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RESOURCES ON U.S REFUGEE AND ASYLEE POLICY AND INTEGRATION
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 United States has a long tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing persecution or war. Since World War II, the country has admitted over 4 million refugees for resettlement. U.S. policy towards refugees and asylees, reflected in international protocols and treaties, legislative initiatives, and policy determinations, has evolved over time. This collection of studies deals with U.S. refugee and asylee policy, efforts to integrate refugees into the mainstream of American society, and refugee contributions to American life.

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,
(Article available through subscription only) 
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."

Iraqi Refugees in the United States:  In Dire Straits,
International Rescue Committee, June, 2009, 36 pp.
Based on field observations in several U.S. cities by a private "Commission on Iraqi Refugees" appointed by the International Rescue Committee, this report finds that the federal refugee resettlement program "faces major structural challenges in its organization and funding." With 17,000 Iraqi refugees slated for admission during FY 2009, many of whom suffering from trauma, injury, and illness, with large numbers of widows with children, the economic downturn is wreaking havoc on the ability of individual refugees to achieve rapid self-sufficiency. Without policy reform, many Iraqi refugees, according to the Commission, will end up homeless and in long-term poverty. The report contains five recommendations for policy reform, including alternatives to early employment to permit refugee professionals to participate in recertification programs.