nations, strongly backed by the United States, called an international conference in 1979 to address the crisis. This gathering resulted in numerous international commitments, including pledges to increase resettlement slots for refugees, Vietnam’s agreement to set up an orderly departure program, increases in military resources for rescuing refugees, and an increase in funding for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Accordingly, she makes several recommendations for the Afghan crisis, namely that the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, backed by the Biden administration, should hold an international pledging conference concerning Afghan refugees at risk. Martin recommends that the United States make generous pledges of resettlement from within Afghanistan and neighboring countries of first asylum. Further, she recommends that the international community attempt to convince the Taliban to establish an Orderly Departure Program for Afghan refugees, incentivizing them by making it clear that only through their adherence to universal human rights standards will recognition of their government and access to humanitarian and development aid happen. (Erika Hernandez for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)


New Demographic Directions in Forced Migration and Refugee Research,
Special Issue, Journal of Migration and Human Security, 9:3 (September 2021)

This special issue of the Journal of Migration and Human Security is devoted to improving the quality and relevance of demographic research as a tool in promoting successful refugee resettlement in the United States. Five of the seven papers in the issue are based on presentations made at a conference sponsored by the Committee on Population of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in May of 2019.  A sixth article evolved from a follow-up virtual stakeholder meeting held in December of 2020.  The issue includes an introductory article that provides short summaries of all the papers. Among topics covered in the papers are ethical issues in conducting research, the importance of “grounded, bottoms-up approaches” in researching the experience of refugee children and adolescents, new measures of community resilience based on the experience of Vietnamese-Americans in New Orleans, the use of modeling and simulation as predictive tools, and innovative ways to drill down from existing data sets. The final paper of the issue elaborates the perspectives of members of the project steering committee regarding the priorities for research on US refugees and refugee communities.


Does Halting Refugee Resettlement Reduce Crime? Evidence from the US Refugee Ban,
American Political Science Review, 115:3 (August 2021), 8 pp.
Authors: Daniel Masterson & Vasil Yasenov

Many countries have reduced refugee admissions in recent years, in part due to fears that refugees and asylum seekers increase crime rates and pose a national security risk. The authors of this study leverage a natural experiment in the United States, where an Executive Order by then President Trump in January 2017 halted refugee resettlement. This policy change was sudden and significant—it resulted in the lowest number of refugees resettled on US soil since 1977 and a 66% drop in resettlement from 2016 to 2017. The effect of the order was greatest in those areas that received the greatest number of refugees prior to its issuance. The authors found that there was no discernible effect on county-level property or violent crime rates. They also examine the factors that may have produced these positive results, including the fact that the number of single men, a demographic generally more prone to criminality, was low among the U.S. refugee population, compared to some countries in Europe, and that screening procedures for admitting refugees to the U.S. were probably effective.

Biden Administration Asylum Processing Revamp at the U.S. Border Could Be a Game Changer,
Migration Policy Institute, August 2021, 3 pp.
Author: Dories Meissner

This commentary from MPI briefly explains a proposed rule issued by the Biden administration to overhaul the asylum system with the aim of more expeditiously handling cases of asylum seekers coming to the U.S. across the southern border. The rule proposes to shift adjudication of asylum claims from immigration courts to asylum officers. The new rule would authorize asylum officers to hear the entire asylum case (instead of merely conducting a “credible fear” interview), with the immigration courts acting more in an appellate capacity. The rule is also meant to reduce the immigration court workload, in which there were more than 600,000 pending asylum claims in August 2021. The author argues that asylum officers are better trained to assess asylum claims, and that the new system would bring expeditious relief to those with good asylum claims, while reducing the incentive for those with weak claims to make them and benefit from the lengthy delays in case processing. The author argues that the new rule should be part of a set of policies to better manage the border and the asylum caseload — policies such as universal representation for asylum seekers; a humane repatriation process for those who are not successful with their asylum claim but may still face desperate conditions in their home countries; and working with Central American countries to help bring more order and legality to migration flows. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)

How the Asylum Backlog Affects Torture Survivors and What the Biden Administration Can Do to Fix It,
Center for Migration Studies, February 25, 2021, 7 pp.
Author: Hawthorne Smith

One largely unseen family separation crisis that exploded during the Trump presidency was the prolonged separation of family members abroad from family members in the U.S. seeking asylum. This crisis was due to drastic changes made to the asylum process at a time when the backlog for affirmative asylum applications was skyrocketing. The administration swapped the “first-in, first-out” policy, which prioritized asylum seekers who were already in the country for years and had likely built a life here, for a “last-in, first-out policy,” where “[new] asylum seekers could be easily removed and deported before building viable links to this country.” The article “How the Asylum Backlog Affects Torture Survivors and What the Biden Administration Can Do to Fix It,” published by the Center for Migration Studies, offers suggestions for the new administration to deal with this backlog, as well as personal narratives and cases that paint a vivid picture of who these asylum seekers, many torture survivors, and their families are. The article suggests not only that the first-in, first-out policy be reinstated, but also that more resources, including asylum officers and immigration judges, are necessary “to combat the growing backlog, to reduce human rights abuses at the border, and to facilitate an orderly and just asylum process.” The article further states that many asylum seekers were essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as health care workers, delivery persons, and farm and meat plant workers, and the author argues that “[t]heir commitment to the United States is deserving of our esteem and gratitude.” (Denzil Mohammed for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute) 

Walking the Talk:  How University Communities Can Foster Higher Education Opportunities for Refugee Students,
University Alliance for Refugees and At-Risk Students and Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Education and Immigration, January 2021, 30 pp.
Authors: Aslam Kakar & Anna Agbotse

Only three percent of the 70 million refugees worldwide currently have access to higher education. Based on information gathered by the University Alliance for Refugees and At-Risk Migrants (UARRM) and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, this report showcases several universities working to address this problem. Located in the states of California, Idaho, Texas, and New York, these universities are seeking to overcome barriers to higher education for refugees. The report identifies six action areas to improve refugee access to higher education: media and communications, overcoming barriers, on-campus support, advocacy and awareness, research and publications, and legal pathways. Drawing from semi-structured interviews with representatives of higher education institutions and partner organizations in the United States, the authors suggest that practitioners seeking to support displaced students and scholars on their campuses should cultivate a “whole-institution” vision such as UARRM’s “Action Area” framework for creatively identifying institutional and community assets with the potential to jumpstart or scale initiatives. Citing an example from Idaho, they also assert that the development of initiatives should be participatory in nature. The authors suggest that these case studies be used by stakeholders to inform the creation of similar programs for refuges in other higher education institutions. Furthermore, they suggest that a whole-system, inclusive, evidence-based approach is critical to the success of any initiative in this area. (Stephanie Depauw for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute) 

Charting a Course to Rebuild and Strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program
Center for Migration Studies & Refugee Council USA, December 2020, 57 pp.
Authors: Donald Kerwin & Mike Nicholson

Since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, the U.S. has resettled more than three million refugees, more than any other country. In the last few years, however, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) has been decimated by Trump administration policies, through such measures as restricting admissions from Muslim-majority and African countries and setting progressively lower admissions ceilings. Charting a Course to Rebuild and Strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program, published by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS), analyzes the current state of USRAP. The report draws on a 2020 national survey of resettlement stakeholders and argues that USRAP is an important program with widespread community support that offers a range of valuable and effective services. For instance, of the refugee respondents to the survey, 92 percent reported the program helped them support themselves soon after their arrival, and 77 percent said it helped them integrate into American society. Based on the information gleaned from these surveys, the authors recommend the incoming Biden administration rebuild and revitalize the program through means such as: increasing the refugee admission ceiling; providing stable funding for resettlement agencies; educating the public on the contributions of refugees and the program’s goals and effectiveness; and regaining bipartisan support for its objectives. Additionally, the authors put forth recommendations for programmatic improvements aimed at increasing the USRAP’s responsiveness to individual refugees’ needs, including: adopting a flexible, more expansive approach to resettlement through a broader definition of integration; providing access to trauma-informed and culturally attuned mental health services; prioritizing family reunification; and offering LGBTQ refugees programs tailored to their needs. (Georgia Whitaker for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Robust Refugee Programs Aid National Security,
National Immigration Forum, December 17, 2020, 13 pp.
Author: Elizabeth Neumann

In 2019, 79.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide, the highest level on record. As Elizabeth Neumann, senior advisor to the National Immigration Forum on national security, argues in “Robust Refugee Programs Aid National Security,” the growing number of forcibly displaced persons demonstrates the need to modernize the U.S. immigration system, and the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) in particular, especially in light of national security interests. As Neumann posits, the U.S. has a history of offering refuge to people fleeing persecution, and, in turn, this moral and humanitarian leadership encourages other nations to welcome refugees. However, during the Trump administration the U.S. posture towards immigrants, refugees and asylees has threatened national security: by restricting immigration and drastically reducing the refugee ceiling, the burden of displaced persons is placed on developing countries (85 percent of forcibly displaced persons are hosted in developing regions, 27 percent in Least Developed Countries). This burden could destabilize host countries, make vulnerable migrants more susceptible to trafficking and create paths to radicalization. Neumann supports the Biden administration’s intent to increase the refugee ceiling and address the fundamental causes of forced displacement. She recommends further that the administration: 1) restore and strengthen the USRAP; 2) re-engage with international allies to address the plight of forcibly displaced populations, and 3) expedite processing time for forcibly displaced persons and invest in front-end procedures for Special Immigrant and P-2 visas. (Erika Hernandez for The Immigrant Learning Center Public Education Institute)

A New Beginning: Early Refugee Integration in the United States,
The Russell Sage Foundation, Journal of the Social Sciences, 6:3 (November 2020), 32 pp.
Authors: Van C. Tran & Francisco Lara-García

As the number of forcibly displaced people peaks worldwide, debates in the U.S. have recently focused more on refugee admission levels than on policies to facilitate the transition of refugees into American life. In “A New Beginning: Early Refugee Integration in the United States,” published by the Russell Sage Foundation, the authors try to bridge this gap in knowledge by examining factors that influence the integration and success of refugees in the U.S. Specifically, the authors examine the ways in which premigration characteristics, such as education levels, and postmigration assistance policies shape integration outcomes. To do so, the study relies on data from the 2016 Annual Survey of Refugees and focuses on recent refugee groups from five countries: Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Somalia and Cuba. The authors made three significant findings. First, they found no significant correlation between premigration credentials (like higher education levels, English proficiency and occupation status) and postmigration socioeconomic success, primarily due to the failure of U.S. authorities to recognize foreign credentials. Second, they found that postmigration policies, particularly those focused on education and work, significantly help refugees in achieving stability and success by helping them gain admission to school and training programs  and enter the workforce. Finally, the authors report that successful socioeconomic integration also varies by national origin, possibly associated with racial and ethnic discrimination in the labor market. The study thus highlights the importance of developing refugee training programs and recognizing foreign educational credentials as ways to succeed in the job market. These findings indicate that admitting refugees, while important, is not sufficient in and of itself to ensuring their success, thereby demonstrating the key role that integration policies play in the wider debate surrounding immigration. (Sonali Ravi for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Debunking “Extreme Vetting”: Recommendations to Build Back the U.S. Refugee Admission Program,
International Refugee Assistance Project, October 2020, 49 pp.

