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Don't Read Too Much into the Drop in Refugee Arrivals Under President Trump

By Nayla Rush, June 26, 2017

A sharp decrease in FY 2017 refugee admissions under President Trump compared to those under the Obama administration has been reported recently (see here and here). The drop could easily be interpreted as a sign of policy change and tougher screening measures brought about by Obama's successor. But the numbers are not quite as telling.

To illustrate this drop, CNS news published the following FY 2017 refugee admissions chart: Read more...

The Secret Provisions of the U.S.-Australia Refugee Deal Better Be Really Good for America

By Nayla Rush, June 16, 2017

A quick update on the U.S.-Australia refugee resettlement deal I've been writing about (see here, here, and here).

The latest development came with the news Thursday of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull mocking President Trump during the Australian Parliament's annual Midwinter Ball, which is the premier event of the political year in Canberra, similar to the White House Correspondents Dinner. Unlike the U.S. version, Turnbull's speech in front of journalists, advisers, and politicians, was supposed to be off the record. Read more...

IRC's Involvement in the U.S.-Australia Refugee Deal: A Clear Conflict of Interest

By Nayla Rush, June 13, 2017

The U.S-Australia refugee resettlement deal I started researching in February is now well underway, as I wrote yesterday, with president Trump choosing to honor his predecessor's commitment to take in Australia's unwanted refugees.

One thing overlooked in some of the news coverage of yesterday's report is the role of a group called the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in this resettlement process.

IRC is a U.S.-based non-governmental organization that is partly funded by the State Department. It is currently headed by David Miliband, a former foreign secretary of the United Kingdom.

In the case of Australia's unwanted refugees, IRC is acting both as a Resettlement Support Center (RSC) and a domestic resettlement agency (or volag) for the State Department. Read more...

U.S. Funds to International Organizations, Including for Refugees, Could Be Cut

By Nayla Rush, March 18, 2017

President Trump just released his 2018 budget proposal. A quick first reading reveals that, as expected, the budget prioritizes the military and homeland security while reducing foreign assistance and support to environmental programs. Proposed cuts target the Environmental Protection Agency (-31.4 percent) as well as the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of the Treasury's international programs (-28.7 percent).

The budget also addresses U.S. contributions to the United Nations; it "reduces funding to the UN and affiliated agencies, including UN peacekeeping and other international organizations, by setting the expectation that these organizations rein in costs and that the funding burden be shared more fairly among members. The amount the U.S. would contribute to the UN budget would be reduced and the U.S. would not contribute more than 25 percent for UN peacekeeping costs." Read more...

Syrian Refugees Resettled in the U.S.: Why Them and Not Others?

By Nayla Rush, March 1, 2017

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently shared on its website the story of a Syrian refugee family who was resettled from Jordan to Dallas. The 30-year-old mechanic, Firas al Ahmad, his wife Samira and their three children fled to Jordan at the end of 2013 when the fighting intensified near their home. The family struggled there for over three years due to the "lack of legal work opportunities" and welcomed UNHCR's offer to resettle in the United States. Once their application approved, they sold their furniture and moved out from their apartment to stay with Firas' dad in the Jordanian city of Irbid. Read more...

Somali Refugees in the U.S.
Terrorists have families too.

By Nayla Rush, December 12, 2016
Terrorists have families too.

A lot has been said about the terrorist attack perpetrated by a Somali refugee in Ohio last Month. President-elect Trump visited Ohio State University last week, telling crowds afterwards at a rally in Des Moines that the attack was "a tragic reminder" of the need to take a hard line on immigration. I have a couple of things to add on the subject (including an overview of the Somali refugee community in the U.S at the end of this blog post). Read more...

Pope Counsels "Prudence" not Open Borders Regarding Refugees

By Nayla Rush, November 4, 2016

Pope Francis spoke to reporters on his way back from a two-day trip to Sweden this Tuesday. He elaborated on, or rather "corrected his position" on welcoming refugees into Europe. He had previously urged Europe to open its doors to refugees and decried the selfishness of the states that didn't. This week, his message was more nuanced.

