Protection of those fleeing or at risk of persecution, torture, or extreme danger represents a centerpiece of international and US immigration law. It also constitutes one of the most pressing and unattended challenges in the US immigration field. The US refugee protection system, broadly understood to encompass refugees, asylum-seekers and non-citizens in need of short-term protection, has ambitious goals and diverse responsibilities. It seeks to screen, admit and promote the integration of refugees; to adjudicate political asylum cases; and to offer temporary protection to persons from designated countries. It also seeks to detect and prevent the admission of persons that raise national security, public safety, and fraud concerns.
To address the need for concentrated academic and policy attention to this pillar of the US immigration system and the international system of refugee protection, the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) is publishing a series of papers on the US refugee protection system that will offer recommendations to strengthen and reform the system.
The following series articles are now available in CMS’s public policy journal, the Journal on Migration and Human Security (JMHS):
This paper examines the legal parameters of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States and traces the program’s legislative history, exploring the congressional intent behind its creation. It argues that TPS has mostly been used as a tool to provide long-term protection, which runs contrary to congressional intent in establishing the program and has placed TPS recipients in a “legal limbo” in which they are unable to fully integrate into the United States. The paper discusses administrative and legislative remedies that would attempt to realign the TPS program with the goal of providing temporary protection to individuals fleeing crisis situations, as well as uphold the US tradition of integrating long-term immigrants.
Unfulfilled Promises, Future Possibilities: The Refugee Resettlement System in the United States
Anastasia Brown and Todd Scribner
Since World War II, the US domestic resettlement system has evolved from one that responded to crises in an ad hoc manner to one characterized by an expansive and dynamic partnership between the federal government, states and voluntary resettlement agencies. However, more than three decades after the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, the program suffers from a lack of adequate financial support for transitional assistance and integration services, gaps in coordination and information sharing among participating agencies, and a backlash against the program in certain receiving communities. This paper highlights specific improvements that would address these issues and strengthen the US resettlement system moving forward.
This paper examines the reasons for low US asylum approval rates for Mexicans despite high levels of violence in and flight from Mexico from 2008 to 2013. It details the obstacles faced by Mexican asylum seekers along the US-Mexico border from the time they encounter immigration officials until a determination is made on their claim, including placement in removal proceedings, detention, evidentiary issues, narrow legal standards, and (effectively) judicial notice of country conditions in Mexico. The paper recommends that asylum seekers at the border be placed in affirmative proceedings (before immigration officials) and be eligible for bond. It also proposes increased oversight of immigration judges.
The Intersection of Statelessness and Refugee Protection in US Asylum Policy
Stateless persons face gaps in protection and in many cases experience persecution that falls within the refugee paradigm. However, US asylum policy does not adequately address the myriad legal problems that confront the stateless, who have been largely invisible in the jurisprudence and academic literature. This article analyzes two federal appellate court opinions that shed new light on the intersection of statelessness and refugee law in the United States. It makes recommendations for developing legislative, regulatory and other policy guidance concerning statelessness claims.
Temporary protection programs can provide haven to endangered persons while states and non-governmental organizations work to create durable solutions in sending, host and third countries. This paper outlines international standards for the design and operation of temporary protection programs, and identifies gaps in protection for de facto refugees and other at-risk populations that seek protection in the United States. Among other policy proposals, it recommends that Congress create a non-immigrant “protection” visa for non-citizens who are at substantial risk of persecution, danger, or harm in their home or host countries.
There has been no significant legislation related to the asylum process enacted in Congress in nearly a decade. During the past several sessions of Congress, bills have been introduced that would make significant changes to the country’s asylum laws and refugee admissions program. This paper provides an overview of the pending legislation and the changes proposed. These bills demonstrate the continued interest of members of Congress in these issues and the need for reform, and they provide an important tool for advocates for education and outreach to Congress and the public.