Refugees are the most highly vetted of all groups entering the U.S. When President Trump came to office, as this report details, he pursued the goal of halting the admission of refugees, especially Muslim refugees, by taking advantage of existing problems within an opaque vetting system encumbered by backlogs and high rates of discretionary denials. The U.S. admitted nearly 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016, the last fiscal year of the previous administration, but accepted only 10,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020. This report documents the “extreme vetting” changes implemented by the Trump administration in order to decimate the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) and target Muslim refugees. The report draws on information IRAP learned by litigating against refugee admission policy changes, filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and representing clients in the refugee application process. IRAP finds that changes to the vetting process under the Trump administration had a devastating impact on refugees seeking admission to the U.S. These changes resulted in delayed applications for tens of thousands of refugees, denied protection to eligible refugees, prolonged family separation, and the dismantling of the refugee resettlement infrastructure. The report argues that while reversing these effects of Trump administration policies may take years, the Biden administration should set a higher goal for refugee admissions in each fiscal year, in order to restore the USRAP, uphold U.S. humanitarian commitments and protect the longevity of the USRAP. The report recommends that the U.S. government comprehensively review the USRAP’s current vetting process and implement needed reforms, establish an ongoing oversight mechanism, and create transparency initiatives. (Georgia Whitaker for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)


Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Program for the 21st Century,
Center for American Progress, October 26, 2020, 50 pp.
Authors: Silva Mathema & Sofia Carratala

The Trump administration has systematically dismantled the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), dropping the number of refugees admitted to the country by 86 percent in just four years. The administration has proposed a ceiling of 15,000 refugees for fiscal year 2021, the lowest level in the history of the program. Meanwhile, developing countries have taken in the vast majority (80 percent) of the more than 26 million identified refugees in the world today, creating an imbalance in responsibility with the potential to affect international geopolitics. Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Program for the 21st Century, published by the Center for American Progress, examines successful policies and programs adopted by governmental and nongovernmental agencies following the 9/11 attacks. The researchers also interviewed 31 refugee resettlement experts in order to sketch the outlines of a reimagined program that is more resilient to changing circumstances and more focused on long-term refugee integration. The report lays out five key principles to strengthen the U.S. refugee resettlement system. First, community groups should be heavily involved in the resettlement process supporting and complementing the work of professional resettlement agencies. Second, the federal government must stabilize annual refugee flows so that these numbers are not affected by changes in administration. Third, the resettlement program should focus on refugee integration and economic self-sufficiency. Fourth, governmental and non-governmental agencies need to raise awareness of the resettlement program and build up support from lawmakers and members of receiving communities. Finally, a wide range of stakeholder groups, from international organizations to local hospitals, should weigh in on how to rebuild the program.  The U.S., the authors assert, is uniquely positioned to set an example to other nations in conducting an effective refugee resettlement program, and evidence shows resettled refugees will make their new communities stronger for their presence. (Katelin Reger for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Distancing Refugees,
Denver Law Review, (97:4), August 26, 2020, 36 pp.
Author: Geoffrey Heeren

In 2018, nearly 30 million people around the world were displaced by persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. Nearly 26 million of these were refugees, and an additional 3.5 million had sought asylum in another country. Although the right to seek asylum is codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many national constitutions, “Distancing Refugees” argues that developed countries responded to the increase in asylum seekers with efforts to externalize their borders and weaken their asylum systems. Author Geoffrey Heeren identifies the “encampment model,” which has warehoused refugees in developing countries for interminable periods, as one way that developed nations dismantled the normative force of asylum by constructing physical, psychological, and legal barriers between the public and asylum seekers. The encampment model, he argues, shifts the burden of refugee resettlement onto developing nations, thereby jeopardizing the health, food security and living conditions of claimants. “Distancing Refugees” cites past examples of refugee distancing policies, such as the U.S. government’s effort to prevent the entrance of Haitian and Central American asylum seekers in the 1980s and 1990s, to show how these policies can have unintended consequences. The article also analyzes legal challenges to the Trump Administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocol” and explains how a transnational legal process could contest refugee distancing in the long term. (Georgia Whitaker for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute) 

Rebuilding the US Refugee Resettlement Program,
Center for Migration Studies, August 26, 2020, 17 pp.
Author: Susan Martin

This article briefly reviews the history of U.S. refugee policy and practice, with special attention to the actions of the Trump administration in the refugee field. The author notes that, from the time the Refugee Act of 1980 went into effect until 2016, the mean annual refugee admission ceiling was 98,000, while actual admissions averaged 83,000 in that same period. The Trump administration has set ceilings much lower — by FY 2020 it was 18,000, with actual admissions significantly lower. With greatly reduced admissions, the infrastructure that exists to resettle refugees — nonprofit voluntary agencies and state refugee offices — has been decimated. The author makes a number of short-term and longer-term recommendations for the next administration to rebuild our capacity to resettle refugees, starting with holding emergency consultations with Congress to increase refugee admissions for FY 2021. Recommendations for longer-term fixes include a “normal flow” admissions target of perhaps 98,000 set by legislation, in order to reduce the influence of politics on annual refugee admissions determinations. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)

More than a Wall: The Rise and Fall of US Asylum and Refugee Policy,
Journal on Migration and Human Security, August 31, 2020, 20 pp.
Author: Ruth Ellen Wassem

This article reviews the history of U.S. policy towards refugees and asylum seekers, from primarily reliance on executive actions (such as parole) before and after the two world wars, through the introduction of a formal refugee admissions regime after passage of the Refugee Act of 1980. That history was heavily influenced by U.S. geopolitical concerns, particularly during the cold war when persons fleeing communism were much more likely to gain status in the U.S. than those fleeing violent civil wars in countries controlled by U.S.-backed governments. The article briefly summarizes some of the policies implemented by the Trump administration that have “sent US humanitarian protection policy to an unprecedented nadir.” The author also includes an analysis of public opinion on refugees and asylees, and notes that, in the past 75 years, a majority of Americans have rarely supported the admission of refugees and asylees during a refugee crisis. During the Trump years, however, opposition to such admissions has decreased. The author concludes by observing that “generous humanitarian policies require energetic civic engagement and steadfast legislative efforts.” (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)

Beyond Work: Reducing Social Isolation for Refugee Women and Other Marginalized Newcomers,
Transatlantic Council on Migration, January 2020, 26 pp.
Author: Natalia Banulescu-Bogdanz
Recently arrived migrants and refugees who are not employed are at high risk for social and economic isolation. This population is largely made up of women, refugees, the elderly, and migrants who are unskilled or illiterate. Beyond Work: Reducing Social Isolation for Refugee Women and Other Marginalized Newcomers from the Migration Policy Institute explores what successful integration looks like for newcomers who cannot find traditional employment or need more time to acquire the necessary skills. Usually considered “something of an afterthought in immigrant integration programming,” these groups, according to the author, are deserving of greater attention and perhaps a different set of metrics (other than employment outcomes) for evaluating their progress towards integration. The report first discusses the marginalization risks these migrants face including mental health challenges, feeling like a burden on the larger society, and transmitting secondhand trauma to children, as well as the barriers to economic participation including low skill level, ill health, age, language differences and traditional gender roles. The authors assert that employment can improve mental health and self-esteem, and foster social interactions, especially between newcomers and long-term residents. Reaching out to vulnerable populations by prioritizing “work-adjacent” activities such as volunteering and fostering economic empowerment through activities such as crafts, cooking and gardening can bring about positive results. The report also recommends creating non-work initiatives such as sports, arts, mentoring and peer-to-peer programs that encourage social ties and connect migrants with locals. However, to achieve such a goal in the world’s current migration crisis, the report posits that more complex measures of successful integration need to be established, programs need to be tailored to specific migrant populations, and that government must improve coordination with civil-society organizations which have often taken the lead in reaching out to hard-to-serve populations. (Prepared by the Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Volunteers and Sponsors: A Catalyst for Refugee Integration?
Transatlantic Council on Migration, November 2019, 18 pp.
Authors: Susan Fratzke & Emma Dorst

Refugee programs in North America and Europe are often overstretched in terms of resources and staff time. For example, the government-assisted refugee program in Toronto averages a caseload of 70 families per case worker. In the report Volunteers and Sponsors: A Catalyst for Refugee Integration? from the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration, community members are highlighted as an invaluable supplement to the services that professional agencies provide. In particular, the authors examine how volunteers and sponsors have the unique ability to carry out specific tasks that professional agencies may not have the time or expertise to deliver, such as offering free driving lessons or navigating the housing market. Although drawing on community members can be transformative to refugee integration, the author also recognizes that volunteerism can also hinder integration if training and ongoing support are not provided. Policymakers are thus seen as the crucial link to sustaining the role of volunteer initiatives as they can provide critical funding and resources to manage volunteer programs. The author suggests the support of policymakers is key to increasing refugees’ access to individualized support, which in turn can lead to improved integration outcomes for both the refugees and community as a whole. (Stephanie DePauw for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

