U.S. Refugee and Asylum Policy
Protecting the Politically Persecuted is an Afterthought, Finds New Report from FAIR
(December 28, 2010 — Washington, D.C.) - A comprehensive analysis by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) of U.S. refugee and asylum policy concludes that protecting people facing political persecution by their governments has become, at best, a secondary consideration in determining who is resettled in the U.S. The report, Refugee and Asylum Reform, finds that domestic political considerations, entrenched government bureaucracies, and the interests of non-governmental organizations that help resettle refugees in the U.S. routinely play a more important role in formulating refugee admission policies than humanitarian need.
U.S. refugee and asylum policies were codified in 1980, while the Cold War still dominated our nation’s global outlook. The 1980 law was formulated with the intent of protecting individuals who faced “a well-founded fear of persecution” by their governments because of race, religion, ethnicity, political belief and other factors. With the end of the Cold War, and the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, the governmental and non-governmental bureaucracies that managed refugee policy have fought to maintain their relevance by broadening the criteria for refugee status, and aggressively seeking out entire classes of people who meet their own criteria.
Among the abuses of our humanitarian policies detailed in Refugee and Asylum Reform:
- A shift from granting refugee or asylum status based on individual circumstances to defining broad classes of people as presumptive refugees.
- An expansion of the definition of refugee or asylee to include people in potentially dangerous personal or social relationships, or who live in societies where there is a breakdown of social order.
- Non-governmental organizations seeking out and lobbying for resettlement of refugees for the primary purpose of maintaining lucrative government contracts.
- An entrenched bureaucracy within the State Department focused on its own perpetuation.
- Settlement of refugees in the U.S., whose displacement is only temporary, or who could be safely resettled in other regions of their own countries.
- Endless renewals of Temporary Protected Status, long after the crisis that triggered the need to allow people to remain in the U.S., at the behest of foreign governments and domestic lobby groups.
- The ability of people to file specious claims for asylum solely to avert removal from the United States.
“In a world of nearly 7 billion people, America has a moral obligation to protect the integrity of its refugee and asylum policies by ensuring that we admit the people most in need of resettlement, not the people who have the most effective lobbyists in Washington,” said Dan Stein, president of FAIR. “With our limited resources we must be compassionate and strategic at the same time. We must utilize our limited resources by resettling only those who have no other reasonable options, while assisting others who are in temporary distress until they can return home and rebuild their lives.”
Refugee and Asylum Reform provides a detailed blueprint for making America’s humanitarian protection policies relevant, effective and sustainable in the 21st century. “There ought to be only two considerations in formulating our refugee and asylum policies: How do we protect the greatest number of people around the world with the resources available? How do we ensure that the generosity of the American people is not abused? For America to remain a haven for the truly persecuted, it is imperative that the political and bureaucratic interests that have seized control of U.S. refugee and asylum policy yield to true humanitarian concerns,” Stein concluded.
The full report is available here.