Immigration Court Backlogs Reach All-Time High

Immigration Court Backlog

Due to the recent surge of unaccompanied children migrants the backlog in Immigration Courts has reached an all-time high.  At the end of June the back log totaled 375,503 cases, which is an increase of more than 50,000 since the start of the 2013 fiscal year.  Specifically the number of juvenile cases has increased to 41,600 and more are anticipated every day.   Along with an increase in the backlog, the average wait-time for pending cases has also increased to an average of 587 days.

To view annual backlog trends and the states with the largest backlog per the end of June 2014, see the latest Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) report at: http://trac.syr.edu/imm/snap_backlog 

To view immigration court backlog trends based on location and nationality per the end of June 2014, see TRACs immigration backlog tool at: http://tracfed.syr.edu/cgi-bin/tracuser.pl

Children Facing Imminent Danger will ‘Likely’ Receive Asylum

Unaccompanied Minors

Amid the growing debate over immigration reform, specifically concerning the increasing number of unaccompanied children migrants crossing into the United States, the White House announced that immigrant children who face imminent and mortal danger in their home countries will likely be allowed to remain in the United States.  White House Secretary Josh Earnest stated that these children are entitled to due process and will go through the immigration process thereby allowing immigration judges and asylum officials to make the final determination of whether they face a credible threat of death upon return to their home countries.

If immigration officials do in fact determine that a child faces a clear and credible threat of harm upon return to their home country the judge may ultimately find that the child be granted asylum permitting that child to legally remain in the United States.  Secretary Earnest did mention that the White House is looking for greater authority to more efficiently enforce the current immigration law and expressed the White House’s interest in changing the current immigration laws, but few specifics have been offered concerning details of these changes.

Consular Processing Delays Worldwide

Delays The U.S. State Department’s computer system for processing passport and visa applications crashed this week leading to global delays for travel documents.  Although the system is back on line it is still not operating at full capacity.  The U.S. government does not believe the problems are the result of any outside terrorist or malicious action, although the cause of the problem has not been identified yet.  The problem occurred after routine maintenance, and was worldwide, not confined to any one specific country.  The State Department states it has one of the largest Oracle-based data warehouses in the world.  It has reported that in 2009 the database contained over 100 million visa cases and 75 million photographs, with the addition of approximately 35,000 visa cases every day.  We urge everyone that plans to apply for visas at the U.S. Consulates worldwide to build in extra time for processing due to the current large backlogs.

Countries of Particular Concern

Religious Freedom

In its 15th annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommends that the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list, which tracks and monitors countries with severe violations of religious freedoms, be doubled in size, expanding to include Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and Tajikistan. The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan watchdog panel created by Congress to review conditions of religious freedoms internationally by analyzing the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom and to make policy recommendations “[g]rounded in and informed by the American experience.”

Since 2006, eight countries have been designated on the United States State Department list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs). The list documents those countries worldwide that engage in clear violations of religious freedoms, and it’s unchanged roster for the past eight years has named Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. Each of these countries undoubtedly engages in systemic and extreme suppression of religious freedoms, but they are far from the only places to display such a record.

A number of factors influence the appointment of new nations to the CPC list, which defines “severe violations of religious freedom to mean systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom, including violations such as:

a) Torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;

b) Prolonged detention without charges;

c) Causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of those persons; or

d) Other flagrant denials of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.

Nations designated as CPC may be subject to further actions, including economic sanctions, by the United States. For this reason, the recommendations made by the USCIRF are delivered to the President and the Secretary of State, who have ultimate jurisdiction controlling whether new states are added to the list.

Over the last 10 years, numerous nations have seen a worsening of their religious freedom climate. Pakistan, according to the USCIRF, “represents the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as “countries of particular concern.”  In the past year, conditions hit an all-time low due to chronic sectarian violence targeting mostly Shi’a Muslims but also Christians, Ahmadis, and Hindus.

In Turkmenistan, religious freedom violations persist despite a few limited reforms in 2007. Police raids and harassment of registered and unregistered religious groups continue. The repressive 2003 religion law remains in force, causing major difficulties for all religious groups.

Although USCIRF recommended Vietnam for CPC designation in 2004 and 2005, it withdrew the recommendation in 2006 because of progress toward fulfilling a bilateral agreement to release prisoners, banning forced renunciations of faith, and expanding legal protections for religious groups. However, Vietnam continues to imprison individuals for religious activity or religious freedom advocacy, and it uses a specialized religious police force and vague national security laws to suppress independent Buddhist, Protestant, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai activities and to stop the growth of ethnic minority Protes­tantism and Catholicism via discrimination, violence, and forced renunciations of their faith.