As the United States Resettles Fewer Refugees, Some Countries and Religions Face Bigger Hits than Others,
Migration Policy Institute Commentary, September 2019, 6 pp.
Authors: Mark Greenberg et al

The number of refugees resettled in the in United States from 2016 to 2019 has decreased every year, due to the policies of the Trump Administration. This commentary from the Migration Policy Institute discusses the drastic change in specific populations of admitted refugees, particularly the sharp drop in the number of Muslim refugees. US State Department data reveals an 87 percent drop in Muslim refugee admissions since 2016. Simultaneously, the share of admitted Christian refugees has soared to 79 percent of all resettled refugees in the United States. This massive shift has been propelled by Trump administration philosophy around refugee resettlement and the so-called “Muslim ban” policy implemented in 2016. The current administration has not been clear about the “enhanced security features” of the program, nor have they explained the details or outcomes of this heightened vetting. With possible further cuts to the refugee program looming, the authors urge Congress to exercise its oversight responsibility. As continuing conflicts are driving more people from their home countries, clarity of policy and procedure and effective oversight of refugee resettlement are crucial. (Olivia Pickard for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

What Happens When the United States Stops Taking in Refugees?
Contexts, 18:2 (2019), 6 pp.
Authors:  Molly Fee & Rawan Arar

The United States has historically been a world leader in refugee resettlement. However the number of refugees accepted annually into the country has decreased drastically under the Trump administration. In this paper, Molly Fee and Rawan Arar use data from the Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System to discuss how the international refugee system has been impacted as the U.S. drastically cut its resettlement numbers. The authors explain how a Trump executive order in 2017, known as “The Muslim Ban,” set off a chain of events that has severely impacted refugees worldwide. The administration proceeded to slash authorized refugee arrivals from 110,000 to 50,000 in 2017, and by 2018, the number of refugee admissions shrank to 22,291 -- only 20 percent of the 2018 resettlement goal set by President Obama. The authors project that as a result of the Trump administration’s actions, the 25.4 million refugees registered with the United Nations will not only have significantly fewer options for resettlement, but the entire structure of international resettlement programs could be significantly weakened. In the U.S., the public-private partnership that has extended a helping hand to arriving refugees is being slowly dismantled. Overseas, refugees, who had previously been approved for resettlement in the U.S. languish for years in refugee camps. And other developed countries scale back their support for refugees following the U.S. example. The authors conclude that diminishing the U.S. Resettlement Program disrupts the entire refugee system, meaning that refugees worldwide would be further prevented from finding new homes and the protections of citizenship. (Lydia Grinnell for the Immigrant Learning Center's Public Education Institute).

Ethnic networks can foster the economic integration of refugees,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, August 13, 2019, 6 pp.
Authors:  Linna Martén et al

While policymakers have long opposed resettling refugees into ethnic enclaves on the grounds that this reduces assimilation, new research from Europe suggests that resettling refugees in co-ethnic communities (communities with people of the same ethnicity) results in faster economic integration. In “Ethnic networks can foster the economic integration of refugees” the authors find that refugees assigned to live in locations with many co-nationals are more likely to enter the labor market and, thus, become economically integrated into their host countries. The study is based on a sample of asylum seekers in Switzerland, where refugees are allocated to cantons (member states of the Swiss Confederation) based on their population and are restricted from moving out of their assigned canton. Data from the State Secretariat of Migration allowed the researchers to track employment status from the point directly after arrival. Their analyses provide evidence to suggest that co-national and co-ethnolinguistic networks positively affect the probability of employment in the arrival year and peaks at three years after arrival. This study has implications for refugee resettlement policy, specifically calling into question the proposition that refugee dispersion in the host country promotes cultural integration. The authors suggest that access to nationality-, ethnic, or language-based networks could not only improve employment outcomes for refugees but would also have positive economic impact on host societies. (Kristine Germar for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Refugees and Asylees in the United States,
Migration Policy Institute, June 13, 2019, 14 pp.
Authors: Brittany Blizzard & Jeanne Batalova

For many years, the United States was the global leader in refugee resettlement. Because of restrictive new policies of the Trump administration, this is not the case anymore. This report from the Migration Policy Institute uses data from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to sketch the demographic profile of the U.S. refugee and asylum seeker populations. While the Obama administration admitted just under 85,000 refugees into the country in 2016, the Trump administration, by contrast, allowed only 22,500 refugees in 2018 -- a record low. This drastic reduction is especially significant because, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 68.5 million people across the globe were displaced in 2017 -- a record high. The report describes the status of refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S. including their countries of origin, places of resettlement as well as information about age, gender, and religious beliefs. The report also provides links to selected resources on refugee policy and resettlement in the U.S. (Deb D’Anastasio for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion: From Bright Spots to System Change,
Migration Policy Institute Europe, June 2019, 31 pp.
Authors: Liam Patuzzi et al

Successful migrant and refugee integration often hinges on the right combination of employment, education, housing and family supports. Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion: From Bright Spots to System Change explores the evolution of social innovation – ideas, practices and collaborations offering new solutions to social problems – since the height of a global refugee crisis. While the report focuses on refugee populations in Europe, it notes that the use of social innovation strategies occurs on both sides of the Atlantic. Through convenings, advisory board meetings and informal discussions, the report examines promising models of social innovation including co-housing, employment mentoring programs, mobile kitchens and placement into artisan cooperatives. Social innovation reimagines the process of refugee integration by encouraging refugees themselves to be active participants or even program leaders. Despite these promising approaches, there are some impediments that limit their sustainability. The report notes that these projects are under-resourced and are heavily dependent on engaged urban communities. Many social innovation programs lack access to expertise or funding from mainstream actors. The authors suggest that a coordinated effort between government and direct actors, along with effective evaluation tools, would enable social innovation to accomplish whole-systems change. (Stephanie DePauw for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Administrative Chaos: Responding to Child Refugees – U.S. Immigration Process in Crisis,
Washington & Lee Law Review, 1287(2018), 32 pp.
Author: Lenni B. Benson

As of 2018 in the United States, the nexus of immigration law, judicial processes and executive action has created a chaotic legal environment for immigrant children, particularly “unaccompanied minors” apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. This study discusses the complexity and ineffectiveness of the current system for adjudicating migrant child protection claims. The article examines federal laws, court decisions and administrative processes to highlight the flaws of the system in which immigrant children are entangled. While various statutory protections exist (like U-status for immigrant victims of crime, T-status for immigrant victims of trafficking, and special immigrant juvenile status), current administrative structures allow for at least five different agencies and courts to consider a single child’s case, which the author argues make “an already complex system much worse.” These problems are compounded by recent “erratic” decision-making from the executive branch of the Trump administration. The article provides suggestions to improve the system of adjudication, including (a) not resorting to the detention of children in all cases, (b) not immediately instituting removal proceedings, (c) having advocates and practices that are sensitive to children’s mental health needs and (d) ensuring consistency in the application of rules by making them publicly available. (Julio Montanez for The Immigrant Learning Center Public Education Institute)

Towards Sustainability and Empowerment: Reforming America’s Syrian Refugee Policy,
Rutgers University, Center for Security, Race and Rights, 2019, 52 pp.
Authors: Sahar Aziz Et al

One of the major challenges facing many countries today is tackling the unprecedented increase in the number of refugees and other displaced people. In 2018, nearly 20 percent of these displaced people were Syrian. In this study, scholars from Rutgers University’s Center for Security, Race and Rights discuss the United States’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and examine the challenges facing neighboring countries, using Jordan as a test case. Contrary to common belief, the vast majority (80 percent) of externally displaced Syrians are residing in neighboring countries. These host countries are obliged to follow the international legal norm of “non-refoulement,” which mandates them to accommodate refugees until they can safely return home. The example of Jordan shows that meeting this obligation causes unparalleled financial burdens and political challenges for the host countries and ultimately disrupts regional stability. In the case of the Middle East, the U.S. is an influential player and “has a national interest in sustaining the capacity of international systems to respond to protracted refugee crises.” As such, the authors suggest that the U.S. should take on more responsibility in solving this crisis and revisit its policies towards refugees from the Middle East. They recommend: (a) increasing U.S. aid to fund programs that economically empower refugees toward self-sustainability; (b) strengthening state institutions and private sector groups in the region, particularly in Jordan; (c) providing support for humanitarian projects that help refugees; and (d) accepting more, not fewer, Syrian refugees into the U.S. By taking a more enlightened view of the Syrian refugee crisis and working together with countries in the region, the U.S. can foster the development of policies to benefit both refugees and host communities. (Ayse Alkilic for The Immigrant Learning Center Public Education Institute)

Promoting Refugee Integration in Challenging Times: The Potential of Two-Generation Strategies,
Migration Policy Institute, December 2018, 52 pp.
Authors: Mark Greenberg et al

In the period from 2016 to 2018, refugee resettlement agencies in the United States faced numerous obstacles. In 2018, the Trump administration drastically reduced the yearly cap on refugee arrivals to 45,000, and only admitted 23,000 of these individuals seeking safety from violence and persecution. As a result, funding for refugee resettlement agencies has been reduced. This MPI study recommends that agencies use this historically low point in refugee arrivals to reflect on the best practices available to integrate refugees into their communities, so as to achieve long-term stability and success. Traditionally, refugee resettlement providers have focused primarily on helping adults find employment as fast as possible. However, MPI started a project to research how “two-generation” models may improve outcomes for refugee families. “Two-generation” or “whole family” models assume that when resettlement agencies seek to meet the needs of refugee children as well as adults, the entire family benefits. Through interviews with volunteers and state coordinators and visits to resettlement agencies, MPI found that many agencies were already employing two-generation strategies in three important ways: assisting refugee children, helping adults qualify for more family-sustaining employment, and meeting the broader needs of refugee families. For example, nonprofits in Michigan started Early Head Start classrooms that seek both to employ refugees and to educate refugee children. Utah’s refugee resettlement agency hosts short, intensive trainings for refugees to earn professional certificates in web development, medical manufacturing and other in-demand careers. Agencies in Colorado have been connecting senior refugees with mental health resources and community sponsors. In this climate of uncertainty, MPI recommends that community groups, nonprofits and refugee resettlement agencies work together to find innovative solutions to improve the lives of as many refugees as possible, and that the national Office of Refugee Resettlement revise outcome measures beyond short-term indicators focused on refugee adults only. (Deb D'Anastasio for The Immigrant Learning Center's Public Education Institute)

