Refugee Service Issue


Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was created in the 1880s. The society was guided by the strong Jewish values of protecting and welcoming strangers: 1) resettles and rescues refugees all over the world, rendering assistance to escape oppressions and violence to find security and safety in Canada, Israel, United States or elsewhere; 2) helps their integration, citizenship, and resettlement through community-based services and a network of Jewish family service; and 3) recommends on their behalf at the community, national, and international level.

Since the formation, HIAS has served more than four million refugees in their search for resettlement and freedom, including one and half million Jewish refugees that migrated to Israel. HIAS, being the oldest resettlement organization in the U.S., has also been actively involved in the relocating and rescuing Jewish survivors of the genocide. From 1970s onwards, the agency has helped nearly half million Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union states to escape anti-Semitism and persecution, and helped them to resettle in the United States. 


Today, HIAS extends expertise to the resettlement and rescue of many diverse populations, irrespective of race, gender, language, culture, and ethnicity. In 2011, HIAS had resettled more than 2,500 refugees in the United States., of which nearly 90% came from Iraq, Iran, Bhutan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, India and the former parts of Soviet Union. As the refugee adjudication process consumes longer period, refugees’ interests remain in harm for a long time. HIAS urges the Federal Government to ease security clearance processes of the refugees and to not add complicated steps, which retard the procedure without improving security. In 2012, new resolutions passed by the U.S. government caused delay and flight cancellations of many refugees who were enthusiastic to build their new lives and reunite with their families. Many refugees face isolation, depression, dejected and ethnic differences on their arrival, in addition to financial needs that multiply their problems. 

The objective of this paper is to study: 1) if HIAS has been successful in providing integration and resettlement to the refugees; 2) to find interventions for developing innovative and creative services for refugees and asylum seekers.

1. Research Question

How HIAS can implement effective procedures to expedite resettlement cases of refugees and can seek greater transparency in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS refugee adjudications? 

2. Literature Review

Problem of refugees’ resettlement and secondary migration must be studied within the framework of the broader humanitarian policies which focus on the causes of people seeking migration and the principles enclosed in asylum. It is a belief that offers both durable and protective solutions for asylum seekers and secondary migrants. However, this belief is open to numerous interpretations in applicability. From 1947 until 1980s resettlement was considered the preferred approach and was the most suitable solution for increasing refugee population worldwide. Since 1988, the concept of resettlement of refugees has shifted to mostly in need of protection, safety and security accounting for less than 1.75% of the world refugee population. Literature explains that long-term asylum seekers are increasingly the least educated, poorest, and most dangerous among the refugee groups (Atwell, Gifford, & McDonald-Wilmsen, 2009).

The resettlement of asylum seekers is provided to a small section of the refugee seeking population, and is meant for those with the greatest need of safety and protection.  Refugees encounter stressful situations when they arrive at a new location. These include separation from parents, spouses, children, isolation, unemployment, food, climate conditions, lack of English knowledge and emotional disturbances. Some of them move to different cities on their arrival, which is known as secondary migration (Ager & Strang, 2008). A common behavior among refugees is the enthusiasm and excitement on their arrival. They depict feelings of remorse at having fled their countries due to exclusion, discrimination, violence by police or military forces and regret for their lost lives. Besides, feelings of distress dominate with complaints of depression, loneliness and sadness (Spicer, 2008).

The literature strongly consents on the barriers to resettlement of secondary migrants because they cannot avail financial assistance due to their movements in different cities; thus, continue to live as refugees. Some of the prime limitations closely relate to obstacles in meeting refugees’ needs, while others concerns to attitudes of the host country. Separation and social isolation increase emotional stress and financial difficulties in maintaining family and caring for spouses. Migrants have to accept new lifestyles, which are different to the ones they previously had, and which are based on social and cultural values. The poor health of these migrants also creates obstacles in their resettlement (Suleman & Whiteford, 2013).

The separation from families and loved ones also creates financial strains because these refugees live in the host country and are obliged to support their children and spouses still living in their native countries. For instance, Somali and former Soviet Union Jewish refugees owe an obligation to their family members and are expected to support them financially.