Egypt showed some progress during a turbulent political transition, but the Morsi-era government and the interim government failed to protect religious minorities, particularly Coptic Orthodox Christians, from violence. Discriminatory and repressive laws and policies that restrict freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief remain in place under the new constitution. For example, Egyptian courts continue to prosecute, convict, and imprison Egyptian citizens for blasphemy.

In the past year, the government of Iraq failed to stem egregious violence by non-state actors against Iraqi civilians, including attacks targeting religious pilgrims and worshipers, religious sites, and leaders, as well as individuals for their actual or assumed religious identity. The Iraqi government took actions that increased, rather than reduced, Sunni-Shi’a tensions stemming from the Syrian crisis, threatening the country’s already fragile stability and further exacerbating the poor religious freedom environment. Especially concerning is the draft personal status law that would separately apply to Shi’a Iraqis, which risks further hardening the sectarian divide.

Religious freedom in Syria has been deteriorating dramatically throughout the ongoing conflict between Assad’s regime and anti-government elements seeking his overthrow, subjecting the Syrian people to egregious violations of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief. Government forces and affiliated militias have perpetrated religiously-motivated attacks against Sunni Muslim civilians and members of religious minority communities, and have increased sectarian divides through rhetoric and religiously-motivated violence.

Recurring sectarian violence, attacks and threats against Christians by Boko Haram continue to test Nigeria’s democracy, and the misuse of religion by politicians, religious leaders, and others. Religion and religious identity intertwine with ethnic, political, economic, and social controversies to strain already tense Christian-Muslim relations. While the Nigerian government does not engage in religious persecution, it tolerates severe violations through its failure to bring to justice those responsible for systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, or to prevent or contain sectarian violence.

Systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom continue in Tajikistan. The government suppresses and punishes all religious activity independent of state control, particularly the activities of Muslims, Protestants, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The government also imprisons individuals on unproven criminal allegations linked to Islamic religious activity and affiliation. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned since 2007. There are no legal provisions on conscientious objection to military service.

All of these nations have been recommended for inclusion in previous years, and the State Department, without comment, continually fails to add them to the official CPC list.  Explanations of this course of action include political tensions and the vacancy (since last October) of the office of Ambassador-at-large for religious freedoms. In addition to these countries, USCIRF also recommended the inclusion of 10 “Tier 2” countries, in which religious freedom violations are serious but do not rise to the level of the CPC standard. These countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey.

Leon Rodriguez to Become New Head of USCIS

Leon Rodriguez

The US Senate, on Tuesday, June 24, confirmed Leon Rodriguez as the next Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The director is responsible for administering and processing asylum and refugee applications, immigration benefits, and naturalization and visa petitions.

Mr. Rodriguez previously served as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services from 2011 to the present. Much of his work there involved bringing cases against medical and insurance organizations for violations of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for breaches of patient information.

In 2011, President Obama nominated Rodriguez to lead the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. However, his nomination was withdrawn because of Republican opposition to his work in the Civil Rights Division. From 2010 to 2011, Mr. Rodriguez served as Chief of Staff and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice (DOJ), overseeing the division’s administrative operations and cases involving discrimination based on national origin and immigration status. Mr. Rodriguez also served as County Attorney for Montgomery County, Maryland from 2007 to 2010. During that time, he also worked for President Obama’s Justice Department transition team in 2008 and 2009.

From 2001 to 2007 Mr. Rodriguez was a partner at Ober, Kaler, Grimes, and Shriver in Washington, D.C., again focusing on health care law. He served in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) from 1997 to 2001, first as Chief of the White Collar Crimes Section from 1998 to 1999 and then as First Assistant U.S. Attorney until his departure. During his tenure at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh, Mr. Rodriguez focused primarily on health care fraud. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mr. Rodriguez was a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division at DOJ from 1994 to 1997 and a Senior Assistant District Attorney at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in New York from 1988 to 1994, where he prosecuted cases including some against members of the Colombo and Genovese crime families.

