The Faltering U.S. Refugee Protection System: Legal and Policy Responses to Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Others in Need of Protection
The U.S. refugee protection system, while generous in many respects, has become less robust over the last two decades. The unique and often diverse needs of emerging refugee populations have exposed severe limitations in the standard resettlement approach. The system’s U.S. Refugee Admissions Program faces significant challenges, among which include heightened security reviews, inadequate coordination between government and NGOs, and unresolved policy tensions between the goals of protecting the most vulnerable.
Local communities increasingly voice concerns about their integration capacities and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement does not track long-term indicators of refugee self-reliance, integration, or well-being. Asylum filings and grants have decreased since 2001 due to the one-year filing deadline, heightened burden of proof, new corroboration requirements, and a more exclusive definition of social group membership. Post-9/11 and other policies have led to the exclusion of thousands of refugees, detrimentally affected hundreds of asylum cases, and prevented unknown numbers of would-be asylum seekers from reaching the United States.
In effect, security and enforcement concerns have driven immigration policy development, and protection policies have not kept pace. This report examines U.S. legal and policy responses to those seeking protection in the United States and addresses the barriers, gaps, and opportunities that exist in the refugee protection regime.
II. The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program
A. U.S. Refugee Admission Priorities
B. Program Administration and Security Screening
C. Program Challenges
III. The U.S. Asylum Program
A. Affirmative and Defensive Asylum Claims
B. Decreased Filings and Grants
C. Barriers to Reaching U.S. Territory to Seek Asylum
D. Barriers to Establishing Asylum Eligibility
IV. Temporary Protection in the United States and Admission for Humanitarian Reasons
A. Temporary Protection
B. Parole (Temporary Protection for Those Admitted from Abroad)
V. Population-Specific Legislation to Provide LPR Status to Asylum Seekers and Refugee-Like Populations