Private-Sector Humanitarians?  New Approaches in the Global Refugee Response,
Urban Institute, September 2018, 28 pp.
Authors:  Ammar A. Malik et al

This research report examines the potential for partnerships between private, for-profit corporations and non-governmental organizations in providing services to refugees and other “people of concern.” The authors believe that new approaches are necessary because of an increase in the numbers of refugees worldwide and a decrease in traditional corporate philanthropy. Based on a review of existing reports and a number of semi-structured interviews with individuals who have experience in for-profit/NGO partnerships, the authors offer some guidelines for partnership development. A key concern of the report is how a lack of transparency between partners may lead to a lack of trust. The authors also stress that partners may struggle to understand each other’s worldview and mission. For that reason, they highlight the role of local intermediaries in bringing together disparate organizations. They also suggest that successful partnerships rely upon the skills of senior leaders who can clarify goals and maintain lines of communication. The authors recognize that these partnerships have significant start-up costs and that the for-profit partner must be able to articulate and realize financial goals in order to satisfy shareholders. The non-governmental partner must also receive guarantees that their mission and image will not be compromised by associating with a particular company. At the conclusion of the report, the authors propose the creation of a global clearinghouse that would advance the idea of these partnerships and share information and expertise with each sector. The Urban institute has also published a companion case study of a partnership between IKEA and the Jordan River Foundation to provide employment opportunities for Syrian refugees and Jordanian women in Jordan. (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University)

Asylum Processing and Waitlists at the U.S. – Mexico Border,
Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law, University of Texas (Austin) et al, December, 2018, 24 pp.
Authors: Stephanie Leutert et al

Since 2016, wait times for asylum processing at ports of entry on the southern border have increased due largely to a procedure called “metering,” i.e. limiting the number of asylum seekers who can be processed per day or turning them away before they reach a port of entry. This practice has created great hardship among immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean, many of whom have travelled for weeks or months to get to the border, and now have to wait up to three more months in Mexico before being processed. Metering has also caused consternation among Mexican government and social services officials, who must manage these temporary residents in their border cities. This report uses fieldwork conducted in eight cities along the U.S.-Mexico border to gain insight into the effects of metering on asylum seekers and surrounding communities. Advocates argue that the deliberately slow processing of asylum claims, as well as policies that reflect a “zero-tolerance” policy towards undocumented immigrants entering via land borders, violates international conventions on processing asylum claims. Furthermore, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have given false information to asylum seekers and erroneously turned them away from the border. The report calls for institutional policy change within CBP to address these deficiencies as well as an end to intimidation and coercive tactics toward a deeply vulnerable population of asylum seekers. (Mia Fasano for The Immigration Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

The U.S. Asylum System in Crisis: Charting a Way Forward,
Migration Policy Institute, September 2018, 36 pp.
Authors: Doris Meissner et al

Since the beginning of this decade, the number of asylum claims in the U.S. has ballooned. The USCIS Asylum Division, which handles the applications of those who apply affirmatively for asylum (before they’ve been placed into removal proceedings), now has a case backlog of more than 300,000, with hundreds of thousands more asylum claims stuck in the immigration courts. As a result, asylum seekers with authentic claims are kept in limbo for months or years, while others may be gaming the system, taking advantage of years-long delay. The authors of this report explain how the current backlog developed and what is driving the near-record level of annual asylum claims. The crisis in the asylum system, they point out, is not unprecedented, and this report looks back at reforms instituted in the mid-1990s, when the asylum system was even more overwhelmed with annual filings and a backlog of nearly 500,000 cases. Those reforms resulted in new cases being decided in a timely manner and the eventual elimination of the backlog. The authors make a series of recommendations for handling the current crisis, which they believe can reduce the backlog and ensure that cases are decided in a timely manner. Recommendations include: prioritizing the most recent cases to be filed, a process already begun; and developing a special process for handling cancellation of removal cases — an idea designed to handle cases of long-resident undocumented immigrants who are increasingly filing affirmative asylum claims as a way to be placed into removal proceedings where they can file for cancellation of removal (available to undocumented individuals residing in the U.S. for ten years or more). Ultimately, the authors note, a long-term solution to the current crisis will involve investment in countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America, to help them gain control of the violence driving thousands of families to make the trek north in search of protection. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Consulting)

Boosting Refugee Outcomes: Evidence from Policy, Academia, and Social Innovation,
Stanford Immigration Policy Lab, October 2, 2018, 53 pp.
Author: Salma Mousa

Many refugees face common barriers towards achieving integration in western countries, including lack of language proficiency, difficulty finding a job commensurate with their education and skills, and mental health stressors. This review of the literature draws on policy reports and academic studies (both descriptive and experimental) to answer two questions: (1) what do we know about refugee outcomes? and; (2) what factors are associated with these outcomes? The author synthesizes information on the individual and environmental traits associated with the socio-economic well-being of refugees – ranging from country of origin and gender to ethnic enclaves and rigid labor markets. She then surveys pilot projects and programs aimed at integrating refugees globally, with a focus on the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The evidence base suggests that programs leveraging community support while supplementing income – such as apprenticeships, private sponsorship, and cash transfers dovetailed with financial mentorship – represent promising paths forward. The report features a series of “takeaways” on topics as wide-ranging as pre-school participation, housing policy, financial literacy interventions, and the potential of volunteers to assist with the resettlement process. Finally, the author provides a 14-page list of references on refugee integration.

Uprooted in Central America and Mexico:  Migrant and refugee children face a vicious cycle of hardship and danger,
UNICEF Child Alert, August 2018, 25 pp.

This report outlines the harsh process and painful consequences of migration on children and families fleeing extreme violence and poverty in Central America and Mexico. These conditions, combined with lack of economic and educational opportunity, spur irregular migration, but stricter border control merely increases hardship for migrants. Forcible return to countries of origin often prompts additional attempts at migration. Detention and family separation are deeply traumatizing experiences that can affect a child’s long-term development and act as a trigger for present and future mental illness.  Many alternatives to detention exist, including community-based care, group homes and foster care, all of which have had positive results for families and unaccompanied minors. UNICEF urges United Nations member states to adopt a 6-point “agenda for action” to safeguard the health and well-being of migrant and refugee children. This agenda includes action points addressing all aspects of the migration experience, including the root causes of migration, detention, family separation, protecting children from all forms of violence, and, finally, steps to promote reintegration and address discrimination and xenophobia for children and migrants who have been returned to their countries of origin. (Sam Jones for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program – a Return to First Principles: How Refugees Help to Define, Strengthen, and Revitalize the United States,
Center for Migration Studies, June 2018, 34 pp.
Author: Donald Kerwin

The United States has historically welcomed refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. Refugees have increased the cultural diversity, economic competitiveness and security of their adopted homeland. Since 1980 alone, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) has resettled more than three million refugees in the U.S. However, the Trump administration has drastically reduced the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. (45,000 in Fiscal 2018) and slashed USRAP’s budget as part of its broader effort to limit legal immigration. Arguing that the refugee resettlement program serves U.S. interests and values, the report details the contributions refugees make to U.S. society. The authors use data from the American Community Survey to analyze the demographics, achievements and integration of over one million refugees. Findings indicate that refugees participate in the labor force, start businesses and earn college degrees at high rates. For example, 68 percent of refugees participate in the labor force, compared to 63 percent of the total U.S. population. In addition, a higher percentage of refugees are self-employed, indicating that they create more jobs than non-refugees. Given the value of refugees to American society, as well as the need for U.S leadership to address the global crisis of displaced persons, the author suggests that individuals and organizations should facilitate refugee resettlement as well as advocate for generous refugee admissions to members of Congress. (Deb D’Anastasio for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Philanthropic Strategies to Support Refugees and Asylum Seekers,
Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, 2018, 28 pp.
Author: Suzette Brooks Masters

Since 2017, refugees and asylum seekers, and the infrastructure in the U.S. that supports them, have faced dual challenges: first, the unprecedented movement of displaced peoples—begun prior to the Trump administration; and second, the Trump administration’s hostility to those coming to the U.S. for protection. Foundations that have supported organizations serving immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have been challenged to adapt to this new environment. This report provides a picture of how 10 different funders have stepped up their support for refugees and asylum seekers in response to these challenges. Funders profiled are mostly U.S.-based, both large national foundations and smaller community foundations, with grantees that are mostly U.S.-based. The report draws lessons from the foundation profiles and makes a set of recommendations and next steps. One common thread is support for refugee resettlement agencies, to help them broaden their funding streams and diversify their services in the face of sharp federal reductions in funding for refugee resettlement. Another lesson learned is that funders must broaden their portfolios and break down the long-standing silos separating funders focused on immigration issues from those focusing on refugee and asylum-seeker issues. Collaboration among funders, and using the convening power of the foundations, are other themes that appear throughout. The report recommends that foundations join in collectives that foster sharing of information and best practices (as in the recently-formed Funders for Refugees and Asylum Seekers); that funders look beyond providing for immediate needs and support the long-term sustainability of their grantees; and that funders work more collaboratively, to meet the daunting challenges now facing migrants seeking humanitarian protection in the U.S. and around the world. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Consulting)

A Needed Evidence Revolution:  Using cost-benefit analysis to improve refugee integration programming,
Migration Policy Institute (Europe), July 2018, 47 pp.
Authors: Meghan Benton & Paul Diegert

Arguing that it is time for immigrant integration policy to catch up with fields such as health, criminal justice, and education, that have experienced a recent “evidence revolution,” the authors of this study urge the use of frameworks like cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of various policy interventions designed to facilitate the labor market integration of refugees. Written for a European audience, and with European conditions in mind, e.g. high refugee unemployment with undesirable ripple effects on the second generation, the report begins by taking stock of current approaches to measuring the success of labor-market integration programs. Many studies only measure initial outcomes, and because they don’t look into longer-term effects, often have results that are “underwhelming.” Other studies, even if they use cost-benefit analysis, are often used as “political tools” to allay public fears about migration, rather than to decide how to target program investments. The authors then proceed to give examples of studies that could take account of both the short-term economic impacts of integration programs, as well as the longer-term impacts, such as the educational progress of refugee children, the prevention of criminality, and lifetime earnings of the second generation.  They also argue the importance of segmenting the study population, e.g. refugees, asylees, or family migrants; taking into account spatial variables; and evaluating against defined public policy goals. The report ends with a call for researchers and policy makers to work together to achieve “an analytical revolution that paves the way for grounded, evidence-based policy-making.”