Rodriguez is married to a physician, Dr. Jill Schwartz. They have two children, Talia and Elias. Rodriguez speaks several foreign languages, including Spanish, French, Hebrew and Italian. The son of small business-owning Cuban immigrants who sought refuge from the Castro regime in the U.S., Rodriguez was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1962, where he lived until moving to Miami at the age of 4 with his parents. Rodriguez received a B.A. from Brown University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. His grandparents moved from Poland and Turkey to Cuba in the late teens and early 20’s to escape anti-Semitism, giving Mr. Rodriguez a multi-generational personal experience with immigration that will serve him well as the new Director of USCIS.

Mr. Rodriguez has offered tantalizing insights into how, if approved by the Senate, he might tackle the daunting job of USCIS Director, especially in reply to Sen. Grassley’s queries. In written responses to Senator’s queries, he reaffirms his belief in the proper use of prosecutorial discretion and the need to protect internal agency whistleblowers from retaliation, agreeing to meet with union representatives of USICS employees and expressing support for recent USCIS reforms of the EB-5 program. He also stated that in limited situations it is incumbent upon the USICS Director to intervene in a pending case when the “outcome of adjudication is wrong, or when adjudication may present a legal, factual, or policy issue of broad application. Regarding the appointment, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said: “We are filling vacancies in senior-level positions in this department and injecting a new energy within its leadership.”

Two Years Later: The Impact of DACA

DACA

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program is an Obama Administration initiative implemented to extend rights and benefits to the growing number of undocumented youths and young adults living in the United States. The program allows youths and young adults meeting certain requirements to temporarily defer deportation and receive both eligibility for renewable two-year work permits and temporary Social Security numbers that allow them access to health care and higher education. The program does not provide a path to legalization for these youths, but rather it simply offers them a means to participate constructively in the mainstream American economy, breaking down the barriers to higher education and employment faced by undocumented youths. As of March 2014, 553,197 young people have been approved for the program, although hundreds of thousands of others have not yet chosen to apply. The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute estimates a total of 1.1 million people are eligible for DACA.

To be eligible for DACA, a young person must have arrived in the United States prior to age 16; have resided continuously in the United States without legal status since June 15, 2007; be less than age 31 as of June 15, 2012; and at least age 15 at the time of the application submission (unauthorized immigrants under 15 but in removal proceedings are also eligible to apply). Additionally, eligible applicants must currently be enrolled in school; have graduated high school or obtained a general development certificate (GED); or be an honorably discharged veteran. Finally, applicants are inadmissible who have been convicted of a felony, have multiple or serious misdemeanors, or who pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Prior to DACA, these young people had no alternative but to work illegally in low paying positions with little or no chance for advancement, creating a waste of talent and skill that could be used to improve both their lives and the United States economy. Most live in low-income households with family members, many of whom are undocumented themselves. As with adult immigration trends in recent years, most applicants have relocated from violence and gang-torn regions of Latin America, and they come to the United States in search of safety, and, hopefully, the chance to earn a steady wage.

Since the implementation of DACA on June 15, 2012, almost 700,000 youths have applied to the program, and approximately 72% of them have been approved.  Nearly three-fourths of these come from low-income households, and they have a median age of 22.7 years.  The vast majority of applicants (74.9%) originally hail from Mexico – there are over twenty times as many applicants from Mexico as there are from El Salvador, the second leading nation of origin. Rounding out the leading nations of origin are numerous Latin American nations and a sprinkling of applicants from other parts of the world.

Despite its successes, the program still faces considerable challenges from interest groups within the government, from misinformation about the program, and even from inconsistency in application of the program by officials. Older applicants, especially those living independently from parents, and those not enrolled in school, may have a harder time documenting that they have been living in the United States continuously since 2007. In addition, the more time that has elapsed since their entry, the longer time period they must document residence in the United States. Other potential applicants are discouraged by issues such as whether they qualify under the criteria, lack of funds for the $465 application fee, or lack of educational enrollment. Some potentially eligible individuals may not be aware of their undocumented status, especially younger people. Still others lack correct information about the program. Despite outreach by nonprofits, many lack access to support in filing applications. Further complicating the matter, US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) persistently encourages eligible youths to come forward, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to deport the friends and family of eligible youths – in some cases, it even continues to deport youths who turn out not to be eligible.

