The Need for Reform of Refugee Admission Policy
The Hon. Saxby Chambliss
Chair, Immigration Subcommittee
Russell Senate Office Bldg. C-2
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Chambliss,
The hearing over which you presided on September 21 on the U.S. refugee program was, as you said, free of acrimony. But that was only because all of the witnesses were supporters of the refugee program. You should be aware that not everybody would agree with the idea of expanding the size of the refugee settlement program.
We know from public opinion polling that a large majority of the American public would like to see fewer immigrants admitted into the United States. We are sure that if the same question were put to the public in terms of the refugee settlement program, a similar large majority of Americans would support either reducing or maintaining the current level of refugee admissions.
You made an excellent point that we are shouldering much more than a fair share of the burden in resettling refugees. You also nicely made the point that the argument that a high level of admissions by the United States is not related to the refugee admission policies of other countries when you elicited the information that the admission by others did not drop off when ours did following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Jordan Commission, in its 1995 “Principles for a Properly Regulated Immigration Policy,” recommended a ceiling for the refugee admission program of 50,000 per year not including asylum admissions. This ceiling could be breached only in emergency situations by joint agreement of Congress and the President. We think that was a realistic recommendation that has been unfortunately ignored by Congress.
We are totally opposed to the expansion of entitlement to groups of refugees, as urged by one of your witnesses. It is a perversion of the international convention protections that are aimed at protectingindividuals who fear persecution, not groups.
Another proposal that we oppose is raising the ceiling on asylum admissions from the current 10,000 per year. The current backlog of approved asylum cases is not evidence that the ceiling is too low, but rather that the granting of asylum has gotten out of control. A large part of the current problem is increasingly expansive definitions of who falls into the “particular social group” category in the refugee definition. It is persistently being leveraged wider by the immigration bar to mean such things as familial abuse and sexual orientation discrimination; conditions unthinkable at the time the definition was adopted. These are especially difficult cases to decide on their merits, as there is often little more than the claimant’s story.
The only appropriate remedy to the backlog problem is to reduce the number of asylum grants, and the appropriate way to do that is to remove the social group provision from the Immigration and Nationality Act definition of a refugee.