Economic and Fiscal Impact of Refugees in Colorado,
Colorado Department of Human Services, May 20, 2018, 36 pp.
Author: Dominic Modicamore

Using a unique methodology that attempts to capture the total amount spent on defined group of refugees, i.e. those receiving state services in the years 2007 and 2014, this study attempts to quantify the return on investment to the people of Colorado from state expenditures to support refugees. The 2007 cohort consisted of 2,670 refugees, while the 2014 cohort had about 3,600. All state spending on these refugees, whether in the year of record, or in prior or later years, was factored into the calculations. The analysis found that for each dollar spent assisting the 2007 cohort, $25.49 was generated in the form of assistance spending and wages earned. The comparable figure for the 2014 cohort was $20.94. The author concludes that “refugees contribute to Colorado’s economic vibrancy and support jobs and income for refugees and non-refugees alike.” The report includes a literature review covering five major studies that have appeared in recent years seeking to estimate the economic costs and impact of refugee resettlement in the U.S.

Refugees as Employees: Good Retention, Strong Recruitment,
Fiscal Policy Institute & the Tent Partnership for Refugees, May, 2018, 47 pp.
Authors:  David Dyssegaard Kallick & Cyierra Roldan

Seeking to fill a gap in research on refugee resettlement in the U.S., the authors of this study focus on the experience of employers who have hired refugees.  The authors conducted in-depth, confidential interviews with employers in four different resettlement sites:  Atlanta, Phoenix, upstate New York, and Central Nebraska. They also interviewed staff at resettlement agencies, held discussions with experts in the field, and convened a number of focus groups. While refugees and other employees have similar goals and needs, there were two clear differences that emerged from the study:  first, refugees have higher retention rates, i.e. tending to stay longer with firms than other workers; and second, employers who can work through the inevitable adjustment problems faced by refugees are often eager to hire more refugees and refugees, in turn, are inclined to work for such employers. Many employers report that “they had learned and grown from the experience of integrating refugees in ways that made them not just better employers of refugees, but better employers in general.” The report includes separate sections on the main sectors employing refugees, including manufacturing, meatpacking, hotels, hospital and residential care facilities.

Bringing Evidence to the Refugee Integration Debate,
Urban Institute, April 2018, 32 pp.
Author:  Hamutal Bernstein with Nicole DuBois
This report provides a summary of "the prodigious research evidence about refugees in the US." The authors seek to ground policymaking in the existing research base (focusing on five major studies produced in recent years), as well as to identify gaps in research that should be addressed in the future. Overall, the existing studies show that labor force participation rates for refugees rise over time, often exceeding native-born rates, refugee income levels rise, and their use of public benefits declines. A 2017 study found that refugees arriving between the ages of 18 to 45 ultimately contribute $21,000 more in taxes than they cost over a 20-year period. The report addresses the strengths and weaknesses of various techniques for extracting data about refugees from sources such as the American Community Survey, and identifies key questions for which we have little data, such as long-term career paths, intergenerational changes, health and mental health status, and refugee impact on local communities.  The authors conclude that "refugees contribute to the strength and vitality of communities across the US," but that "we need to push the evidence base to develop a stronger understanding of both sides of the integration equation - refugees and receiving communities."  The research for this report was funded by Unbound Philanthropy.

A Way Forward for Refugees: Findings from the WES Pilot Project
World Education Services, 2018, 24 pp.
Project Lead: Denise Jillions
In 2017, 66 million people became refugees and asylum seekers after being displaced from their homes. World Education Services (WES), an international credential evaluation company, launched a program in 2016 called the Refugee Pilot Project, in order to test an alternative approach to verifying the academic credentials of Syrian refugees in Canada. WES started this program because refugees often have missing or incomplete documentation and their circumstances prevent them from obtaining verified documents to comply with WES's standard procedure. As detailed in this study, the assessment reports WES provided to refugees included the nature of a credential, its equivalency in Canada and information on the Syrian education system, which can be used to contextualize the results. Survey responses from refugees and stakeholders in addition to interviews with refugees, academic institutions, regulatory bodies, employers and other partners suggest that the Refugee Pilot Project was successful and well received by both the refugees and community partners. Participants found the assessment reports to be empowering and useful for refugees trying to obtain work related to their academic qualifications or to continue their education in Canada. Nearly half of surveyed organizations reported that they would use or consider using the WES assessments for credential recognition. The authors hope to further develop and expand their policies for non-verifiable documentation to serve additional populations of people who are unable to obtain official documents. (Denise Jillions for Tulane University, PHIL 3930)

What Works:  Innovative Approaches to Improving Refugee Integration
Center for American Progress, February 28, 2018, 50 pp.
Author:  Silva Mathema
The Trump administration has proposed funding cuts to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), which will destabilize the current infrastructure for resettling and integrating refugees. This infrastructure, based on a partnership between the federal government and nonprofit organizations, has enabled the United States to successfully integrate millions of refugees into American life. What Works: Innovative Approaches to Improving Refugee Integration from the Center for American Progress attempts to document the specific strategies and programs that have produced these impressive results, as well as to suggest approaches that can be used to weather the hostile atmosphere created by the current administration. The author used a "snowball" sampling technique to identify 24 model programs providing services in four areas: employment and entrepreneurship, education, social integration, and specialized services such as health care.  In each of these areas, the author tries to explain "why these programs work."  For example, strong and lasting relationships with employers seem to be crucial in the employment area.  In the educational area, some programs have experimented with home-based instruction for hard-to-reach refugee women and families with young children. The author makes a number of recommendations to help the resettlement sector survive this challenging period, including advising cities to create umbrella organizations dedicated to refugee integration, encouraging organizations to seek diverse sources of funding, creating opportunities for sharing among resettlement organizations, expanding services to the wider community, and continuing to recruit and invest in volunteers.  (The Immigrant Learning Center's Public Education Institute)

U.S. Resettles Fewer Refugees, Even as Global Number of Displaced People Grows,
Pew Research Center, October 12, 2017, 38 pp.
Author: Phillip Connor
This report presents a detailed demographic analysis of the incoming U.S. refugee population from FY 2002 to FY 2017 and includes the following data points:  nationality, religious affiliation, gender, age, and state of resettlement. The author points out a number of trends observable in the data, including an increase in the share of refugees from the Middle East and Africa (from 17 percent in 2002 to 68 percent in 2017), the growth in the share of refugees who are Muslim, reaching 43 percent in FY 2017; and the large number of refugees ages 20 or younger (between 40 percent and 50 percent throughout this period). The author also tracks U.S. resettlement activity in the context of the worldwide refugee problem and notes that U.S. resettlement usually moves in tandem with the rise and fall of refugee numbers around the world. However, at a time when world refugee numbers have peaked at 17.2 million, the U.S. commitment to refugees has faltered in recent years, dropping to 0.2 percent of the world's refugee population, far less than the U.S. historic average of 0.6 percent.


U.S. Leadership Forsaken: Six Months of the Trump Refugee Ban,
Human Rights First, July 2017, 26 pp.
Authors: Eleanor Acer & Natasha Ampriester

In order to advance America’s foreign policy and national security interests, as well as to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, the United States must be a global leader in the world’s refugee crises. According to this report by Human Rights First, the United States is retreating from its responsibilities in this area.  The report examines the effects of the “travel ban” executive order of U.S. President Donald Trump and finds that it has worked to make America less safe by destabilizing refugee resettlement programs worldwide. Utilizing Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing Systems data, the report finds that the travel ban has more than halved U.S. refugee admissions in the six months following the January 2017 order, including an 80 percent reduction in resettlement of Syrians; a three-fourths drop in resettlement of Muslim refugees; an effective halt of new refugee processing worldwide, and the layoff of hundreds of refugee processing staff. As a result, the report finds that the U.S. “abdication of leadership” in this area has burdened U.S. allies and front-line refugee hosting countries, threatened intelligence sharing in the War on Terror, and fueled smuggling and trafficking, which ultimately threaten the safety of American citizens. The report argues that the U.S. should reaffirm its commitment to refugee resettlement and resume processing of refugees, in order to reassert its global leadership and protect its security interests. (Joanathan Eizyk for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

How are Refugees Faring: Integration at U.S. and State Levels
Transatlantic Council on Migration, June, 2017, 33 pp.
Authors:  Michael Fix, Kate Hoper, and Jie Zong
This study looks at the educational and economic outcomes of five refugee communities (Vietnamese, Cuban, Russian, Iraqi and Burmese) in four states (California, Florida, New York and Texas).  The key question is whether the location of refugee resettlement has a significant impact on refugee integration.  This has been described as “the lottery effect” – the idea that refugees’ lives are impacted by being placed in locales with very different labor markets, costs of living and social safety nets. The authors begin by reviewing refugee outcomes more generally, pointing out that they tend to enter employment quickly.  However, these outcomes vary by community, with some populations (e.g., Russian) faring better than others (e.g., Bhutanese). The study finds the same is true at the state level, with Vietnamese and Russian refugees having higher employment rates and higher median income and the Iraqi and Burmese refugee communities having lower employment rates and lower median income across the states.  The authors conclude that national origin seems to be more highly correlated with positive economic outcomes than location of resettlement.  They offer some suggestions for why this might be the case, including the fact that many Iraqi refugees are widows with limited experience of the workforce. The authors also note that to get a fuller picture of resettlement outcomes, research should be conducted on non-economic factors such as levels of civic participation and refugees’ sense of belonging to the community where they have resettled (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University).