For those who do qualify, the outcome of involvement with DACA seems to be mostly positive. Almost 60% of DACA beneficiaries have obtained new jobs since approval, and have been able to increase their income.  Because the new earnings translate into a greater tax base, beneficiaries provide an important boost to the recovering economy.  Intriguingly, 21% of DACA beneficiaries have accepted internships, highlighting the valuable career training that DACA provides to youths.  57% of these youths have obtained drivers licenses, increasingly their mobility while decreasing the number of unlicensed drivers – thus creating safer roads for everyone. 49% have opened their first bank account, and 33% have obtained their first credit card. Also importantly for our crippled health care system, 21% have obtained health insurance at the state level (DACA beneficiaries remain ineligible for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at the national level). The greatest benefits of DACA seem to be for those who have already received a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college.  These respondents are far more likely than non-DACA peers to obtain jobs following their approval.

In whole, DACA has been a marked success, enriching not only beneficiaries, but also their families, friends, and communities. Community-based organizations, non-profits, legal clinics, religious organizations, and schools have diligently reached out to provide information and assistance to young persons wishing to file DACA applications.  The program provides beneficiaries with not only economic opportunities, but also social and civil opportunities previously beyond their reach.  Despite this, the program remains a partial solution because it offers no path to citizenship for even the most exemplary candidates.  With 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, providing an efficient and equitable solution to immigration reform remains a crucial challenge.

Obama Requests More Immigration Judges

Article written by Todd Ruger, published by Legal Times.  

Immigration Judges Image

The U.S. Department of Justice would get $64 million and about 40 additional immigration judges under President Obama’s new plan to address the increased number of immigrants illegally crossing the Southwest border.

The White House plan asks Congress for $45.4 million to hire judge and support staff teams to reduce the processing time of immigration cases, as well as expand courtroom capacity with additional video conferencing and other equipment, White House officials announced Tuesday.

The request also includes $1.1 million for more immigration litigation attorneys, and $15 million for legal representation of children in immigration proceedings, the White House said. Another $2.5 million would expand legal orientation programs that provide assistance to adults and custodians of children in the immigration court system.

Overall, Obama wants to spend $3.7 billion on an “aggressive deterrence and enforcement strategy” to address the high rates of apprehensions and processing of children and individuals from Central America crossing the border in the Rio Grande valley.

“This surge of resources means that cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible, ensuring the protection of asylum seekers and refugees while enabling the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum or other forms of relief from removal,” the White House said in a written statement.

Obama on Tuesday will send the supplemental appropriation request to Congress for fiscal year 2014, which ends Sept. 30. The fate of the request on Capitol Hill is unclear, particularly with budget constraints that have loomed over lawmakers for years.

White House officials, on a conference call with reporters, said they hope the request “will be treated as the urgent humanitarian issue that it is” and met with bipartisan support.

Obama has already requested Congress spend $17 million in fiscal year 2015 for 35 new immigration teams and 15 Board of Immigration Appeals attorneys in the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.

The immigration court’s caseload is increasing to unsustainable levels, the Justice Department said. Between fiscal years 2009 and 2013, the matters pending adjudication grew by 56 percent, from 229,000 cases to 358,000.

Combined, the 40 judicial teams in Tuesday’s emergency request and the 35 judge teams from the fiscal year 2015 budget request would provide sufficient resources to process an additional 55,000 to 75,000 cases annually, the White House said.

Still, that number falls far short of the number of judges that would have been added under the leading immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate in June 2013. That bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, calls for nearly doubling the number of immigration court judges, with 225 hires over the next three years.

However, the reform bill never got a vote in the House, and Obama and House Republicans have all but abandoned it during this election year.


Original article can be accessed athttp://www.nationallawjournal.com/legaltimes/id=1202662268496/Obama-Requests-More-Immigration-Judges#ixzz36yjJBF2F

Nationality Trends in New Naturalized Citizens in the US

Naturalization

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released its Annual Flow Report analyzing naturalization patterns for the preceding year. This report uses administrative records consisting of information from naturalization applications in the preceding year, drawing conclusions as to present and future trends of immigration.

In 2013, the United States naturalized a total of 779,929 persons, an increase from 757,434 in 2012 and 694,193 in 2011. Within the United States, the largest number of persons naturalizing lived in California (164,792), New York (107,330), and Florida (101,773).Although the number of applications for naturalization filed decreased from 2012 to 2013, the number of applications processed during this period increased, suggesting (perhaps erroneously) that the process has grown more efficient in recent years.

Naturalization rates have increased exponentially in the past century, from less than 120,000 during the 1950s and1960s, to 210,000 during the 1980s, 500,000 during the 1990s, and to 680,000 from 2000-2009. Since 2010, this number has increased to 710,000.