The suffering is intolerable with some refugees because they have to pay medical expenses, application fees with money received from grants, and poorly paid jobs. Further, the inability to adapt traditional social environment and lack of ethnic community can also create problems because refugees seek integration, while maintaining their cultural identity.  It has been observed that many refugees cannot adjust in ethnic communities in host countries because old political loyalties continue to impact refugees (Block et al., 2013).  

The population of host country is also reluctant in welcoming these asylum seekers, considering them a burden on the economy that results in increased taxes and other liabilities.  Racism, sexual minorities, religious beliefs and lack of experience can cause discrimination and hostilities among refugees. These factors can accelerate discrimination, lack of recognition of refugees’ capabilities and poor communication in an absence of spoken language within the workplace (Worland & Darlington, 2010).

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The statistics and the Definition of Problem

The refugee is an asylum seeker who, owing to political upheaval, external aggression, race, nationality and religion has suffered persecution and is forced to flee his native country in order to seek asylum in another country of origin or nationality. Since 1970s, the U.S. has resettled more than four million refugees mainly from Burma, Bhutan, Iraq and former states of Soviet Union. In fiscal years 2010 and 2011, USRAP had granted asylum to 85,000 asylum seekers. The ceiling for refugee admission was established at 80,000; thus, a large unknown number of refugees fearing deportation voluntarily moved to different locations in the United States after arrival. This term is called “secondary migration” that multiplies problems of the country and in the resettlement of refugees (Bruno, 2011).

Results Due from Secondary Migration

The secondary migration has become a serious concern for social work agencies: it challenges the basic concept of resettlement as a ‘permanent solution’. The U.S. Senate in its report Abandoned upon arrival, published in 2010, stated that efforts for resettlement in many locations are overstretched, lack in finance and failing to offer the basic assistance to the refugees (Bruno, 2011). The report assigned a secondary migration as one of the prime factors to this effort in resettlement. Besides, secondary migration gives rise to unemployment, prostitution, thefts and robberies, and other similar crimes because refugees cannot find suitable assistance and employment for living. The procedures of labeling and conceptualizing create categories for services as well as for identities given the fact that such people continue to remain in the category of refugee. Besides, the problem of secondary migration of refugees is extremely critical. When a social agency such as HIAS, send them to a particular state that have been allocated with a certain financial grant for helping these people, however, some of them move to another states resulting in less resources, and a greater demand for services (Macioni, 2011).

Implications in Resettlement

Social welfare organizations play a greater role in the resettlement of refugees. Even the Federal Government would be helpless without their efforts and contribution. Refugees arriving in a host country encounter stressful situations such as separation from family members, isolation, unemployment, communication problem, and difficulties in adjustment with food and climatic conditions. Whether refugees arrive for family reunification or political reasons, they need accommodation, financial support, employment, educational facilities and health care from social welfare agencies. Many refugees are fortunate to receive considerable assistance from their communities, but in some cases these societies do not possess sufficient resources in providing sufficient assistance to refugees. Thus, the refugees cannot survive in a new country without support of social welfare agencies that co-operate with the government in implementing their resettlement programs. These agencies act as a channel between government and refugees by providing restoration, maintenance, transformation, as well as integration into a new society.  

Summary: The literature explains the coordination between the federal government and social welfare agencies and the key issues of secondary migration as well as obstacles in refugee integration. Secondary migration of resettled refuge population in the United States demands a rethinking of the framework, which includes holistic approach of the government as well as a flexible integration of individuals into host community. 

The literature acknowledges the increasing burden on host countries and reflects their efforts to resettle refugees, based on humanitarian and moral values despite social pressure and financial constraints. It also ascertains the fragmented and insufficient infrastructure of the host nations to the provisions of refugees’ resettlement. Current paper uses quantitative research based on the collection of data from various literature and deduced hypothesis, followed by the application of descriptive or inferential statistical method. It is possible to suggest that HIAS needs following interventions from the study of various literatures on the issue of refugees and asylum seekers resettlement:

1) The need for effective systems for executing urgent resettlement cases; and 2) the need for greater transparency in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and USCIS for refugees adjudications. 