The Perils of Expedited Removal: How Fast-Track Deportations Jeopardize Asylum Seekers,
American Immigration Council, May 2017, 28 pp.
Authors: Kathryn Shepherd & Royce Bernstein Murray
This paper documents what is happening to women and children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and seeking asylum in the U.S. For the most part, they are fleeing horrific violence in Central America. Using information drawn from thousands of cases of families detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, this report illustrates the difficulties these asylum seekers are having navigating the fast-track removal process known as expedited removal. Among the problems documented are a lack of ability for some to fully understand the credible fear interview process, a failure of some asylum officers to follow procedures designed to elicit information from the asylum seekers who otherwise might not feel comfortable talking about sensitive subjects; distraction caused by the traumas suffered in the home country, family separation by U.S. authorities, or medical illnesses; limited access to interpreting services for those who speak less common languages; and lack of legal representation. Those given a negative credible fear determination rarely are successful in having the negative determination reversed unless they have a lawyer representing them. The cases highlighted in this report raise questions about the appropriateness of using fast-track removal for individuals fleeing traumatic violence and seeking refuge in the U.S. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)

Crossing the Line: U.S. Border Agents Illegally Reject Asylum Seekers,
Human Rights First, May, 2017, 26 pp.
Authors: B. Shaw Drake, Eleanor Acer, & Olga Byrne
This report, based on the cases of 125 individuals and families, documents the difficulties asylum seekers are having requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border. In many cases and at multiple ports of entry, asylum seekers are being turned away by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers without being referred to an asylum officer. Many are told that they must have an "appointment" from Mexican officials before they can seek asylum in the U.S. or that the U.S. is no longer providing asylum. Others are intimidated or coerced by CBP officers into abandoning their attempt to gain safety. Some asylum seekers have resorted to enlisting lawyers to accompany them to the border to ensure that CBP officers follow their own rules. Those who are turned away-many fleeing violence in Central America-face violence and even death if returned to their home country. Those turned back into Mexico have increasingly been at risk for kidnapping, extortion, rape, and even murder, as cartels have increased their surveillance of U.S. ports of entry and see asylum seekers who have been turned away as easy targets. The authors report that the practice of turning back asylum seekers, a problem that has been documented for many years, has proliferated since the November 2016 election. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)

Overview of Refugee Resettlement in the United States,
Niskanen Center, March, 2017, 12 pp.
Author: Kristie De Peña
Though the federal government retains control of the refugee resettlement process in the United States, it must consult with individual states for effective and responsible resettlement. The Niskanen Center's report, Overview of Refugee Resettlement in the United States, provides a summary and assessment of U.S. refugee resettlement. Currently, 21.3 million refugees worldwide require some form of assistance from the world community; 4.9 million Syrians have registered as refugees since 2011. Individuals seeking refugee status in the U.S. must receive a referral from the United States Refugees Admissions Program. All applicants are vetted through rigorous biometric security checks and medical screenings by several government bodies before being interviewed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, while Syrian refugees undergo an additional "Enhanced Syrian Review." Applicants may be deemed inadmissible on health-related grounds or a variety of criminal grounds. Once a refugee is evaluated and allowed entry, the federal government must work within the state's resettlement structure. Most states are enrolled in state-administered programs and are reimbursed for the total costs of their refugee cash assistance and refugee medical assistance programs, though several states use models involving volunteer agencies and nonprofits or public-private partnerships. While states are crucial to refugee resettlement, recent legal challenges from governors have aimed to stop or curb the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states. The author maintains that such directives contradict traditional American principles and suggests that the federal government give stronger consideration to state recommendations so that refugees are resettled in areas where they are more likely to be welcomed and supported. (Sarah Purdy for The ILC Public Education Institute)

Unconventional Refugees
Social Science Research Network, March 1, 2017, 54 pp.
Author: Elizabeth Keyes
Believing that the 1951 Refugee Convention fails to cover all types of forced migration in the modern world, and that new approaches to protection for "unconventional refugees" need to be developed beyond refugee status, the author - Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law --  spells out the rationale for an easily administered "sojourner status" that would be country-specific -- similar in some respects to the Temporary Protected Status program. The status would last for a period of five years, and would be granted only when certain conditions have been met, e.g. applicants would have to have close relatives in the U.S. In addition, the U.S. would bear some responsibility for the instability in the home country, and would undertake meaningful efforts to address the root causes of the displacement. There would also be a clear understanding that the ultimate goal of the program is repatriation, not resettlement. One goal of the new policy would be to "fit the response to the actual migration flow."  The proposed approach would have special relevance to the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The author believes that "do(ing) something less-than-perfectly satisfactory" is better than doing nothing at all, as the pressure to migrate is difficult to contain, and illegal flows create worse problems in the long run.  One advantage of the proposed system is that it would avoid costly and time-consuming individual legal proceedings. "The solution replaces costly individualized adjudications with broader, simpler protection that is easier to access. It privileges investment in the security and governance of the sending countries as the only durable way to change migration patterns in the long-term."

The U Visa's Failed Promise for Survivors of Domestic Violence,
Available at SSRN, November 19, 2016, 38 pp.
Author: Natalie Nanasi
Recognizing the unique vulnerabilities of immigrants who become victims of crime, Congress enacted the U visa, a form of immigration relief that provides victims, including survivors of domestic violence, a path to legal status. Along with this humanitarian aim, the U visa was intended to aid law enforcement in efforts to investigate and prosecute crime, based on the notion that victims without legal status might otherwise be too fearful to "come out of the shadows" by reporting offenses to the police.  Survivors were required to cooperate with law enforcement as a condition for receiving legal status. The author of this article argues that the interest of victims, who may have legitimate reasons for not wanting to cooperate with law enforcement,  have often been ignored in the U visa process. Despite early feminists' support for punitive approaches, "many scholars and advocates argue that the pendulum has swung too far and that the deprivation of choice inherent in mandatory legal interventions can be extraordinarily harmful to survivors of domestic violence." The author recommends that the requirements for U visas should be rewritten to permit exceptions especially for "survivors who are too traumatized to engage with law enforcement, for those whose safety or security would be compromised by reporting or cooperating, or for victims who can demonstrate that a law enforcement agency arbitrarily or unreasonably refused to sign a certification form."

Addressing the Syrian Refugee Crisis,
Brookings Institute, December 16, 2016, 9 pp.
Authors: Jessica Brandt & Robert L. McKenzie
Continuing a tradition dating back to 1921, Brookings scholars in late 2016 provided recommendations to the incoming Trump administration on a range of vital public policy issues, including how to handle the Syrian refugee crisis.  According to the authors of refugee policy brief, the scale of Syrian humanitarian "catastrophe" is unprecedented and threatens to undermine the security of frontline states in the region, like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, which have taken in 5 million Syrians living outside the borders of Syria. To effectively deal with the crisis will require both an American commitment to resettle a small number of these refugees and support for refugees remaining in frontline states. Noting that the numbers and threat of Syrian refugees in the U.S. have been "overstated in public discourse," and that our government gives preference to vulnerable refugees, such as single mothers with children, this policy paper argues that the U.S. posture towards refugees will shape the response of the world community, and that the U.S. should follow through on its commitment to resettle 110,000 refugees in 2017 (a 30 percent increase from 2016). In addition, the administration must make Syrian refugee education in countries of first asylum a top priority, ensuring that all refugee children living in the Mideast have access to primary and secondary education by September of 2017, so as not to create "environments where violent extremism can take hold." In addition, barriers to refugee employment need to be lowered, so that parents are not dependent on child labor and are willing to send their children to school.

Refugee Integration in the United States
Center for American Progress & Fiscal Policy Institute, June, 2016, 56 pp.
Authors: David Dyssegaard Kallick & Silva Mathema
Refugee Integration in the United States analyzes levels of economic and social integration of refugees over time through the study of Somali, Burmese, Hmong and Bosnian refugee groups. This report examines data from the American Community Survey and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and finds that refugees are integrating well into their new communities as evidenced by growing rates of labor force participation, business and home ownership, naturalization and English language acquisition. For example, the homeownership rate for Bosnian refugees rose from 57 percent to 72 percent after 10 years' residence in the United States, exceeding the average homeownership rate of the U.S.-born. Burmese refugee men saw their wages nearly double after 10 years in the U.S. The significant impact of these refugee groups on the economic revitalization of metropolitan areas such as St. Louis and Minneapolis is a clear sign of their successful integration. To ensure that refugees can reach their full economic and social potential to contribute to community improvements and the growth of the U.S. economy, the authors recommend that federal, state and local governments invest in refugee integration efforts. (Jasmina Popaja for The Immigrant Learning Center Public Education Institute)

The Integration Outcomes of U.S. Refugees: Successes and Challenges,
Migration Policy Institute, June, 2015, 36 pp.
Authors: Randy Capps et al

Originally prepared to inform a 2014 MPI Roundtable on the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, this report examines trends in refugee arrivals and integration using previously unpublished data from the State Department and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, as well as data from U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The researchers examine educational attainment, English language proficiency, household income, and participation in public benefit programs. They find "that, as their years in the United States increase, refugees' income levels and benefits use approximate those of the U.S. born, suggesting that most refugees become self-supporting over time - a core goal of the U.S. resettlement program." However, refugees arriving in recent years with low levels of education and literacy: Bhutanese, Burmese, Liberians, and Somalis, in particular, may be at a disadvantage compared to those resettled earlier. The 2007-2009 recession had a particularly adverse impact on low-skilled workers. Moreover, the U.S. resettlement program, with its emphasis on early employment, provides minimal support for education and language services for these groups.

Strengthening Communities by Welcoming All Residents: A Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant & Refugee Integration,
The White House Task Force on New Americans, April, 2015, 64 pp.

