Thursday, November 19, 2015

Facts about refugees

This is from a lawyer who has a friend in common with me. She provided this information about the refugee issue.

Here’s what you should understand about refugee law and policy. It will help you better evaluate the statements being made by many others, and it will hopefully help you form a more informed opinion. 
First of all, what does it even mean to be a refugee? Under U.S. law (8 USC 1101(a)(42)), we use this definition (I’m going to paraphrase a little for ease of reading):
Someone who is outside their country of nationality, and who is unable or unwilling to return or get protection from their own government because of persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. 
A refugee must be outside his or her country of origin, but also outside the U.S., to seek “refugee” status. They go through an application process, which involves in person interviews and extensive background checks. The records checks include full fingerprints, INTERPOL checks, name checks, and cross referencing a lot of government databases. There is no “right” to refugee status. Individuals can be denied for any reason; common reasons would be not meeting that legal definition or having inconsistencies in the story. The approval process, before someone can be admitted to the U.S. routinely takes > 12 mos., even up to 24 mos. and sometimes longer. 
Refugees must meet eligibility guidelines to enter the U.S. These include not being “inadmissible.” There are a lot of reasons you can be deemed inadmissible. For a little “light” reading, check out 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3). It explains all of the “Security and Related Grounds” of inadmissibility. Having spent years appearing in Immigration Court and working with and against the good people at Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement - trust me, they are not erring on the side of admitting people who might be a danger. 
The “material support” provision excludes not just people who’ve associated with “known” terrorist groups. It excludes anyone who we have “reasonable ground to believe” is likely to engage in terrorism or terrorist-type activities. This section of law is incredibly broad and permissive in favor of the government to exclude potential refugees and immigrants. Terrorist groups can include any group of “two or more individuals.” The list of activities that can get you barred is long. Really, just go read the statute if you aren’t sure. 
We cannot predict the future. Someone may, after being admitted as a refugee, do something terrible. So might someone who is a U.S. citizen. The number of refugee admissions statutorily allowed by congress is pretty small - for FY 2015 that number was capped at 70,000 as it has been for years. It’s only recently that we’ve even come close to filling that capacity. Often we’re below it.