Center for Migration Studies Releases First Papers in Series on the US Refugee Protection System

Center for Migration Studies Releases First Papers in Series on the US Refugee Protection System

Protection of those fleeing or at-risk of persecution, torture, or extreme danger represents a centerpiece of international law and US immigration law. It also represents 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 prevent the admission and to detect those that raise national security, public safety, and fraud concerns. Over the last 20 years, particularly since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, security and enforcement concerns have driven US refugee protection developments. Protection policies, in turn, have not kept pace with these developments.

To address the need for concentrated academic and policy attention to this pillar of the US immigration system and the broader international system of refugee protection, the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) has commissioned a series of papers as part of a consultation process with a working group of scholars and practitioners. The papers provide topical analysis on specific protection gaps and offer recommendations to strengthen and reform the system both from a protection and security standpoint. The series aims to offer the most comprehensive assessment of the US refugee protection system in recent years.

The first two articles in the series, issued today, examine temporary protection programs for those in the United States and who are seeking to enter the country.  In his article, “Creating a More Responsive and Seamless Refugee Protection System: The Scope, Promise and Limitations of Temporary Protection Programs,” CMS Executive Director Donald Kerwin 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, Kerwin 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. To address the conditions leading to involuntary migration, he argues that the United States should work to establish a regional agreement on migration and development that covers North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Claire Bergeron, incoming associate at WilmerHale, examines the history, strengths and challenges of the US temporary protected status (TPS) program in her paper, “Temporary Protected Status after 25 Years: Addressing the Challenge of Long-Term ‘Temporary’ Residents and Strengthening a Centerpiece of US Humanitarian Protection.” Bergeron 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. She 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.

The series, with the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, will be published as a special edition devoted to refugee protection in CMS’s public policy journal, the Journal on Migration and Human Security. The Journal is an online, peer-reviewed publication that features issues and perspectives that receive insufficient attention in US and international policy debates on migration.

Papers will be released online at, followed by a print volume upon the conclusion of the series.

For further information, please contact the editors at [email protected].