In November 2015, President Barack Obama created a formal interagency body, called the White House Task Force on New Americans, to develop a plan of action to integrate immigrants into the civic, social, and economic life of the nation. Personnel from 18 federal departments and agencies served on the task force. The Task Force sought public input to guide its deliberations, including a National Call for Ideas, which generated approx. 350 submissions, online stakeholder listening sessions, and site visits to local communities. The plan contains 48 recommendations in four broad areas: building welcoming communities, strengthening pathways to naturalization and promoting civic engagement, supporting skill development and entrepreneurship and protecting New American workers, and expanding opportunities for linguistic integration and education.  Within each of these four areas, the report reviews existing federal, state, and local efforts, and then outlines recommended actions to be taken by relevant federal agencies. In December 2015, the task force is scheduled to submit a status report to the President on progress made in implementing these recommendations. Although the report refrains from recommending the establishment of a separate White House office to coordinate, monitor, and support integration efforts in the future, it does call for “strengthening the underlying federal infrastructure” and creating “interagency working groups” to focus on key issues, such as workforce development. The National Center on Immigrant Integration Pollicy of the Migration Policy Institute has assembled on its website the recommendations submitted to the White House Task Force by a variety of national and local organizations.

Unaccompanied Migrant Children from Central America: Context, Causes, and Responses,
Center for Latin American & Latino Studies, American University, November, 2014, 44 pp.
Authors: Dennis Stinchcomb & Eric Hershberg

This paper examines conditions in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that have produced  a steady increase in the migration of unaccompanied children (UAC)  to the United States.  The three primary "push" factors are: economic stagnation and social exclusion, societal violence, and household violence. The report also traces the hardships and abuses that these children undergo as they traverse Mexico on their way to the U.S., including  sexual assaults, kidnappings, and disappearances. "Given the range and severity of the abuses," the authors observe, "UAC migration on a mass scale seems implausible absent grave, even life-threatening circumstances in migrants' communities of origin."  Reinforcing the primacy of push factors is the fact that children are dispersing throughout the region, including Nicaragua, Costa Rica , Panama, and Mexico.  Nicaragua, for example, saw a 420 percent increase in asylum claims from 2012 to 2013.  The U.N. also reports that large numbers of central Americans (130,000 within El Salvador alone) are internally displaced within their own countries.  "These numbers," the authors write, "cast doubt on unsubstantiated allegations that lax border enforcement and U.S. immigration polici8es, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, are primarily to blame for the surge in Central American Migration."   The report also looks at the trajectory of UACs  after arrival in the U.S. and steps that have been taken, albeit limited in scope, to afford these children the opportunity to make the legal case for asylum. The Ford Foundation provided support for the research involved in producing this report.

"You Don't Have Rights Here" US Border Screening and Returns of Central Americans to Risk of Serious Harm,
Human Rights Watch, October, 2014, 44 pp.
Author:  Clara Long

For this article, Human Rights Watch (HRW) collected data from more than 683,000 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehensions between 2011 and 2012 and interviewed 35 Central American migrants in 2014 who had recently been deported to Honduras or who were in US detention.  HRW also interviewed border patrol officials in McAllen, Texas, migrant service providers, lawyers, academics, and government officials in Honduras and the United States. The report found flaws in the effectiveness of the screening system of CBP and immigration agencies ostensibly designed to "identify people fleeing serious risks to their lives and safety." Based on her analysis of the data and the first-hand accounts detailed in the report, the author argues that in many cases, expedited removal does not allow for adequate consideration of asylum claims; "...the fears they expressed should have led US immigration authorities to give their cases sufficient scrutiny before they were returned to their home country." The article notes the prevalence of violence, gang wars, sexual harassment and abuse, and the breakdown of the justice system, in the environments into which these migrants are deported.  To increase the accuracy of assessment of the danger of immigrants and to combat the identified priority of CBP officers who have been shown through this research to be focused primarily on removal, rather than an assessment of the dangers present required by the principle of nonrefoulement, the author makes a number of recommendations. These include: having CPB apply a presumption of fear of return to migrants from countries where basic security is lacking, and strengthening legal representation for indigent migrants.  (Kate Lesnewich, Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work)

Believable Victims: Asylum Credibility and the Struggle for Objectivity,
Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 16: 1 (2015), Forthcoming, 14 pp.
Author: Michael Kagan

This article assesses the current state of the art in adjudicating asylum claims both in the U.S. and internationally. The author finds that the U.S. process is flawed and highly subjective and "in danger of being left behind" by developments elsewhere in the world.  Acknowledging the paucity of evidence available to substantiate asylum claims, and the role that the adjudicator must play in determining the credibility of the applicant, the author nonetheless argues for a "more objective analytical approach" similar to the one developed by UNHCR and incorporated into a training manual produced by the European Commission.  As the consequences for negative determinations can be grave, i.e. return to countries where applicants could be persecuted or killed, the standard of proof in such cases, the author points out, should be low.  Past experience also suggests that asylum officers often minimize the threat to applicants, especially during the early stages of a world crisis. The author also suggests that the U.S. may be rushing to judgment on the veracity of young people fleeing gang violence and other threats in Central America. "Implicit assumptions about how foreign countries work and, most importantly, how a genuine victim would act or talk can lead to inconsistent, unreliable decisions with grave consequences for people in danger."

Children Fleeing Central America: Stories from the Front Lines in Florida,
Americans for Immigrant Justice, August, 2014, 43 pp.
Prepared by: Cheryl Little

Since 2009, thousands of unaccompanied children in the "Northern Triangle" - Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador - have fled their homes in search of a better life in the United States. Published by an organization that has operated an immigrant Children's Legal Program in Florida since 1999, this report identifies the factors that lead these children to seek refuge in the U.S. and recommends steps to protect them, legally and physically, upon entering the country. Replete with quotes, interviews and case histories, the report describe lives of desperation in Central America, harrowing border crossings and deplorable conditions in the "hieleras" (Spanish word for iceboxes), or detention centers run by the U.S government.  The author points out that Post-Traumatic Stress disorders and other mental health conditions "are disturbingly common in this vulnerable population." She also notes that many of these children can assert a legal right to stay in the U.S., if they are represented by attorneys or accredited representatives. The report explains the process of transferring these children to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which enables them to stay in shelters and/or to be reunited with relatives in the U.S. To ensure the humane treatment of the migrant minors, the report recommends better conditions in detention centers, faster court processing without sacrificing due process,  access to refugee processing in countries of origin, and humanitarian relief in the form of Temporary Protected Status.  (Ariella Katz Suchow for The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.'s Public Education Institute)

New Directions in Research on Human Trafficking,
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 653 (May 2014), 18 pp.
Author: Ronald Weitzer

Introducing an entire issue of the ANNALS devoted to human trafficking, Ronald Weitzer, Professor of Sociology at George Washington University,  laments the paucity of rigorous research on the subject.  As a result, "much of the popular writing on human trafficking has been anecdotal or sensationalistic..." Too much attention, according to the author, has been paid to the problem of sexual exploitation, to the neglect of labor trafficking - in agriculture, manufacturing, fishing, mining, and domestic service. Moreover, "definitional problems plague both scholarly and policy discussions on human trafficking." Some people, for example, claim that any illegal migration for the purpose of obtaining work, including prostitution, should be classified as trafficking, even if the migrant gave tacit or open consent to such an arrangement. The author disputes "four central claims" that are often made about trafficking: that the number of victims is huge; that the problem is growing in magnitude, that human trafficking is the 2nd or 3rd largest organized criminal enterprise in the world, after illegal drug and weapons trading; and that sex trafficking is more prevalent and/or more serious than labor trafficking. He is particularly harsh on the U.S. government and the International Labor Organization for greatly inflating the number of people victimized by trafficking. The research in this volume suggests that "the lived experiences of human trafficking and migration vary tremendously. They range from highly coercive and exploitative to cooperative, consensual, and mutually beneficial relationship between migrants and their facilitators, with more complex gray areas in between the two poles."

Belonging: The Resettlement Experiences of Hmong Refugees in Texas and Germany,
Migration Policy Institute, September 30, 2014, 9 pp.
Author: Faith Nibbs

This article is drawn from Faith Nibbs' book on the same subject. The author compares the resettlement experience of Hmong refugees in two different locations: Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas and the small town of Gammertingen in Germany. Approximately 120,000 Hmong, a minority group from Laos, were resettled in third countries beginning in 1978, primarily in the U.S., but also in Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, French Guyana, and Germany. Although there were local sponsors in both locations, the role and responsibilities of sponsors differed considerably.  In the U.S. "a more diffuse approach privileging immediate self-sufficiency led to weaker links between refugees and sponsors," whereas in Gammertingen, a kind of division of responsibility was worked out between local government and sponsors, in which the former could focus on the mechanics of resettlement, whereas sponsors could concentrate on socialization activities, or "benevolent inclusion." The imperative of early employment was not as strong in the German context as it was in the U.S. Indeed, in Germany, the refugees were given a full year of language and cultural instruction to prepare them for the labor market. In the U.S. context, the relationship with the sponsor was "hierarchical" in nature, with approval based on meeting sponsor's expectations for early employment and quick adaptation to local culture. In Gammertingen, sponsors became "special friends" and relationships often lasted a lifetime. The author devotes much attention to the capacity of refugees to navigate different reception environments and achieve results beneficial to the community and themselves.

No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children are Fleeing Their Homes,
American Immigration Council, July 1, 2014, 5 pp.
Author: Elizabeth Kennedy

This essay discusses the role that gang violence, extreme poverty, and family separation play in pushing Central American children to leave their home countries.  The author was a Fulbright fellow who lived in El Salvador and interviewed  322 minors who attempted to migrate to the U.S. Males fear assault or death from gang activity and abuse from corrupt officials while females express fear of rape and kidnapping from the same sources. Meanwhile, fear arises from inadequately equipped, corrupt government and legal systems that fail to provide protection or programs to counter violence. However, in the most rural areas of El Salvador, extreme poverty drives migration, especially for adolescent males expected to provide support for their family members. Meanwhile, for one third of children interviewed, family reunification seems to be the primary motivation for leaving. Over 90 percent of the children had a family member in the United States, with just over 50 percent having one or both parents there. The U.S. is not always the destination of choice as many move within El Salvador or to neighboring countries. While risks associated with journey to the U.S. create trepidation among parents, families often decide that long-term safety in the U.S. is worth the short-term risk. As children reach adolescence, gang threats increase, as does the potential to withstand the rigors of the long and hard journey. Even police move from place to place to shield their family members from retaliation from gangs. The author believes that these children should be given full opportunity to assert their claims to asylum in the U.S. under relevant statutes.  (Colin Liebtag)

Restoring America's Commitment to Refugees and Humanitarian Protection,
Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, Spring, 2013, 25 pp.
Authors:  Eleanor Acer & Tara Magner

The authors of this article discuss flaws in existing immigration law which limit the rights and protections afforded to asylum seekers and propose policy and legislative reforms designed to ensure humanitarian rights for such individuals while promoting efficiency and decreasing government costs. Among the roadblocks faced by asylum seekers are: a one year filing deadline for asylum claims, delays in the court system, policies used to exclude individuals deemed to be potential terrorist threats, evidence requirements to establish membership in a persecuted social group, and lack of protection based on humanitarian needs for security. In addition, the authors object to the use of penal facilities to detain asylum seekers -- a practice they see as both a human rights violation and a waste of resources owing to its high cost compared to other approaches such as monitoring. They also find flaws in  U.S. maritime interdiction of Haitian asylum seekers;  language barriers and the absence of interpreters make it difficult to assert asylum claims. In addition to legislative reforms, the authors also propose steps to eliminate backlogs in an underfunded asylum adjudication system. Potentially, handling more cases in a better equipped and staffed asylum office rather than immigration court would reduce adjudication time, as would  the provision of appropriate legal orientation and representation. The paper also discusses the need for protection for stateless persons. Finally, the paper urges passage of provisions in the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill that would achieve compliance with terms of the Refugee Convention, or in lieu of a comprehensive approach, special legislation to address problems in the asylum and refugee system. (Colin Liebtag)

Creating a More Responsive and Seamless Refugee Protection System: The Scope, Promise and Limitations of Temporary Protection Programs,
Center for Migration Studies,  Journal on Migration and Human Security, 2014, 29 pp.
Author: Donald Kerwin
This paper reviews the broad range of U.S. temporary protection programs, including temporary protected status (TPS), humanitarian parole, executive discretion,  "T" visas for victims of human trafficking, and "U" visas for crime victims. Although each program addresses a specific need, with greater or lesser degrees of effectiveness, the programs combined leave many gaps. The author points out that in 2011 "only one-fourth of the world's 72 million forced migrants - those displaced by violence, conflict, development projects, natural disasters and hazards - met the refugee definition" under the U.N. Protocol  (and the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980 which is modelled on the U.N. Protocol).  For example, TPS does not cover people from designated states who arrive after the effective date of the designation, even those who fled life-threatening situations, and the parole authority of the executive branch, although used repeatedly prior to 1980, is severely limited by the Refugee Act of 1980. For these and other reasons, the author makes a number of recommendations, including the creation of a new "protection" visa limited to 10,000 per year for primary beneficiaries; allowing long-term TPS recipients to adjust to permanent resident status through an automatically updated registry date; and prioritizing TPS-designated states for reconstruction and development assistance in order to make repatriation a viable option.

Children on the Run: Unaccompanied Children Leaving Central America and Mexico and the Need for International Protection,
UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency, 2014, 114 pp.
Alarmed by the "surge" of unaccompanied children apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities, UNHCR conducted interviews with 404 children to understand their reasons for migrating and whether any of them were in need of international protection. The study was "specifically designed to be representative and statistically significant for drawing conclusions and inferences..." Over half the children said that their primary reason was to escape the violence in their homes or communities. "Two overarching patterns of harm related to potential international protection needs emerged: violence by organized armed criminal actors and violence in the home." Noting that UNHCR and the international community have an obligation to step in when governments are unable to protect their own citizens, UNHCR concluded that on average 58 percent of unaccompanied children arriving in the U.S. from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are in need of international protection. The study explains the meaning of protection under international law. The "cornerstone" of that protection is the guarantee against return to danger or non-refoulement and the ability to remain lawfully in the country of asylum. Even if these children do not meet the definition of refugee under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, they should be granted "access to a process to review their eligibility for a formal, legal - complementary or subsidiary - status, with defined rights and obligations, for the period of time necessary to safeguard their safety and security."  The balance of the report provides recommendations to the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States in three broad areas:  recognizing emerging forms of displacement in Central America and the need for international protection, strengthening and harmonizing regional and national frameworks for ensuring international protection, and addressing the root causes of the problem.

A Treacherous Journey: Child Migrants Navigating the U.S. Immigration System
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) & Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), 2014, 84 pp. + appendix
Authors:  Lisa Frydman, Elizabeth Dallam, & Blaine Bookey
This report addresses a range of issues stemming from the dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border of the United States. The majority of the 24,668 children who crossed in FY2013 were from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Many are fleeing violence in their homelands and/or seeking to reunite with family members in the U.S.  The study draws on qualitative data from case records compiled by the two sponsoring organizations, published studies, and statistics provided by USCIS and EOIR. Although attempts have been made in the past, most notably through the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, to protect children in immigration proceedings, the authors find major gaps and shortcomings in the system. Although some children are represented by volunteer attorneys, the majority must navigate the system without representation and in most cases in an unfamiliar language.  The report recommends that the government mandate the provision of legal counsel for these children to ensure protection of their interests. At the same time, all children should benefit from the appointment of child advocates to guide them through the system. The authors also urge Congress to enact legislation that would make the principle of the "best interests of the child" the "primary consideration" in all immigration proceedings and to enact a new form of immigration relief that would prevent deportations when not in the best interests of the child. The report also urges the U.S. government to support safe return and reintegration programs for repatriated children.  The balance of the report offers analyses and recommendations in specific areas of the law, such as procedures for granting Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and challenges in obtaining T and U Visas for child victims of trafficking and children who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of certain serious crimes. The study was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Gang and Cartel Violence: A Reason to Grant Political Asylum from Mexico and Central America,
Yale Journal of International Law Online 31 (2012), Posted December 21, 2013, 15 pp.
Author:  Jillian Nicole Blake
The growing threat of gang-related violence in Mexico and Central America has led to a significant increase in the number of asylum applicants seeking safety and protection in the U.S.  Even as this trend has intensified, U.S. approval rates remain low- only 1.1 percent of asylum requests from Mexico in 2011 were granted, compared with 35 percent from China, and 67 percent from Iraq the same year. The author describes the extent of gang and cartel violence in Mexico and Central America to support the basis for protection from gangs and cartels under U.S. law. According to the essay, "Recent gang-based asylum judicial decisions and scholarship focus heavily on the ‘particular social group' persecution ground."  The essay argues that the United States needs a broader perspective to create "coherent standards on the legal status and rights of asylum seekers."  Observing that refugee law is simultaneously international law, the author discusses gang-based asylum within three theoretical contexts: humanitarian, political, and human rights -suggesting that an integration of all three approaches would develop a best practice model for refugee law in the U.S. "The holistic political asylum approach advanced in this Essay combines the level, type, and probability of harm (humanitarian), with lack of sovereign control, political conflict, and opposition to a political element (political), with the failure of state protection (human rights)." (Jade Flora-Holmquist)

Resettlement at Risk: Meeting Emerging Challenges to Refugee Resettlement in Local Communities,
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), February, 2013, 30 pp.
Author: Melanie Nezer
Commissioned by the J.M. Kaplan Fund, this paper was written by Melanie Nezer, Senior Director of U.S. Policy and Advocacy for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). The paper explores the impact of resettlement on local communities and looks at the current rise of anti-refugee sentiment through case studies in three states: Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Georgia. Beginning with an examination of how the current refugee admissions program operates, Nezer discusses policy shifts within the program over the last few decades, moving from a model focused on long-term support and gradual integration to one of immediate immersion and self-sufficiency. Nezer also comments on the changing demographics of U.S. refugee populations, as the government has shifted focus from the resettlement of refugees of political concern to the United States, e.g. Vietnamese and Soviet, to those with the most critical humanitarian needs. According to the paper, in 2012 over 70 percent of refugees admitted in the U.S. came from just three countries: Bhutan, Burma, and Iraq.  In discussing the rising tide of anti-refugee sentiment, Nezer notes fiscal concerns over scarce resources among local governments and social service agencies, unemployment, and the higher visibility of today's refugees when resettled in smaller communities as factors. The spread of anti-immigrant groups and anti-immigrant legislation, along with the growth of Islamophobia, have also played a role according to the author. The report concludes with a number of recommendations for countering the refugee backlash and to foster integration and openness in communities. Recommendations include methods for resettlement agencies to build capacity and gain the support of local and national stakeholders, and establishing national benchmarks for integration along with a system of evaluation that measures progress. The Appendices provide a variety of tables and charts relating to local, national, and global resettlement statistics. (Daniel McNulty)

The Faltering US Refugee Protection System: Legal and Policy Responses to Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Others in Need of Protection,
Migration Policy Institute & the European University Institute, 2011, 38 pp.
Funded by the European Union, this paper argues that the U.S. refugee protection system "needs significant policy attention and revitalization."  The author Donald Kerwin traces the evolution of the U.S. Refugee Assistance Program (USRAP) from 1975 to the present -- a period during which the U.S. admitted nearly 3 million refugees, three-quarters of whom came from Southeast Asia or the former Soviet Union. In recent years, the character and composition of the refugee population has changed dramatically.  In FY 2009, for example, the U.S. admitted refugees from more than 60 nationalities, including 25 African nationalities - often in a deliberate attempt to address the needs of the most vulnerable refugees.  Many have limited formal education and have languished in refugee camps for many years, yet they are expected to achieve self-sufficiency in eight months, at a time when the economy is in recession and job opportunities are limited. Kerwin also reviews how USRAP has been impacted by new security measures put in place after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Finally, he discusses the consequences of interdiction and expedited removal on the ability of asylum seekers to find protection in the U.S.

Refugee Resettlement in the United States:  An Examination of Challenges and Proposed Solutions,
Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, May, 2010, 22 pp.
This report was commissioned by the International Rescue Committee and produced by a team of six graduate students under the guidance of Professor Howard Roy Williams.  The report is based on extensive research and interviews with key figures in the refugee resettlement field and is intended to inform the dialogue on system reform initiated by the National Security Council.   The report summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. resettlement program and makes a series of recommendations to improve program operations and outcomes, including regular consultations with refugees on program operations, more sophisticated tracking of outcomes beyond short-term employment, and a "comprehensive study of the domestic resettlement system to determine optimal funding levels."