The Pope is now recommending that European governments exercise "prudence" and advising them not to accept refugees beyond their hosting capacities. Proper hosting entails providing refugees with "a roof, work, school, language courses" in order for them to "integrate". If not, states will "pay a political price for an imprudent calculation in welcoming more refugees than they can integrate" since non-integrated refugees will then form "ghettos", which is "very dangerous". Read more...

Germany Refugee Policy Makes Life Unbearable for Lebanese

By Nayla Rush, September 20, 2016

In an recent open letter to the German Ambassador in Lebanon, a Lebanese national residing next to the German embassy in Lebanon informed the ambassador about her intention to leave her apartment:

Since your government decided to welcome Syrian migrants into your country and following your decision to allow these migrants to present their visa applications at the embassy premises which is in a residential area, my life became unbearable.

110,000 Refugees Resettled in the U.S in FY 2017?

By Nayla Rush, September 20, 2016

President's Obama's deep commitment to the refugee cause following the Syrian crisis and its five million refugees is now well established.

We predicted in a previous blog the arrival of at least 12,000 Syrian refugees by the end of FY 2016 on September 30 (surpassing the Obama administration's "floor-not-ceiling" target of 10,000).

Following the release of the government's "Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2017" report to Congress we know that number to be even higher. The Obama administration announced it is expecting a total of 13,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this fiscal year. Read more...

A Floor, Not a Ceiling; 65,000 Syrian Refugees in FY 2017?

By Nayla Rush, September 2, 2016

The fact that the U.S. reached its FY 2016 resettlement target of 10,000 Syrian refugees came as no surprise. We predicted this administration to be right "on track" as we could not foresee President Obama presiding over a refugee summit later this month in New York before honoring his part of the bargain first. Read more...

Expanded Central American 'Refugee' Program: Bring the Whole Family!

By Nayla Rush, August 28, 2016

In a previous report, we highlighted the Obama administration's relentless efforts to welcome children (and adults) from Central America into the United States under the refugee umbrella, despite the lack of solid grounds for granting refugee status, even by United Nations standards.

New measures were announced last month to further the administration's renewed commitment to "address Central American migration challenges" and admit more people from that region. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said "Today, we are expanding these resettlement opportunities to additional vulnerable individuals within the region [Central America]. This will increase the number of individuals to whom we are able to provide humanitarian protection while combating human smuggling operations." (Emphasis added). Read more...

TPS for Palestinians?

By Nayla Rush, August 15, 2016

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has announced the extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syrians for another 18 months, through March 31, 2018. This allows visitors and illegal aliens to remain here legally, enabling them to get work permits, Social Security numbers, driver's licenses, etc.

But it's not just for Syrians. The language of the announcement (and of the relevant statute) says TPS is also available to "persons without nationality who last habitually resided in Syria." Being formally stateless, Syria's 560,000 Palestinian refugees would appear to qualify. So how many of them – if any – have benefitted, and will benefit from this form of amnesty? Read more...

As U.S. Rushes to Meet Obama's Refugee Target, France's Program Is on Hold

By Nayla Rush, August 12, 2016

The French Ministry of Interior announced on Wednesday that France admitted only 1,330 of the 30,000 refugees it had pledged to resettle from Greece and Italy by 2017. The commitment was made at the end of summer 2015, when the migrant crisis was at its peak. The French government, hostile at first to quotas recommended by the European Union, finally agreed to be part of the EU's resettlement plan to relieve these two first-entry member state countries.

"The honor of France is to welcome refugees" said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls one year ago on television. Read more...

Putting America First: What It Means to Become an American Citizen

By Nayla Rush, August 1, 2016

At a recent naturalization ceremony in the Washington area, 73 immigrants from different nationalities (Indian, South Korean, Vietnamese, Guatemalan, Chinese, Iranian, Salvadoran, etc.) became American citizens. They all had to take the Oath of Allegiance during an official ceremony. Here are the words of the oath: Read more...

