The Case For Welcoming Refugees
In an increasingly polarizing political environment, we will continue to make the case for welcoming refugees into the U.S.
How do refugees get to the US?
There are two paths to becoming a refugee in the US. The first is through the refugee resettlement process and the second is through the asylum process.
Refugee Resettlement: Refugees who are resettled in the US most commonly live in refugee camps when they are selected to come to the US. The majority of people living in refugee camps intend and hope to go home once the conflict in their country was over. UNHCR selects candidates for resettlement whose lives would be in danger if they returned home, taking into account medical conditions, personal persecution, and quotas set by the US Congress. Those selected then move forward through a long chain of vetting through many US Homeland Security and State Department offices. This process can take up to two years. Once they arrive in the US, these refugees are supported by government-contracted NGOS such as the IRC or Catholic Charities. They receive free housing, and support with employment, education and integration.
Asylum Process: Asylum seekers arriving in the US have normally fled their home countries immediately after facing or fearing persecution. They enter the country either by air with various visas, or by land without a visa, in which case they are apprehended at the border. Those who flee by air with a visa tend to arrive alone (these visas are commonly given on an individual basis, and often flee in a hurry without much time to prepare). Asylum seekers must then apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the US. With the exception of special programs for Central American minors, the US government provides no support for asylum seekers until they are granted. This means no housing or survival support, as well as legal and social support. After submitting their application for asylum, refugees currently wait an average of 2-3 years before being called for their asylum interview. Asylum seekers can apply for a renewable work permit about 6 months after applying for asylum. At their interview, they must prove a “well founded fear of persecution” on the basis of one of five categories: race, religion, membership in a particular social group (sexuality, gender ect..), nationality or political opinion. They are then either granted asylum at the first asylum interview, if not granted right away, they must wait an additional 2-3 years for a court date where their case will be heard by an immigration judge. The right to seek asylum is part of international law since the 1951 Refugee Convention Treaty.