This article discusses two major areas of concern which affect access to surrogate international human rights protection. First, it examines the procedural bars to seeking asylum and other forms of refugee protection, including interdiction on the high seas, safe third country agreements, and ancillary restrictions like detention and filing requirements. Second, it reviews the substantive legal standards governing eligibility for protection and the conformity of those standards (or the lack thereof) to the international norm of non-refoulement. It argues that the United States should look to advances made in the legislation and jurisprudence of other states as a model for its adoption of standards—both procedural and substantive—that could help restore its historical commitment to human rights and humanitarian concerns.
On the Margins: Noncitizens Caught in Countries Experiencing Violence, Conflict and Disaster
Sanjula Weerasinghe, Abbie Taylor, Sarah Drury, Pitchaya Indravudh, Aaron Gregg, John Flanagan
Recent history has witnessed numerous humanitarian crises in which noncitizens have been among those most seriously affected. This paper seeks to shed light on the protection implications for noncitizens caught in countries experiencing violence, conflict and disaster by examining five prominent crises across three continents between 2011 and 2012: the Libyan uprising; the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan; flooding in Thailand; Hurricane Sandy in the United States; and the conflict in Syria. It identifies factors that influence the vulnerabilities of noncitizens and presents promising practices that limit exposure to harm through targeted measures addressing their particular needs.
As part of its 50th anniversary celebration in 2014, CMS hosted an all-day symposium featuring panel discussions with the refugee series authors and other experts on challenges and recommendations related to territorial access, refugee resettlement, political asylum, temporary protection, the stateless, migrants in “crisis,” unaccompanied minors and other populations at particular risk. The discussion also attempted to put the US system in a broader international context. The agenda, presentations, and multimedia froare now available.
Center for Migration Studies Symposium:
Creating a Robust and Secure US Refugee Protection System
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
10am to 5:30pm
Center for Migration Studies
307 East 60th Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Session One: Placing US Protection Issues in a Global Context and the Challenge of Migrants in Crisis
- Donald Kerwin, Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies (Introductory Remarks)
- Mark von Sternberg, Senior Attorney, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York (International Law and the Global Context)
- Sanjula Weerasinghe, Research Associate, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University (Migrants in Crisis)
- Shelly Pitterman, Regional Representative, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Placing US Protection Issues in a Global Context)
Session Two: Access to Protection and Unaccompanied Minors
- Megan McKenna, Communications and Advocacy Director, Kids in Need of Defense (Moderator)
- Margaret Stock, Attorney, Cascadia Cross Border Law Group LLC (Territorial Access)
- Anna Cabot, Clinical Fellow, Asylum and Human Rights Clinic, University of Connecticut (Protection on the US-Mexico Border)
- Anna Gallagher, Attorney, Maggio + Kattar (Unaccompanied Minors)
Session Three: Protection of Refugees and Persons in Need of Temporary Protection
- Linda Hartke, President and CEO, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (Moderator)
- Anastasia Brown, Director of Resettlement Services, Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (MRS/USCCB) (The US Refugee Resettlement System)
- Todd Scribner, Education Outreach Coordinator, MRS/USCCB (The US Refugee Resettlement System)
- Claire Bergeron, Associate Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Institute (Temporary Protected Status)
- Donald Kerwin, Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies (Temporary Protection as Part of a Seamless Web of Protection)
Session Four: Political Asylum and Permanent Protection in the United States
- Karen Grisez, Public Service Counsel, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP (Moderator)
- Maryellen Fullerton, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School (Protection of the stateless)
- Mark von Sternberg, Senior Attorney, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York (Trends and Recent Developments in US Asylum Law)
- Mark Noferi, Visiting Associate Fellow, Center for Migration Studies (Detention, Due Process and Internal Barriers to Protection)
Session Five: Legislative and Policy Solutions
- Eleanor Acer, Director of Refugee Protection, Human Rights First (Moderator)
- Melanie Nezer, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, HIAS
- Tara Magner, speaking in personal capacity
The US Refugee Protection Project is made possible through the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.