3. Evidence-Based Interventions

HIAS should actively engage in urging Federal Government to expand and extend the reach of Lautenberg Amendment, which is an extremely beneficial and effective instrument to resettlement. Since the refugee adjudication process involves a longer period, refugees’ interests are not protected. The concept of the Lautenberg Amendment should be broadly applied, so that the HIAS can pursue Congress to help victimized people on humanitarian grounds. These persecuted groups will receive the status of refugees by creating their membership status and eliminating a fear of persecution. The changes in Lautenberg Amendment will enable the Federal Government and HIAS to better use Emergency Transit Centers of the UNHCR in bringing refugees for resettlement through the help of Austria and some other countries.

Need for Efficient, Effective Security Measures

HIAS suggests the Federal Government to simplify security clearance programs, which can truly serve to increase the security of the refugees and to not add complications that retard the procedure of improving security and safety. Older procedures also need improvement and should be replaced by easier and simpler manner. Moreover, HIAS has introduced new procedures in a manner, which do not create dramatic, sudden delays in refugees’ resettlement. 

In 2012, the U.S. Government passed new resolutions that delayed departure of many refugees. Some refugees were threatened by their host countries of either returning to the country or being detained where they faced victimization. This experience was traumatic for many refugees who were enthusiastic to build their new lives and reunite with their spouses and children. The refugees face a critical situation because of procedural delays in resettlement in the U.S. and remain separated from their families for a long time. HIAS concerns about the law on the inadmissibility on the grounds of terrorism-related activities to refugees who do not pose a threat to the United States security. Thousands of asylum seekers and refugees are under constant observation since September 9/11 terrorist attack but the recent relaxations has enabled “Tier III” groups not to be considered terrorist. The relaxation in security measures has resulted thousands of asylum seekers finally becoming eligible for green cards and reunite with their families. However, the spouses and children of many refugees are still separated and the problem remains.  

Need for Transparent Procedures in Refugees’ Adjudications and Resettlement

The resettlement of refugees may cease under the Lautenberg Amendment, therefore, HIAS recommends U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to implement all procedures of resettlement. HIAS has observed that USCIS refugee adjudications are opaque and a high level of secrecy prevails in domestic adjudication, while assigning asylum to refugees. The Lautenberg Amendment demands that USCIS should explain the reason for a denial of asylum under the Amendment. For more than two decades, Lautenberg applicants have received objection and refusal notices containing checkboxes, which are devoid of sufficient information upon which a meaningful appeal could be lodged. The refugees could not ascertain whether the decision regarding the refusal was justified or any error in law or interpretation of language. Thus, HIAS should demand from Congress to release updated refusal notice that contain transparency with justified reasoning for denial of asylum. 

Implementation of Effective Procedures for Urgent Resettlement of Refugees

The Refugee Admissions Programs of government are like a huge ship, in size and strength but cannot maintain an implementation speed. Many refugees who belong to extremely vulnerable population wait to resettle or go into hidings or turn to sex workers for their survival. The slowness in USRAP impacts resettlement programs of HIAS, resulting in financial loses and increased expenditure.

The U.S. government should expedite high vulnerable cases quickly, so that such refugees can leave the country. So far highly vulnerable cases remain unclear and inaccessible to many asylum seekers. Finally, HIAS suggests USRAP to draft guidelines for executing cases quickly and issue guidelines in the interest of the country, as well as asylum seekers. HIAS also extends cooperation to USRAP’s NGO and UNHCR for identifying urgent needs of resettlement. The Refugee Resettlement guidelines of UNHCR promote partnerships with NGOs for resettlement of refugees. UNHCR do not encourage NGOs for active participation and systematically identifying refugees with urgent resettlement needs. Accepting and encouraging direct referrals from NGOs will increase the cooperation from all agencies working for asylum seekers and reduce problems of resettlement.  


The paper observes the role of HIAS in processing case-by-case applications, which legally justifies granting of asylum to refugees by the Federal Government. The situation of these asylum seekers who are living in camps for several years is pathetic and cannot be resolved without enhancing resettlement capacity of the U.S. government. The HIAS has worked hard in doubling and raising a significant resettlement capacity, enabling to address asylum cases at the international level. The current situation faces challenging times for protection of refugees and their rights, thus HIAS encourages all agencies engaged in resettlement programs for uplifting and resettling refugees’ to work collectively, that will promote safety and security, as well as save lives.

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