Every day, organizations worldwide are engaged in a collective two steps forward, one step back march toward improved immigration services and policies. What hard-earned lessons are these nonprofits, and the foundations that support them, learning from their persistent efforts? This collection of evaluations, case studies, and lessons learned exposes and explores the nuances of effective collaboration, the value of coordinated messaging, the bedrock of ongoing advocacy efforts, and the vital importance of long-term and flexible funding.

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Key Tensions in Refugee Education

November 16, 2022

Globally, education is in crisis, with steep inequities, low learning outcomes, irrelevant content, and ineffective learning and teaching strategies in many settings. The global education crisis is also a global refugee education crisis, as far too many refugee students must contend with barriers to access, low quality, and limited relevance in their learning opportunities. Refugee education continues to be under-supported in policy dialogue and funding. As advocacy efforts push for global and national commitments to equitable, high-quality education for all, this paper is intended to help ensure refugee education is part of the education transformation agenda.This paper is intended for refugee education donors, policymakers, and implementers and aims to inform policy dialogue by answering the following three questions:Why is refugee education more urgent than ever?What are the key tensions in refugee education and how might they be addressed?How does centering refugee voices and engagement in education policy and programming advance the sector?

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

An Overview of U.S. Refugee Law and Policy

September 20, 2022

The United States has long been a global leader in the resettlement of refugees—and the need for such leadership remains enormous. The number of refugees around the world who are fleeing violence or persecution in their home countries in search of safety abroad has grown dramatically over the past decade.Until recently, the United States offered refuge each year to more people than all other nations combined. But the Trump administration drastically reduced the maximum number of refugees that could enter the United States. Moreover, the United States government has imposed new security vetting procedures on refugees before they can be admitted into the country, which has greatly lengthened waiting times and left many refugees in dangerous situations for prolonged periods. In 2017, for the first time in modern history, the United States settled fewer refugees than the rest of the world. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, the United States settled only 11,814 refugees—the fewest in any year since the creation of the U.S. refugee program.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Crossing the Border: How Disability Civil Rights Protections Can Include Disabled Asylum-Seekers

August 24, 2022

This report provides an overview of the impacts of the U.S. asylum system on disabled children and adults; explores legal issues at the intersection of immigration and disability; and offers recommendations for applying existing disability civil rights protections, such as the ADA, to assist disabled asylum-seekers through the process of gaining permanent legal status.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Pretense of Protection: Biden Administration and Congress Should Avoid Exacerbating Expedited Removal Deficiencies

August 3, 2022

The expedited removal process Congress created permits border officers to order the deportation of certain individuals charged with inadmissibility under U.S. immigration law without an immigration court hearing. One component of this process, credible fear screenings, was supposed to ensure that people seeking refugee protection in the United States had an opportunity to apply for asylum and were not summarily deported to persecution or torture. Over the years however, the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and various other organizations have documented serious deficiencies and due process concerns with the expedited removal process. Asylum seekers wrongly deported through expedited removal have been persecuted, tortured, and murdered after being returned by the United States to the country they had fled. In addition to endangering asylum seekers and violating U.S. legal obligations to refugees, the use of expedited removal wastes resources and exacerbates backlogs.Rather than use the fundamentally flawed expedited removal process, the Biden administration should instead refer asylum seekers for asylum adjudications with the Asylum Office without subjecting them to CFIs, fully restore the authority of the Asylum Office to reconsider negative credible fear determinations, and work with Congress to fund legal representation. While expedited removal remains in U.S. law, the agencies should issue regulations to reduce the risk of erroneous negative fear determinations and avoid the weaponization of expedited removal by subsequent administrations. Full recommendations can be found at the end of this report.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Immigrants and Asylum-Seekers Deserve Humane Alternatives To Detention

July 13, 2022

Each year, hundreds of thousands of individuals fleeing persecution arrive in the United States and begin the process of claiming asylum, while other undocumented immigrants in the United States encounter Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Although many of these individuals end up in ICE detention, a large subset of them are released and enrolled in the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program as they await a decision on their case or deportation. As opposed to remaining in a physical detention center, those enrolled in the ATD program are electronically monitored through ankle monitors, telephone calls, and smartphone applications.As the Biden administration has worked to reform an immigration system impeded by Trump-era policies that criminalized undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers and expanded immigration detention, the ATD program has rapidly grown. In fact, as of June 2022, a record number of almost 280,000 undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers have been enrolled in ATD, and the Biden administration plans to double this number by the end of 2023.This is an important step toward reducing the country's costly reliance on immigration detention, which severely harms immigrants and asylum-seekers by separating them from their families, communities, and critical services as they fight their legal cases to remain in the country.However, the expansion of the ATD program raises a new set of privacy and civil liberty concerns. Namely, there is growing concern that enrolled immigrants and asylum-seekers may experience the program as "e-carceration," or a different form of detention, due to its invasive surveillance measures and mobility restrictions.To address this, the Biden administration must reconsider how it implements the ATD program as it works to build a more fair, humane, and functional immigration system that respects due process and the dignity of immigrants and asylum-seekers. Specifically, less restrictive, community-based approaches to administering the ATD program hold the most promise for providing immigrants and asylum-seekers with support, while also promoting voluntary compliance with immigration authorities. Instead of relying on electronic monitoring, which has become synonymous with the ATD program, the alternatives detailed in this report operate using case management models that offer wraparound social and legal support to immigrants and asylum-seekers as they resolve their cases.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Practice Advisory: USCIS’s New Refugee-Asylee Informal Marriage Guidance

