Lives in the Balance
Asylum Adjudication by the Department of Homeland Security
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Figures and Tables
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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), established by Congress in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is the third-largest federal agency, with more than 180,000 employees.1 Most of its many functions are well known to the public and associated with national security or law and order. The department seeks to protect the nation against future terrorist...
1. Seeking Refuge
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The United States was settled in part by waves of refugees, including the Pilgrims and Puritans, seeking freedom from religious and political persecution. Nevertheless, laws, regulations, and government programs to protect refugees systematically and apolitically are of surprisingly recent vintage, dating only from 1980...
2. The Applicants and the Adjudicators
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This study analyzes a database drawn from the Department of Homeland Security’s RAPS system, providing information about 552,760 asylum applications filed between the beginning of FY 1996 and June 8, 2009.1 We studied only the cases in which the applicants were really seeking asylum (as opposed to another form of relief) and were actually interviewed by asylum...
3. The One-Year Filing Deadline
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The first step, for an asylum officer who is analyzing a new asylum application, is the determination of whether the claim was filed on time. This new twist to the asylum standard took effect on April 16, 1998, as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). Although the Refugee Act provides that any person from another nation...
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The Department of Homeland Security’s data reveal interesting and at times surprising patterns in asylum officer determinations of whether asylum seekers filed within the permitted one-year period.1 This chapter describes basic but crucial information about the deadline—what percentage of asylum claims were determined to have been filed late and how late these claims...
5. The Rejections
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In chapter 4, we reviewed the numbers and demographic characteristics of applicants who did not establish to the satisfaction of asylum officers that they filed their asylum applications within one year of entering the United States. We saw that 92,622 individuals, 30.5 percent of all affirmative asylum applicants, fell into this “untimely” category during the period of our...
6. Four Eras of Asylum Adjudication: Grant Rates over Time
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During the fourteen-year period we studied, DHS granted asylum to 45 percent of the 329,336 asylum seekers who applied on time or qualified for an exception to the one-year deadline.1 Two factors should most strongly affect whether a particular applicant wins or loses. The first is whether the applicant’s home country is a human rights abuser (very few British people win asylum, but...
7. Perceptions about the Asylum Seekers
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In chapter 6, we explored asylum adjudication over time, investigating the relationship between grant rates and changes in laws, policies, and politics. In this chapter, we shift our focus to examine variables that may have shaped asylum officers’ perceptions of the asylum seekers. We start by discussing the ways in which two sociological characteristics of the applicants—their...
8. Variations across the Regional Asylum Offices
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Up to this point, we have examined changes in the grant rate over time and the impact of officer perceptions of the asylum applicants on grant rates. In this chapter, we shift our focus to the asylum offices as the locus of decision making, looking at variations across these offices. As the map at the front of this book shows, all of these offices have very large catchment areas; all...
9. Disparities within Asylum Offices
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In Refugee Roulette, we reported that asylum officers within some of the regional offices, to whom cases were randomly assigned, granted asylum at very different rates, even to nationals of the same country or group of countries. We now return to that issue, using the database from which the studies in the three previous chapters were drawn. This chapter reports on disparities...
10. The Asylum Officers
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In chapter 9, we saw that there was great variability among the grant rates of asylum officers deciding similar cases within the same regional office. What might account for these striking disparities? One asylum officer with whom we spoke closed our interview by saying “there are so many factors that play into the data—the age of the asylum officer, whether they have an old or a new...
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By enacting the asylum provisions of the Refugee Act of 1980, Congress gave hope to tens of thousands of people who must flee their countries every year to escape persecution and find safety in the United States. The asylum provisions of the Refugee Act are administered, in the first instance, by a corps of civil servants who remain dedicated to fair adjudication despite overwhelmingly...
Appendix: Catchment Areas of the Eight Regional Asylum Offices
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About the Authors
Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2014