The relative increases have not, however, been geographically consistent. Prior to 1970, most newly naturalized U.S. citizens originated in Europe.  A number of dynamic changes have dramatically altered this pattern; increased legal emigration from Asian countries, the arrival of Indochinese refugees in the 1970s, and the historically higher naturalization rates of Asian immigrants have all caused Asia to be the leading region of origin for most new citizens since 1976. Recent data, however, suggests that this trend may be changing; the report indicates that new citizens originating in Asia (275,700) only very narrowly outnumbered new citizens from North America (271,807).

Person of Mexican birth easily formed the largest group of naturalized citizens in 2013, with 99,385 such persons naturalizing in 2013. India placed a distant second with 49,897, trailed by the Philippines (43,489), the Dominican Republic (39,590), and the People’s Republic of China (35,387). The number of naturalized citizens from Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America increased during this period, especially regarding immigrants from India (up 6,969), the Dominican Republic (up 6,239), Haiti (up 4,366), and the People’s Republic of China (up 3,519). The largest percentage increases occurred in Haiti (23% increase), Iran (21% increase), the Dominican Republic (19% increase), and India (16% increase). Former Asian and North American citizens accounted for 35% of persons naturalizing in 2013, and the 10 countries with the largest number of naturalizations accounted for almost 50% of all newly naturalized citizens.

To complete the naturalization process, an applicant must fulfill requirements promulgated in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), specifying that a foreign national seeking to naturalize must a) be 18 years of age, b) be a U.S. lawful permanent resident, c) have resided in the country for at least 5 years. Additionally, such applicants must speak, read, and write English, have knowledge of U.S. history and civics, and display good moral character. Limited exceptions to these requirement exist for some applicants, including spouses and minor children of U.S. residents and persons with qualifying U.S. military experience. Additionally, naturalization requires filing an N-400 Application for Naturalization and undergoing an interview with U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to determine eligibility. Finally, qualified residents who have fulfilled all requirements participate in an oath ceremony to officially proclaim their allegiance to their new nation of citizenship.

 

Evolving Trends in Refugee and Asylee Admissions to the US

Refugee and Asylum

Every year, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics issues a report analyzing trends in Refugee and Asylum Admissions to the U.S. The 2013 Annual Flow Report on Refugees and Asylees comprehensively compiles data from numerous governmental and other sources.

Background on Refugees and Asylees in the United States:  The United States provides refuge to persons facing persecution and abuse through two programs: a refugee program for those outside the U.S. and an asylum program for those already within its borders.  Unfortunately, the global demand for asylum status far outstrips the capacity the U.S., to provide it. Early each year, the President and Congress jointly establish an admissions ceiling for refugee and asylum applicants as well as regional allocations. During 2012, the government authorized a maximum of 76,000 individuals. The largest regional allocation, of 47%, was to the Near East/South Asia region, so as to accommodate individuals fleeing continued unrest in Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan.

Application Process for REFUGEES

Refugee status eligibility requires an individual to demonstrate that 1) (s)he is “of special humanitarian concern” to the U.S., 2) (s)he is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, 3) (s)he is admissible under the INA, and 4) (s)he is not firmly resettled in any foreign country. Various categories identify different types of refugee applicants.

Priority One (P-1): applicants referred by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. embassy, or certain qualifying non-governmental organizations.

Priority Two (P-2): members of groups of “special humanitarian concerns.”

Priority Three (P-3): applicants involved in family reunification cases.

Upon referral, a Resettlement Support Center conducts a pre-screening interview, helps the applicant complete the application, and determines eligibility for U.S. resettlement. Applicants who also pass security checks and a medical exam are assigned a sponsor and a resettlement agency to assist with housing, employment, and other services. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) arranges the refugee’s travel to the U.S. One year after admission, refugees must apply for Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) Status; if granted, refugees may apply for citizenship five years after admission to the U.S.

Application Process for Derivatives

A refugee or asylee’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 are also eligible to obtain derivative refugee/asylee status, as either accompanying derivative or following-to-join derivatives, if they were listed on the principal’s asylum application but not included in the principal’s grant of asylum. Accompanying derivatives enter either with the principle refugee or within four months, and following-to-join derivative may apply within two years after the principle was granted status.

The principle refugee must file a Form I-370, Refugee Asylee Relative petition for each qualifying family member.  Beneficiaries of I-730s need not demonstrate an independent claim. Once an I-730 has been approved for an individual abroad, no time constraints apply to the derivative’s travel to the U.S, provided that the principle still retains status, the relationship to the derivative remains unchanged, and, if the derivative is a child, the child remains unmarried. Beneficiaries already in the U.S. are granted derivative asylum status immediately upon approval of their I-730 petitions. Beneficiaries abroad at the time of application receive derivative asylum when admitted at a U.S. port of entry.

