An Update – June 2013
The United States Government announced 28 pledges at the UNHCR Commemorations Ministerial on December 7, 2011. The pledges address five themes ranging from asylum and detention, to vulnerable populations, to refugee resettlement and statelessness. To date, the USG has fulfilled 25 pledges (though these efforts are ongoing, in many instances) and is making progress on the remaining pledges. The U.S. Government is committed to fulfilling its remaining pledges. It is through the full implementation of Member States’ collective pledges that we will reap true benefits, and, as responsible governments, enable UNHCR to better serve its beneficiaries for generations to come.
The U.S. Government (USG) pledges to provide ongoing, comprehensive training to all Immigration Judges and Members of the Board of Immigration Appeals and their legal staff in refugee law and related legal disciplines, as well as in country of origin analysis and application.
Update: The Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) in-house training schedule for calendar year 2012 includes a host of trainings that fulfill the above pledge. The topics for the trainings include: Personal Circumstances & Asylum Eligibility: When does an alien’s changed personal circumstances constitute a new claim for asylum?; Human Trafficking: Trends & Relief; Particular Social Groups: A Defining Challenge; Emerging Issues in Asylum Law: Religious and Economic Persecution Claims; The Law of Discretion in Immigration Cases; Immigration Law: Federal Court Trends and Updates; Special Topics in Asylum Law: Firm Resettlement & Internal Relocation; and Understanding and Applying The Violence Against Women Act. The BIA in-house training schedule for calendar year 2013 includes a host of trainings that continue to fulfill the above pledge. The topics for the trainings include: Exploring the Terrorism-Related Inadmissibility Grounds Under the Immigration and Nationality Act; Special Topics in Asylum Law: Sexual Orientation Based Asylum Claims; Federal Court Trends and Update – 2013; Circuit Court Survey: Fact Finding and the Board of Immigration Appeals’ Clearly Erroneous Standard of Review; Issues and Pitfalls in Reviewing Immigration Judge Decisions on Motions to Reopen; Constitutional Challenges in Immigration Proceedings; Emerging Issues in Asylum Law: The Development of Nexus Analysis; and Waivers of Inadmissibility: An Overview of Recent Developments. The trainings are presented live to BIA employees and recorded via digital audio recording and video. The recordings are made available to Immigration Judges nationwide and for anyone who misses the live trainings. Board Members and BIA legal staff will also be provided with video and written materials pertaining to the International Religious Freedom Act. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is also developing a separate training curriculum specifically for the Immigration Judges, who will be provided Religious Persecution Country Conditions Updates. The topics to be covered include: Federal Court & BIA Trends and Update; Conversation with a Survivor of Torture: A Personal Story of Many; Introducing the Istanbul Protocol: Standards for Documenting Instances of Torture; Particular Social Groups: A Defining Challenge; Emerging Issues in Asylum Law: Religious and Economic Persecution Claims; Forensic Evidence of Forced Sterilization and Coercive Population Control Practices; Special Topics in Asylum Law: Sexual Orientation Based Asylum Claims; and Country Condition Updates. In addition, a variety of asylum related materials and resources, including from UNHCR, will be distributed to the Immigration Judges.
The U.S. Government pledges to:
Update: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano signed new exercises of the exemption authority that authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to exempt individuals on a case-by-case basis for the provision of medical care under certain circumstances. The Secretary also recently signed an exercise of her exemption authority for applicants with existing immigration benefits, such as asylees and refugees in the United States. The exemption will allow USCIS to release up to an estimated 75 percent of the cases currently on hold and proceed with the adjudications of the underlying benefit applications. The majority of the affected applicants whose cases will be released for adjudication are asylees and refugees with pending applications for legal permanent resident status, or "green cards." Those who are granted the exemption will be able to continue down the path to full U.S. citizenship. In addition, two new group-based exercises of the exemption authority were signed by Secretary Napolitano during the year that authorize USCIS to exempt certain individuals having activities and associations with the Kosovo Liberation Army or who were involved in the 1991 Iraqi uprisings against the Saddam Hussein regime. Continuing into fiscal year 2013, Secretary Napolitano has recently authorized an exemption for applicants with activities or associations with the Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN) and the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). In addition, DHS has continued to reduce the number of cases on hold by applying existing exemptions, consider new exemptions, and focus Department resources on case research.
Update: In progress.