June 24, 2022

On February 14, 2022, USCIS issued new guidance on recognizing informal marriages of refugees and asylees. Under the new guidance, USCIS will recognize an informal marriage when a refugee or asylee could not lawfully marry due to their flight from persecution and circumstances beyond their control or because of restrictive laws or practices in their country of origin or country of first asylum. USCIS's guidance only applies in adjudications of refugee applications (I-590's), asylum applications (I-589's), and refugee/asylee family reunification petitions (I-730's). In this practice advisory, we explain the new guidance and how legal practitioners can assist impacted refugee and asylee families.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Affective Cartographies: Migrant, Displaced, And Refugee Girls And Adolescent Girls In Latin America And The Caribbean

June 20, 2022

Being a girl or an adolescent girl is no simple task in a time of multiple socialization demands to access the adult world. But being a migrant, displaced, or refugee girl or adolescent girl is even more complex, not only due to the difficulties stemming from sociocultural and economic standards, but also due to the uprooting that girls and adolescent girls are subjected to when they are forced to leave their country of origin. This report produced jointly by HIAS and UNICEF highlights the main needs and challenges for girls and adolescent girls, including forms of violence they experience during their processes of migration and forced displacement.

Children; Refugees & Asylum Seekers

At Risk and in Need: Recommendations To Help The Most Vulnerable People Displaced From Ukraine

June 8, 2022

The war in Ukraine has led to the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, and one of the fastest large-scale displacements in history.The international community has provided an unprecedented level of support to people fleeing Ukraine, but despite this response, vulnerable populations are at risk.In this policy brief HIAS examines the serious protection risks that certain groups -- women and girls; unaccompanied and separated children; LGBTQ individuals; people with disabilities; and non-Ukrainian refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons -- are experiencing. HIAS recommends ways the EU, U.S., and UN agencies can address these gaps, including funding local civil society organizations and increasing efforts to combat trafficking, exploitation, and abuse.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Documentation and Benefit Eligibility for Ukrainians

June 8, 2022

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the number of Ukrainians seeking safety in the United States has rapidly risen. This fact sheet outlines the three main legal pathways and their corresponding benefit eligibility, that Ukrainians are utilizing in the United States. These include 1) Temporary Protected Status (TPS); 2) Humanitarian Parole and the Uniting for Ukraine Program; and 3) the Lautenberg Program.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

USCIS Records Reveal Systemic Disparities in Asylum Decisions

May 17, 2022

Government records received by Human Rights First from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum office through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show years-long, systemic disparities in asylum adjudications based on the nationality of the asylum seeker and the asylum office handling the case.The current administration must urgently act to address racial, nationality, and asylum office-based disparities in asylum adjudication. USCIS should ensure that cases qualifying for refugee protection are actually granted by the asylum office, rather than being referred for immigration court adjudications. The over-referral of cases exacerbates already years-long delays for many asylum seekers and needlessly contributes to court backlogs for cases that are overwhelmingly later granted by immigration judges. These reforms are particularly crucial given new asylum process rules, set to go into effect at the end of May 2022, under which more asylum seekers would undergo initial, full asylum adjudications by the asylum office.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

10 Best Practices for Engaging with Refugee Leaders: A Guide for Centering Displaced People in Policy Advocacy

May 9, 2022

For too long, people who have experienced displacement have been absent from the policy tables and discussions that affect their lives. Increasingly, however, advocates, policymakers, members of the media, and others are more proactively collaborating with refugee leaders to inform and drive their work forward. This is a positive development, and ultimately it makes for more authentic and impactful work. But these engagements must be rooted in equal and meaningful partnership. Ten best practices below, identified by refugee leaders from our network, can help ensure that this collaboration is meaningful and not extractive.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Asylum Process Rule Includes Welcome Improvements, But Critical Flaws Remain to Be Resolved

May 6, 2022

On March 29, 2022, the Biden administration published an Interim Final Rule (IFR) that creates a new process for asylum seekers entering the United States. The IFR contains significant improvements—including preserving access to immigration court removal hearings and establishing a status conference mechanism that encourages narrowing of issues—following comments from members of congress, UNHCR, Human Rights First, and many legal services organizations. Under the IFR, asylum seekers who are placed in the expedited removal process— wherever they enter or are processed into the United States—and who establish a credible fear of persecution may be assessed in an initial, full asylum interview ("Asylum Merits Interview") by an asylum officer from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Cases not granted by the Asylum Office are referred to immigration court removal proceedings, as are other asylum cases that are not granted by the Asylum Office. The IFR, which is scheduled to take effect on May 31, 2022, follows an August 2021 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in which the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice requested public comment on the proposed rule. Comments on the IFR must be submitted on or before May 31, 2022.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers