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U.S. Refugee Policy:

Taking Leadership

A Report to Congress

june 1997


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June 5, 1997

The Honorable Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives

The Honorable Richard A. Gephart, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives

The Honorable Trent Lott, Majority Leader of the Senate

The Honorable Thomas A. Daschle, Minority Leader of the Senate

On behalf of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, it is my pleasure to submit our interim report on U.S. refugee policy.

This Commission was mandated by the Immigration Act of 1990 [Public Law 101-649] to examine and make recommendations regarding the implementation and impact of U.S. immigration policy. Refugee admissions, mass migration emergencies, and asylum constitute important components of U.S. immigration policy that must be considered in the context of both their domestic and international ramifications.

To learn about the domestic effects of U.S. refugee policy, the Commission held public hearings and consultations in such diverse sites as Seattle, Washington; Orange County and Fresno, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Lowell, Massachusetts; and Miami, Florida. To better understand the international aspects of our policies, the Commission undertook site visits to Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, Haiti, Cuba, and Kenya, in addition to holding discussions with representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] and the International Organization for Migration [IOM] in Geneva and in field offices.

The U.S. is entering an era that requires changes in our refugee policy. The end of the Cold War has ushered in new challenges along with new opportunities to promote policies that address the causes and consequences of refugee movements. The recommendations in this report promote a comprehensive and coherent U.S. refugee policy that

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will permit the U.S. to assert international leadership and implement responsible domestic programs. The U.S. government must have the capacity to detect the causes of the movements early on to better prevent them through political, diplomatic, and economic initiatives; to assist in caring for and protecting the refugees overseas who are forced to leave their countries; to resettle effectively the few for whom U.S. resettlement is the only or best option; to adopt a viable plan to respond to mass migration emergencies that immediately affect our own nation; and to operate an effective asylum system that protects the bona fide refugee while deterring those who are not. Because domestic and international policies affect and are affected by each other, this report emphasizes the need for White House leadership in coordinating and overseeing decisionmaking on refugee policy throughout the federal government.

The Commission could not have produced this report without the cooperation of the Executive Branch and both Houses of Congress. We look forward to working with the Senate and House subcommittees responsible for immigration and refugee policy, as well as the federal agencies responsible for administering our refugee programs. The Commission also thanks the many representatives of state and local government and private agencies who shared their experiences and perspectives regarding refugee policy and its implementation.

Our special thanks go to the UNHCR and IOM for making our overseas site visits so productive. The field staff of these international agencies, along with the nongovernmental agencies with whom they work in providing assistance to refugees, displaced persons, and returnees, truly exemplify professionalism and competence, often under the most trying circumstances. We hope these recommendations will help them in their important work.

Sincerely,

Shirley Mount Hufstedler

Chair

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MEMBERS OF

THE COMMISSION

Shirley Mount Hufstedler, Chair

former judge u.s. court of appeals, ninth circuit

former secretary of department of education

morrison & foerster, llp

Lawrence H. Fuchs, Vice Chair

jaffe professor of american civilization and politics

brandeis university

Michael S. Teitelbaum, Vice Chair

alfred p. sloan foundation

Richard Estrada

associate editor, editorial page

dallas morning news

Harold Ezell

president and founder

ezell group

Robert Charles Hill

venable baetjer howard & civiletti, llp

Warren R. Leiden

berry, appleman & leiden llp

Nelson Merced

senior associate

community training & assistance center

Bruce A. Morrison

chairman

federal housing finance board

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commission staff

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

susan martin

deputy director

andrew schoenholtz

POLICY RESEARCH STAFF

galli aizenman, program analyst

gregg beyer, senior policy analyst

detailed from immigration and naturalization service 1/97-present

patricia a. dunn, senior policy analyst

detailed from executive office for immigration review 12/96-present

brett m. endres, policy analyst

allan gall, senior policy analyst

detailed from office of refugee resettlement 9/95-present

james l. halmo, senior policy analyst

detailed from department of state 8/96-3/97

nancy leach, research analyst

david a. levy, senior policy analyst

detailed from department of labor 11/94-present

b. lindsay lowell, director of policy research

detailed from department of labor 6/95-present

brandon mitchell, policy analyst

deborah waller meyers, policy analyst

kimberly m. o'donnell, policy analyst

carolyn m. piccotti, senior policy analyst

detailed from executive office for immigration review 9/95-12/96

john spiegel, senior policy analyst

detailed from department of state 3/97-PRESENT

lavita strickland, legal counsel

PUBLIC AFFAIRS & EDITORIAL STAFF

paul donnelly, communications director

minna newman nathanson, publications director

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF

mark j. bogdan, administrative officer

ronald k. sommerville, consultant

l. robin walker, assistant administrator

latanya perry, staff assistant

the commission thanks its former staff members and detailees who contributed to this report: rosemary curtin dailey, lani horowitz, david r. howell, susan jacobs, harry jones, edward skerrett.

and extends its gratitude to its interns: susan biles, tara coronado, peter hendricks, diana judd, jinhee lee, enrico marcelli, mikael nacim, negin nazemi, aarti patel, meylysa tseng.

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contents

** click on 'contents' to view entire report

INTRODUCTION -1-

RECOMMENDATIONS -9-

A FOCAL POINT FOR U.S.

LEADERSHIP -9-

INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE POLICY

AND PROGRAMS -11-

MASS MIGRATION EMERGENCIES -20-

ASYLUM -28-

U.S. REFUGEE ADMISSIONS

FROM OVERSEAS -37-

TRANSITIONAL REFUGEE ASSISTANCE

AND SERVICES -53-

CONCLUSION -65-

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Somali "women at risk,"

Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya

[Photo: CIR staff]

Destroyed home, Sarajevo

[Photo: CIR staff]

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