Update: DHS continues to support legislation to eliminate the one year filing deadline and supports the current legislative proposals contained in S.744.
The U.S. Government pledges to:
Update: DHS provided access to UNHCR to complete its review on the parole process, and has continued to work with UNHCR on parole process improvements. Over the last six months, DHS worked with UNHCR to revise the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Form 71-012 “Parole Advisal and Scheduling Notification Form.” On August 17, 2012, ICE Enforcement and Removal Offices (ERO) began using the new form in all of its field offices. Form 71-012 now gives arriving aliens or their representative expanded information on documents they may want ICE to consider as part of its assessment whether to parole the alien from detention. Documents may be submitted concerning:
(1) The arriving alien’s identity;
(2) Whether the arriving alien is likely to appear for all scheduled hearings and enforcement appointments (including for removal from the United States if so ordered); or
(3) Whether the arriving alien does not present a security risk to the United States or a danger to the community.
Update: DHS has issued the 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards, which includes improved detainee release practices. Implementation of these new standards has commenced. DHS is also revising the Detainee Detention Facility Handbook to give detainees notice of policies and practices surrounding release from ICE detention facilities. ICE’s revised Performance-Based National Detention Standards also improves conditions of confinement for detainees in various ways, including by improving medical and mental health services, increasing access to legal services, enhancing processes for reporting and responding to complaints, and strengthening protections for vulnerable detainee populations (including women, individuals with mental illness, and victims of abuse). ICE has also issued a new Transfer Directive that prohibits the long-distance transfer within the agency’s detention system of detainees with family members or attorneys in the area or pending immigration proceedings, unless absolutely necessary. In addition, ICE has initiated nationwide deployment of a new Risk Classification Assessment system designed to screen all individuals apprehended or detained by ICE for a number of special vulnerabilities impacting custody and classification determinations, including whether a person is a victim of persecution or torture, sexual abuse or violent crime, or human trafficking.
The U.S. Government pledges to implement updated training to U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement personnel participating in migrant interdiction operations by the end of calendar year 2012. This training will focus on identifying manifestations of fear by interdicted migrants. Pledge fulfilled
Update: USCIS and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) HQ staff created a draft PowerPoint-based training aid and filmed a series of manifestation of fear recognition vignettes in May 2012 to be incorporated into the training aid. On December 21, 2012, USCG implemented the use of the Manifestation of Fear video to all units deploying in support of migrant interdiction operations. The video demonstrates different ways a migrant might express a verbal or non-verbal manifestation of fear at sea. In February 2013, the Refugee Affairs Division conducted screenings of the video for situational awareness with the Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), USCG and UNHCR.
The Best Interests of Children
The U.S. Government pledges to:
Update: All eight BID officers have been deployed.
Update: DHS facilitated UNHCR’s review in Laredo, TX in January 2012 and in San Diego, CA in December, 2012, which focused on screening of unaccompanied children (UAC). UNHCR provided a report and recommendations pertaining to Laredo, and is finalizing its report and recommendations pertaining to San Diego. .
Update: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), DHS and DOJ are collaborating to facilitate UAC access to counsel. DOJ oversees programs and initiatives to improve access to legal information and assistance principally through four main initiatives: 1) the Legal Orientation Program (LOP); 2) the Legal Orientation Program for Custodians of Unaccompanied Alien Children (LOPC); 3) the Board of Appeals Pro Bono Project; and 4) the Model Hearing Program (MHP).
The LOP is currently operating at 26 sites (24 of which are ICE detention facilities), serving over 64,000 individuals per year. The purpose of this program is to assist detained respondents in making better informed decisions earlier in removal proceedings, and to improve access to basic legal services for indigent aliens. The LOPC provides legal orientation presentations to the adult care givers (custodians) of unaccompanied children in EOIR removal proceedings. The purpose of the program is to inform the children’s custodians of their responsibilities in ensuring the child's appearance at all immigration proceedings, as well as protecting the child from mistreatment, exploitation, and trafficking. HHS has issued policies and trainings regarding LOPC to staff and grantees caring for UAC. HHS ensures that UAC caseworkers register sponsors with the LOPC program (currently operating at 14 sites) if one is available in the sponsor’s area. If there is not an available site, caseworkers refer sponsors to the call center. The BIA Pro Bono Project was created to increase pro bono representation for individuals with cases on appeal. Since its start, the Project has succeeded in securing pro bono counsel for over 700 aliens around the country - primarily those in DHS custody. The MHP is an educational program developed to improve the quality of advocacy before the court, as well as increase levels of pro bono representation. Since June of 2001, well over 50 Model Hearing training sessions have been held in immigration courts across the country. Additional information on these four programs is available upon request.