Modern Trends among REFUGEES

Actual Admissions: During 2012, a total of 58,179 persons were admitted to the United States as refugees – up 3.2% from 56,384 in 2011. Refugee arrivals declined during the 1990s, and then reached a low point in 2002 following heightened security and admission requirements after 9/11/2001. Refugee arrivals reached a post-2001 peak in 2009, and then decreased from 2009-2011.

Categories of Admission: Principal refugees equaled 27,355 (47%) of refugees, dependent children and spouses represented 37% and 16%, respectively, and follow-to-join beneficiaries equaled 1,213 (2.1%).

Countries of Origin: The leading countries of origin (71% of admissions) were Bhutan (26%), Burma (24%), and Iraq (21%). Other leading countries included Somalia (8.4%), Cuba (3.3%), Democratic Republic of Congo (3.2%), Iran (3%), and Eritrea (2.3%).

Age, Sex, and Marital Status : 32% of refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2012 were under 18 years of age; A slight majority of refugees were male (54%), and 38% were married.

State of Residence: The leading states of residence of refugees in 2012 were TX (10%), CA (8.9%), NY (6.1%), and PA (4.8). Texas arrivals increased 4.9% from 5,627 in 2011 to 5,905 in 2012. New refugees residing in Florida declined 23%, while new refugees residing in Michigan increased 39%.

 

Application Process for ASYLEES

Any alien either present in the U.S. or arriving at a port of entry  may apply for asylum regardless of immigration status. Asylum application involves both the filing and adjudication of the claim.

Filing of Claims: Applicants obtain asylum by filing Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal in one of three ways: affirmatively through a USCIS asylum officer, defensively in removal proceedings, or derivatively as the spouse or child of an asylee. Aliens must apply within one year from their last arrival date or establish an exception based on changed circumstances.

Adjudication of Claims: The Asylum Division within USCIS adjudicates claims through the affirmative asylum process. An asylum officer interviews the applicant to determine if (s)he meets the definition of a refugee, is credible, and is not barred from obtaining asylum. Individuals may be barred for committing certain crimes, posing a national security threat, engaging in the persecution of others, or firmly resettling in another country. Asylees may work in the U.S. and receive certain public benefits including employment assistance, a social security card, and social services. An immigration judge may grant asylum or deny the application for asylum and issue an order of removal. The applicant may appeal denial to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and further to a U.S. Court of Appeals.

Modern Trends among ASYLEES

Actual Admissions: During 2012, 29,484 individuals were granted asylum, up from 24,873 in 2011. Additionally, 13,049 individuals received derivative asylum status by virtue of close familial relationship to a person receiving asylum status.

Categories of Admissions: Affirmative asylum grants increased 31%, from 13,369 in 2011 to 17,506 in 2012. Defensive asylum grants also increased, from 11,504 in 2011 to 11,978 in 2012. Follow-to-join derivatives travelling into the U.S. increased from 9,550 in 2011 to 13,049 in 2012; follow-to-join derivatives already in the U.S. decreased from 1,176 in 2011 to 1,028 in 2012.

Countries of Origin:In 2012, five nationalities represented over half the persons granted affirmative or defensive asylum: China (34%), Egypt (9.8%), Ethiopia (3.8%), Venezuela (3.7%), and Nepal (3.3%). For affirmative asylees, 48% were Chinese (27%), Egyptian (15%), and Venezuelan (5.5%). For defensive asylees, over half were Chinese (45%), Ethiopian (3.8%), and Nepalese (3.4%). Over half of following-to-join asylees authorized for travel to the U.S. were from China (38%), Haiti (7.1%) and Nepal (6.9%).

Age, Sex, and Marital Status: 73% of affirmative asylum grantees were aged 18-44. The median age of persons granted affirmative asylum was 29 years. 51% were male, and 46% were married. Around 47% of follow-to-join beneficiaries approved overseas were under 18 years.The median age of follow-to-join beneficiaries was 18 years; reflecting that the follow-to-join population is composed of spouses and children aged under 21 years. 47% of follow-to-join beneficiaries were female.

State of Residence: Over 2/3 of affirmative asylum grantees settled in CA (39%), FL (15%), and NY (14%).