In September 2017, the federal administration began to float the idea of lowering the already-low refugee cap numbers for FY 2018, citing an allegedly insufficient vetting process, especially for those from countries which have historically sponsored terrorism. Given the somewhat frenetic pace of government in the eight months since the changeover, the story has somewhat gotten lost in the national media, but to those who have family members who might qualify for status, this is a very real concern. It is important to understand the truth of the situation and not fall prey to the misinformation that abounds.
The Process is Extremely Comprehensive
One of the most common misconceptions about refugee resettlement in the United States is that they are simply permitted to walk into the country, so to speak; the average layman is only familiar with standard visa vetting (if that), and often wrongly equates it with refugee processing.
In reality, refugees go through a process that has at least fifteen steps—for Syrians, even more, as many as 20—and it can take years to complete. One is not simply picked up from a war zone and dropped into the United States.
Much of the process is overseen by the United Nations, at least at the beginning. It is the U.N. that has the power to grant refugee status to a person or family, and the amount of people who receive the designation from the United Nations has been estimated at less than 1 percent of all displaced persons worldwide.
Those chosen must pass at least two background checks, three fingerprint sets, and for some, high-level internal scrutiny from U.S. agencies, as well as cultural orientation, an infectious disease screen, and a face-to-face interview with a consular officer. Only after all the steps are complete does a refugee even meet with a U.S. based resettlement agency—hardly the slipshod blanket acceptance that many of the president’s supporters allude to in public discussion.
Numbers May Fall Precipitously
In addition to this multi-agency, multi-national investigation of each potential refugee, those that need assistance must also contend with fluctuating numbers that are even permitted into the United States each fiscal year. In 1980, the Refugee Act was signed into law as an amendment to the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA), which sets the number accepted each year as 50,000, but grants the president the power to raise that number in situations deemed emergencies. For many years, the sitting president has raised the number, due to the constant and shifting refugee crises on multiple continents worldwide, some of which have worsened due to implicit or explicit U.S. intervention—for example, approximately 110,000 refugees were accepted for resettlement under President Obama.
As of this writing, the current administration is debating whether or not to rescind the ‘emergency’ regulations and reduce the quota to the 50,000 established in the Refugee Act. Some members of the administration have openly stated they would like to lower the number even further. However, if you have been granted either refugee or asylee status in the past 2 years, you may still petition for spouses and minor children to join you, regardless of the refugee quota numbers adopted for FY 2018. Also, a form called an Affidavit of Relationship may be used to bring your parents into the country. Any other relations will be on their own, unfortunately, unless you apply on their behalf for a family-based visa after you have naturalized.
Enlist Experienced Legal Help
Because the refugee process can take so long, it is possible to be left out in the proverbial cold if the U.S. quota fills before processing is finished. However, you or your loved ones may be eligible for other forms of relief.
If you have questions about any of these events, consulting an attorney is a good idea. The passionate Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC will do their best to help guide you in the right direction. Call the office today for a free consultation.
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