In addition to these programs, DOJ has pro bono liaison judges designated for each court location. The objective of the Pro Bono Liaison Judge is to meet with local pro bono groups and stakeholders to discuss ideas and facilitate efforts to increase the level and quality of pro bono representation before the court. DOJ works with the pro bono liaison judges to provide additional technical assistance and help coordinate their efforts with other agency programs and initiatives. UAC in HHS custody are afforded access to attorneys. All UAC are given names and contact information of legal service providers in the jurisdiction where the UAC is placed, who may provide pro bono services to UAC. Additionally, HHS contracts with a non-profit national legal service provider, who in turn sub-contracts with seventeen local legal service providers nationwide who provide UAC in HHS custody with “Know Your Rights” presentations, and screen UAC for immigration relief. Those UAC who are eligible for immigration relief are either represented by the local legal service provider or referred to pro bono counsel. The local legal service providers also make “Friend of Court” appearances at immigration courts during juvenile hearings to assist UAC with courtroom procedure and to explain immigration court processes to UAC in child-friendly terms.
Additionally, HHS’s national legal service provider also provides UAC who transition out of HHS custody to a sponsor with referrals to one of two legal service providers for assistance with the UAC’s immigration case. HHS’s legal service contract also provides for an independent Child Advocate program.
In consultation with the legal service providers HHS plans to unveil a Legal Resource Guide for UAC in HHS custody to educate UAC of their rights, the various types of immigration relief, and an explanation on how to file routine paperwork with DHS and immigration courts (e.g. changes of address or change of venue motions).
In April, DOJ and DHS announced a nationwide policy to implement new procedural protections for unrepresented immigration detainees with serious mental disorders or conditions that may render them mentally incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Of particular note with regard to this pledge, EOIR has committed to making available qualified representatives to all detainees who are deemed mentally incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings. We expect these new procedures to be fully operational on a national basis by the end of 2013. Please see the press release at the following link: http://www.justice.gov/eoir/press/2013/SafeguardsUnrepresentedImmigrationDetainees.html.
Cultural Orientation Curriculum for Youth ~ Pledge fulfilled
The U.S. Government pledges to provide cultural orientation to unaccompanied refugee minors who are preparing to travel to the United States and to encourage the continued use of similar curriculum after arrival in the United States.
Update: The U.S. Government has implemented provision of overseas cultural orientation for unaccompanied refugee minors, utilizing a curriculum that addresses the specific needs of these individuals. Once these minors are resettled to the United States, they receive additional cultural orientation training. The U.S. Government also provides cultural orientation for refugee youth ages 8–18 traveling with parents or other adult family members.
Education in Emergencies ~ Pledge fulfilled
The U.S. Government pledges to increase its support to international efforts relating to equitable access to education for youth in crisis and conflict environments and its involvement in shaping the agenda on education of youth in emergencies, particularly through ongoing Women, Peace and Security efforts.
Update: The U.S. has included a commitment on the pledge in the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security; the White House report states the following:
In the narrative: “Education can also mitigate the effects of conflict and provide the basis for long term economic growth and stability. Out of 70 million primary school-aged children not in school, nearly 40 million live in countries affected by armed conflict. It is therefore critical to restore education sites, services and system-wide capacity for children and youth, particularly girls, in conflict-affected or insecure environments. We are working to increase equitable access to education in crisis and conflict environments for 15 million learners, including those with disabilities, by 2015. Conflict Prevention: The United States Government will promote women’s roles in conflict prevention, improve conflict early-warning and response systems through the integration of gender perspectives, and invest in women and girls’ health, education, and economic opportunity to create conditions for stable societies and lasting peace.”
In the Framework:
Outcome 4.2: Women and girls participate in economic recovery, and have increased access to health care and education services. Promote access to primary, secondary and vocational education for children and youth in countries affected by violence or conflict, with special incentives for the attendance and retention of girls, taking into account related special protection needs.
