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%).