On Friday, April 16, President Joseph Biden issued a long-awaited “Memorandum for the Secretary of State on the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021.” The Emergency Presidential Determination (PD) failed to deliver on the president’s promise to raise the ceiling on refugee admissions from the historically low level of 15,000 set by President Trump to 62,500 during this fiscal year, and it caused more obfuscation than illumination of the president’s goals. The White House’s attempt to correct itself hours later led to still more confusion.
This report analyzes the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), leveraging data from a national survey of resettlement stakeholders conducted in 2020. The survey examined USRAP from the time that refugees arrive in the United States. Its design and questionnaire were informed by three community gatherings organized by Refugee Council USA in the fall and winter of 2019, extensive input from an expert advisory group, and a literature review.
This study finds that USRAP serves important purposes, enjoys extensive community support, and offers a variety of effective services. Overall, the survey finds a high degree of consensus on the US resettlement program’s strengths and objectives, and close alignment between its services and the needs of refugees at different stages of their settlement and integration. Because its infrastructure and community-based resettlement networks have been decimated in recent years, the main challenges of subsequent administrations, Congresses, and USRAP stakeholders will be to rebuild, revitalize, and regain broad and bipartisan support for the program. This article also recommends specific ways that USRAP’s programs and services can be strengthened.
The northern border of Mexico is a space of reception and containment for migrant families and individuals, who find themselves in conditions of great precariousness and practically null resources. Few migrants have material resources or social connections in Tijuana. The Casa del Migrante offers support to those waiting to cross the border. This wait can be prolonged indefinitely due to asylum and border control policies, a reality exacerbated by COVID-19 and related policies.
Margarita E. de Lopez, 63, a former journalist, traveled for 38 hours to reach her home in Caracas, Venezuela. She walked along irregular pathways (trochas) in Colombia and then took a bus through Venezuela, which was stopped 22 times to allow Bolivarian security forces to collect bribes from each of its 45 passengers. Although the number of Venezuelan returnees has decreased since September 2020, returnees and those fleeing Venezuela share the same experience of crossing the irregular paths and risking their lives, their few belongings, and savings.
On March 8, US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorkas announced that he is designating Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an 18-month period, until September 2022. CMS estimates that there are 275,000 undocumented Venezuelan nationals living in the United States as of March 8, 2021 who could benefit from this status
One of the most pernicious aspects of the changes to the asylum processes promulgated under the Trump administration is substituting the first-in, first-out (FIFO) policy for the last-in, first-out (LIFO) one. Individuals who had already been waiting for years for an asylum interview have to wait even longer. Until they obtain asylum, individuals cannot petition for visas for their immediate relatives who are often still facing danger. In many ways, this is the “other family separation” crisis, but it remains unseen by most policy makers and the general public.
In an Executive Order signed on February 3, 2021, President Joe Biden promised a thorough review of the US refugee admissions program as well as the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) under which Afghans and Iraqis endangered by their association with the US government are admitted. He also announced that the United States will resettle 125,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2022 and consult with Congress to increase this year’s admissions quota as a down payment. These promises offer hope to thousands of refugees who have been awaiting resettlement, often for years and still more often in precarious settings. Fulfilling this promise will not come easily, however. The new administration has scant time to rebuild a program that the Trump administration sought to destroy.
The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) has recently released four new resources describing and proposing solutions to the challenges faced by refugees and forcibly displaced persons globally. A new CMS essay, provides an overview of the Venezuelan crisis and closely examines legal contexts and responses of countries receiving Venezuelans. A new paper from CMS’s Journal on Migration and Human Security outlines the legal protections afforded migrants in places of armed conflicts and describes the obstacles to realizing those protections in the context of the Yemeni and Libyan conflicts. CMS has also published a new story from Omar al-Muqdad, a prominent journalist, documentary filmmaker, and former Syrian refugee. Al-Muqdad reflects on a Syrian refugee camp that was set ablaze and shares the hopes of Abdul Qadir, a father living in a Syrian refugee camp. A new video interview with Donald Kerwin, executive director of CMS, provides an informal overview and reflection on the world’s forcibly displaced persons and the conditions they face at the advent of a new year. Finally, CMS and Refugee Council USA released an exhaustive report on ways to rebuild and strengthen the US refugee resettlement program.
In spite of the prevailing security dynamics in Yemen and Libya, both states continue to serve as areas of transit along some of the world’s largest mixed migration routes, leaving migrants caught in the crossfire of the two conflicts. This article examines the legal framework governing the protection of migrants in armed conflict under international humanitarian and human rights law. It also identifies two adverse incentives produced by the conflict situations that impede the exercise of these legal protections: (1) profits derived from migrant smuggling and trafficking, and (2) the use of migrants to support armed groups. In the absence of stable conditions in Yemen and Libya, individuals have little reason to respect international legal protections and discontinue migrant abuse connected with the lucrative businesses of smuggling and trafficking. The intractable nature of the two conflicts has also led to the strategic use of migrants as armed support, and more specifically as combatants, weapons transports, and human shields. Given these realities, the article outlines several recommendations to address the issue of migrant abuse in conflict. It recommends that states, particularly those neighboring Yemen and Libya, strengthen regular migration pathways to help reduce the number of migrants transiting through active conflict zones. It further advises that the international community increase the cost of non-compliance to international humanitarian law through the use of accountability mechanisms and through strategic measures, including grants of reciprocal respect to armed groups that observe protections accorded to migrants in conflict situations.