Outcome 5.1: Gender and protection issues are explicitly and systematically integrated and evaluated as part of responses to crisis and disaster. Promote access to education in emergencies consistent with international guidelines and best practices.
We continue to support education programs for children and youth in places like Ethiopia and Iraq as well as at the onset of emergencies, most recently in response to the Syria crisis. We will continue to ensure that education is part of our multi-sectoral response to children and youth in crises.
Women ~ Pledges fulfilled
Services for Victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence
The U.S. Government pledges to provide refugee service providers and mainstream social service programs in the United States with additional training relating to sexual and gender based violence, including violence that amounts to a form of torture, as well as information on services available to survivors of torture.
Update: In 2012, the Department of Health, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) completed a three-year grant cycle and announced new funding opportunities for direct services to survivors of torture and technical assistance to service providers. The funding announcement emphasized the importance of addressing psychosocial and health consequences of torture, domestic violence and other forms trauma. ORR awarded approximately $11 million to 31 grantees under this funding announcement.
ORR worked with its technical assistance providers to identify training resources that address sexual and gender-based violence among refugee populations. These training resources include a four-part video that raises awareness about rape as a weapon of war and an instructional webinar that increases clinicians’ capacity to provide therapeutic services to individuals who survived sexual and gender-based violence.
ORR also partnered with the Family Violence Prevention Services Administration (FVPSA) to co-host a nationwide webinar focused on culturally relevant and multi-lingual services that address domestic violence in refugee families. ORR plans to continue developing new partnerships in advocacy of those who have suffered sexual and physical violence as a result of gender inequality.
Microenterprise Development Opportunities
The U.S. Government pledges to provide refugee women in the United States with training opportunities on how to establish and manage businesses including, home-based childcare services.
Update: ORR awarded approximately $5.8 million under the “Discretionary Funds for Refugee Childcare Microenterprise Development” Project. Thirteen organizations received continuation funding totaling approximately $2.2 million and twenty-one grantees were awarded new grants totaling approximately $3.6 million. These organizations are charged with assisting refugee women to establish licensed child care businesses within their homes. The project focuses on childcare quality of care standards and microenterprise principles. The program offers training and technical assistance as ongoing support for these 13 organizations and the women they serve. In addition, a mainstream social service agency awarded nearly $1M to three refugee resettlement organizations to administer a similar childcare microenterprise program. ORR continues to support a refugee Microenterprise program with 18 grantees at $4 million supporting a host of entrepreneurial endeavors.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) ~ Pledges fulfilled
Electronic Resource Center
The U.S. Government pledges to develop an electronic resource center that catalogues available community resources and identifies supportive communities for LGBT refugees resettled in the United States.
Update: ORR awarded Heartland Alliance of Chicago $250,000 in a technical assistance grant for the second year in a row to maintain and expand their resource website at the following link: www.RainbowWelcome.org. Over a hundred resources are available with links to services, reports, webinars, videos, presentations, and critical resources for both service providers and refugees/asylees. The site allows refugees and asylees who may not have advanced computer skills to easily access and navigate resources; plus resources are offered in Arabic, Spanish, and French. The resource site is meant to empower LGBT refugees/asylees to assume an active role in their resettlement, ensuring they have the opportunity to advocate for themselves and gain access to critical services and information. Heartland Alliance International provides LGBT trainings and webinars to educate and provide technical assistance and resources to grantees of the refugee, Survivors of Torture, and Unaccompanied Children’s programs. Heartland Alliance is also working to add a component for unaccompanied children and resources that are pertinent to LGBT youth to the website.
Provision of Targeted Services
The U.S. Government pledges to add language to one or more grant announcements that identifies LGBT refugees as a vulnerable population in need of targeted services.
Update: ORR has incorporated language in several discretionary grant funding opportunity announcements to ensure the inclusion of the LGBT refugee community. For example, through the Preferred Communities (PC) grant, ORR funded one grantee to serve LGBT refugees in two sites. The program offers intensive case management, assistance with health care, mental health needs, housing, etc. ORR funded another PC grantee to develop local site capacity to serve the mental health needs of newly arriving refugees including LGBT individuals in three locations.
Urban Refugees ~ Pledges fulfilled
The U.S. Government pledges to:
Update: The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary traveled jointly with Assistant High Commissioner Lim to Addis Ababa and Kampala in July 2012 to examine challenges and progress made to date in responding to refugees in urban areas. PRM briefed NGO partners on this trip in September. PRM has developed a policy brief on refugee protection in urban areas that is now publicly available on its website at: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/187237.pdf. Additionally, PRM has begun expanding urban programming in 2012 in places such as Kampala and Nairobi.