White House Looks to Private Sector to Increase Refugee Admissions Outside the Resettlement Program
An Attempt to Circumvent Numerical Caps

By Nayla Rush, July 6, 2016
An Attempt to Circumvent Numerical Caps

With the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, the Obama administration is more than ever committed to helping refugees, whether in their host countries in the Middle East or in the United States. U.S. humanitarian assistance to the Syrian crisis reached $5.1 billion this year. President Obama has already pledged to bring into the United States 10,000 Syrian refugees via the refugee resettlement program this fiscal year (which ends September 30).

The administration is also looking for "alternative pathways" to admit more Syrian refugees outside the refugee resettlement program, to meet the target set by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) of providing at least 480,000 places worldwide through resettlement and private sponsorships (such as employment contracts, student scholarships etc.) to Syrian refugees over three years (2016-2018). Read more...

"Alternative Safe Pathways" for Syrian Refugees – Resettlement in Disguise?

By Nayla Rush, April 25, 2016

With the Syrian crisis entering its sixth year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is thinking of "innovative approaches" to organize Syrian admissions, alongside the refugee resettlement program, to countries willing to welcome them. UNHCR's target for resettlement is 480,000 places over the next three years; it is not sure how many additional admissions into the U.S. and elsewhere these new "alternative safe pathways" will ensure. Refugees who are not resettled could be "legally admitted" using various routes described below. Read more...

Europeans' Hardening Stands Following the Migrant Crisis

By Nayla Rush, April 18, 2016

Six months into the migrant crisis in Europe, French opinion poll agency IFOP – commissioned by the Jean-Jaurès Foundation and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) – conducted a survey of European public opinion to get their views on this new challenge. The poll was carried out in France, Germany, and Italy and follows a September 2015 large-scale survey.

For France and Italy, people's representations and opinions on migrants remain almost unchanged from one survey to the next. For Germans, on the other hand, a significant shift is registered towards a hardening of public opinion. Read more...

How to Screen 600 Syrian Refugees a Day: A "Surge Operation"

By Nayla Rush, April 8, 2016

We just heard about the first Syrian family to arrive in the U.S. from Jordan under the new resettlement program called "surge operation". A "temporary processing center" opened in Amman, Jordan, this February to speed up the resettlement process from 18-24 months to just three.

Forty-five-year-old Ahmad Al-Abboud, his wife, and five children landed in Kansas City this week. The family fled the Syrian city of Homs and was living in Jordan for the past three years. Ahmad could not find a job there, the family surviving on food coupons. Read more...

Refugee Resettlement Is Not the Answer
Help the millions of Syrians where they are.

By Nayla Rush, April 6, 2016
Help the millions of Syrians where they are.

As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, appeals for more global solidarity and asks the international community to "take 10 percent of all the Syrian refugees ... more than 400,000 people," Oxford refugee scholar Alexander Betts and Oxford economics professor Paul Collier think of better ways to help refugees and fix this failing refugee system. They believe more effort should be directed towards addressing the refugee crisis closer to its main source, i.e. in the Middle East. Betts and Collier propose the creation of "economic zones" in the region that would enhance hosting countries' economies, while providing jobs to Syrian refugees. The newly acquired skills developed through vocational training could then be reinvested in the rebuilding process of post-war Syria. Read more...

The Risk of Residential Segregation of Refugees

By Nayla Rush, April 5, 2016

A new bill was introduced into the House Judiciary Committee last month with specific recommendations to change the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The "Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016" (H.R. 4731) is worthy of review even if its chances of passing are very slim. My colleague Dan Cadman shared his thorough critique in a comprehensive overview.

There is one point in need of further consideration. On the "Limitation on resettlement" in Section 9, the bill requires the following amendment to Section 412 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1522): Read more...

Mr. Clooney, Would You Be Willing to Welcome Refugees into Your Home?

By Nayla Rush, February 16, 2016

Actor George Clooney's political and humanitarian activism is no secret. He has fought for numerous causes throughout the years, whether for Darfur, Haiti, or gay marriage.

His new commitment focuses on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and the plight of millions of Syrian refugees. This past Friday, Clooney and wife Amal (a human rights lawyer and activist) met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss this very issue. Read more...

