The US Model for Accepting Refugees: Selective & Secure

The current German model of refugee resettlement is to permit hundreds of thousands of unknown people into the country with, in 75% of the cases, no verified information about their background. The selection process is the following: Germany lets in whoever was physically able to travel, rich enough to pay smugglers, and early enough to make it into Germany before the countries around it closed their borders.

Everyone else — most likely including hundreds of thousands of people now headed for the fences and checkpoints of Southeastern Europe — is out of luck.

There is another way — I'm tempted to say the grown-up way. Here is an official US government document (pdf) explaining how the United States selects refugees for resettlement:

According to UNHCR’s latest statistics, there are approximately 10.5 million refugees in the world. The vast majority of these refugees will receive support in the country to which they fled until they can voluntarily and safely return to their home country. A small number of refugees will be allowed to become citizens in the country to which they fled, and an even smaller number — primarily those who are at the highest risk — will be resettled in a third country. While UNHCR reports that less than 1 percent of all refugees are eventually resettled in third countries, the United States welcomes more than half of these refugees, more than all other resettlement countries combined.

When UNHCR — or, rarely, a U.S. Embassy or a specially trained nongovernmental organization — refers a refugee applicant to the United States for resettlement, the case is first received and processed by an Overseas Processing Entity (OPE). The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) works with international and nongovernmental organizations to run eight regional OPEs around the world. Under PRM’s guidance, the OPEs process eligible refugee applications for resettlement in the United States.

Some refugees can start the application process with the OPE without a referral from UNHCR or other entity. This includes close relatives of refugees already resettled in the United States and refugees who belong to specific groups set forth in statute or identified by the Department of State as being eligible for direct access to the program.

The OPEs collect biographic and other information from the applicants for security screening. The security screening ensures that terrorists and/or criminals do not enter the United States through the refugee program. Officers from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) review all the information that the OPE has collected and also have a face-to-face interview with each refugee applicant before deciding whether to approve him or her for resettlement in the United States.

When a USCIS officer approves a refugee for admission, the next step is a medical screening to identify medical needs and to ensure that people with a contagious disease, such as tuberculosis, do not enter the United States. Finally, the OPE requests a “sponsorship assurance” from a U.S.-based resettlement agency that is experienced in providing assistance to newly arrived refugees. All refugees are offered a brief U.S. cultural orientation course prior to departure for the United States. The total processing time varies depending on an applicant’s location and other circumstances, but the average time from the initial UNHCR referral to arrival as a refugee in the United States is generally from eight months to one year.

So, people are interviewed near where they are, their needs are evaluated, priority is given to the most vulnerable, and they are carefully screened to ensure the safety of US citizens.

It may not be the perfect model for refugee resettlement, but it's certainly much more controlled, rational, and secure than what Germany is doing now.

One thought on “The US Model for Accepting Refugees: Selective & Secure

  1. But how would this policy apply, if refugees could arrive the US the ways they can arrive European countries.
    The US’s more ‘professional’ handling of refugees most probably stems from the fact, they are able to set the terms of arrival.
    The US still has uncontrolled Mexican migrants, though making it clear, that they don’t want them. I wonder which way the debate, that Trump started, would be heading if those Mexicans were for example Costa Rican refugees, only passing Mexico for not feeling save there either. Technically there would be no obligation on the US, just as there is none to Europe, but morally that would become an interesting debate.

    Like

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