Update: PRM has developed a set of questions, drawn from established best practices, for PRM program officers and Refugee Coordinators to use while monitoring partners’ performance in urban areas. In 2012, PRM funded an initiative by the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) and Tufts University to expand the capacity of JIPS to profile urban refugees. As part of this project, JIPS and Tufts are conducting profiling studies in two cities (New Delhi and Quito) and will publicly share its data so that PRM and partners can more effectively target interventions in these areas.
Update: In 2012, PRM funded UNHCR’s development of its e-learning program for staff in urban areas.
Protection and Integration
The U.S. Government pledges to:
Update: DHS/USCIS is currently awaiting final court approval of a nationwide class action settlement, which will implement several important changes regarding employment authorization for asylum applicants. The settlement would help ensure that certain individuals who seek to file or have already filed an asylum application will be entitled to new procedures for crediting time toward employment authorization eligibility. Pending final approval of the settlement, the USG is limited in its response.
Strengthening Global Resettlement Capacity ~ Pledges fulfilled
The U.S. Government pledges to:
Update: This is on-going through leadership in Working Group on Resettlement and Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement fora.
Update: This is on-going. In 2012, PRM funded NGO participation from Bulgaria and Uruguay in the Australia Working Group on Resettlement, as well as participation of Bulgaria NGO representative in a study tour of U.S. resettlement sites and participating agencies.
The U.S. Government pledges to work with UNHCR in fiscal year 2012 to strengthen local partner capacity, particularly in humanitarian emergencies, through facilitating partnerships between international and national actors. ~ Pledge fulfilled
Update: In 2012, PRM funded a UNHCR proposal whose goal is to strengthen capacity for national and local NGOs to operate in complex emergency environments. The project is progressing well and is in phase three out of four. PRM is continuing to follow the implementation of this project closely.
Statelessness Among Women and Children ~ Pledges fulfilled
The U.S. Government pledges to:
Update: The U.S. Department of State continues efforts to promote women’s equal right to nationality through the Women’s Nationality Initiative (WNI) launched by Secretary Clinton in late 2011. American embassies in Benin, Nepal and Qatar, the initial focus countries for the WNI, continue to work to engage government officials, coordinate with multilateral partners, and support civil society groups to promote women’s nationality rights and help address the consequences of statelessness. The U.S. Department of State is also funding research focused on the impacts of statelessness on women and children to increase awareness and knowledge of these issues. This includes a project investigating the relationship between statelessness and vulnerability to trafficking in persons in Thailand.
Update: The United States, along with Slovakia, Botswana, Mexico, Turkey, Iraq, and Colombia, introduced a resolution on “The Right to a Nationality: Women and Children” at the 20th session of the Human Rights Council. The resolution was adopted by consensus and widely supported by countries from diverse geographic regions, with a total of 49 co-sponsors. The United States joined consensus on the “Arbitrary Deprivation of Nationality” resolution at the same session. At the 46th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development, the United States successfully incorporated language into the “New trends in migration: demographic aspects” resolution, which recognizes the right to a nationality for all migrants including children.
Statelessness and Citizenship ~ Pledges fulfilled!
The U.S. Government pledges to:
Update: DHS continues to support the current legislative proposals contained in S.744 to reduce statelessness.
Update: During the year, DHS met with UNHCR on statelessness and continues to review whether any policy changes are necessary. In response to UNHCR’s request to tailor reporting requirements for stateless aliens to their individual circumstances and risk, ICE issued new reporting guidance to all ICE ERO Field Office Directors on August 23, 2012. Effectively immediately, ICE ERO Field Offices are authorized to use discretion in establishing reporting requirements of aliens released on an Order of Recognizance or Order of Supervision. The guidance states that each alien’s case and reporting requirements may be reassessed and modified based on the alien’s level of compliance, ICE’s detention enforcement priorities, or changes to the circumstances of the individual case as a matter of discretion. At a minimum, however, aliens released on an Order of Recognizance or Order of Supervision must report at least once per year. This guidance supersedes the Victor X. Cerda memorandum on Orders of Supervision dated November 12, 2004.