Attention Syrian Refugees: U.S. Is Looking into Your Facebook Accounts

By Nayla Rush, February 12, 2016

The exploitation of U.S. refugee and visa programs by potential terrorists was the subject of a hearing last week before the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Throughout the hearing – titled "Crisis of Confidence: Preventing Terrorist Infiltration through U.S. Refugee And Visa Programs" – government officials in charge of visa controls and national security elaborated on the use of social media as an added screening tool for refugees and K1 fiancé visa applicants. This measure, in its initial pilot stage, should be expanded to all 10,000 Syrian refugees admitted this year, as well as Iraqi refugees and eventually all immigrants. For now, officers are conducting manual social media vetting, but experts are looking for technological solutions for the longer term. Read more...

For Refugees, 18-24 Months of Waiting, Not Vetting

By Nayla Rush, January 11, 2016

In making the case for resettling more and more refugees, especially Syrians, the Obama administration has made the following assurances:

  • Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States.
  • Refugees' vetting process takes (on average) 18 months.

This would be comforting if it were credible. CIS underlined the opacity of public officials' testimonies here, and the absence of dependable screening measures for Syrian (and other) refugees here. In short, the lack of solid on-the-ground intelligence systems and the unreliability of required documentation in sending countries such as Syria result in important gaps in security. Read more...

This New Year, Close Your Eyes

By Nayla Rush, December 31, 2015

As the year comes to an end, it is customary to reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future.

What is undeniable is the intensity of the divide that has dominated the public sphere in the United States in (not just) 2015. Political parties have grown further apart; accentuated tensions have reached the point of alienation. The "divorce" is also palpable among various ranks within the American public.

Somehow, some have designated themselves as the emissaries of moral standards and sole defenders of American values. Americans with different views and opinions are deemed unworthy of respect and quickly disavowed. Read more...

Welcoming Syrian Refugees: Not Just "How Many?" but also "How?"

By Nayla Rush, December 21, 2015

The current debate about refugees often revolves around numbers – how many should be allowed in? – while little attention is given to the issue of integration. Jenny Phillimore, Professor and Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRIS) at the University of Birmingham, asks in a blogpost: "Where is integration in the refugee crisis?" Read more...

Most Asylum Applicants Are Interviewed by Telephone. Feel Safer?

By Nayla Rush, December 16, 2015

I attended USCIS's Asylum Division Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting last week. It was led by John Lafferty, chief of the Asylum Division. Those present were, for the most part, USCIS staff and immigration lawyers in charge of representing asylum seekers and refugees.

Here are a few things I learned:

The National Front's Win: Lessons from France

By Nayla Rush, December 10, 2015

France's National Front party won the first round of the regional elections last Sunday. Analysts have been trying to explain this historic breakthrough, since the far right had never won the leadership of any French region before.

One interesting insight came from Jean-Yves Camus, Associate Research Fellow and political analyst at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS). In an appearance on French television Monday, he said: Read more...

Refugee Advocates Should Leave Steve Jobs Alone

By Nayla Rush, December 1, 2015

Following ISIS's threats, the Paris terrorist attacks, and unreliable vetting measures, many in the United States have expressed their concerns about welcoming Syrian refugees into the country.

The Obama administration, in a gesture of appeasement, released a cartoon video for Americans to watch and "see exactly what a potential refugee goes through to resettle in the U.S."

Others call on Steve Jobs to do the job. Read more...

Hearing on Syrian Refugees: Reassurance and Storytelling

By Nayla Rush, October 13, 2015

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing earlier this month titled "Oversight of the Administration's FY 2016 Refugee Resettlement Program: Fiscal and Security Implications". The hearing followed Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement that the U.S. plans on increasing the number of refugees it admits every year. Read more...

To Be Called Migrants or Refugees? That Is the Question

By Nayla Rush, September 30, 2015

The "migrant crisis" in Europe has been making headlines lately as reports abound on the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children crossing its borders. These large flows of migrants (coming mostly from the Middle East and North Africa) are putting the European Union to the test as Europe faces its largest mass migration since the end of World War II. Public outrage escalated (especially following the picture of the drowned three-year-old boy on the Turkish shore), with calls to welcome everyone as EU leaders argue over logistics and numbers. Read more...