As a law firm that works on cases dealing with immigration, we are quite interested in the Syrian refugee situation as we regularly see cases involving individuals and families wanting to enter the United States for a variety of reasons. In each case a dizzying array of laws and regulations need to be applied to satisfy the requirements of United States Law.
In almost all of these situations, people who are not directly involved with the process err in their assumptions about what the law requires of anyone wanting to enter the United States. It has come to our attention that their is currently a tremendous amount of misinformation being spread regarding how refugees, especially those from Syria, could be allowed to enter into the United States to seek asylum. Most of the incorrect information is being spread as a result of fear and a lack of understanding into how the process of being approved for asylum works. We would like to address some of this misinformation.
Let’s get some statistics out of the way first.
- Since 1975, the US has allowed around 3 million people to resettle
- Between 2006 and 2015, California, Texas, Florida and New York State of accepted the largest numbers of refugees
- During 2015, the United States accepted 31 refugees from Syria
For a Syrian Refugee: Hurdles to Entry
First it is important to understand on a fundamental level that Rogers Garcia Patton PLLC is not endorsing any particular interest or view in this article. We want people to be able to have correct discussions and maintain an accurate understanding of facts regardless of where you stand on the issue of allowing refugees to seek asylum in the United States. With this being said, let’s look at solid, irrefutable facts so that you, the reader can make educated conclusions from there.
First and foremost, it is not easy to be approved for refugee status in the United States. It is arduous and requires an extended application process that can take years. In most cases, you must be referred to the USCIS to enter into the process. Only certain persons may be granted refugee status and even then may be deemed inadmissible to the US because of criminal, health or security related grounds. This is done for a reason: to prevent a large number of unvetted people entering the US en masse. For this reason alone, examine statements with a keen eye (even if it originates from an “authoritative source”) if they describe an eminent influx of many refugees from anywhere in the world. This system simply is not made to allow these kinds of destabilizing events to occur.
You may also hear the term “temporary protected status” used. This is a classification of people that are from a small number of countries that have been selected because of significant natural disasters or civil wars that has made life there too difficult to endure for very long without risk of significant loss of life. According to USCIS:
TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead to lawful permanent resident status or give any other immigration status. However, registration for TPS does not prevent you from:
- Applying for nonimmigrant status
- Filing for adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition
- Applying for any other immigration benefit or protection for which you may be eligible
This means that anyone granted this special status still must go through all of the steps of applying for legal residence in the US which, as with refugee status, can take years.
In addition, there are geographical factors that influence entry of refugees, particularly from countries in Europe, Africa or Asia, into the United States. Typically, refugees from countries that are not in the Americas cannot walk directly across landmasses to cross the border. This differs from the situations with refugees from Syria that we see currently in the news that are able to cross frontiers relatively easily on foot into European countries. Anyone from European or Asian countries would need another method of transportation like airplanes or naval vessels, which provide an economic barrier to those below a certain economic status.
Without being too glib, these three factors alone are enough to prevent some apocalyptic invasion of hordes of refugees into the US. And although our current system of immigration law can always be improved, the current system is up to the task of controlling the influx of large groups of people into the US.
We hope this helps clear up some common misconceptions regarding gaining refugee status in the United States. For those interested in reading more about the subject, governmental organizations like USCIS and the State Department have extensive libraries of documents related to the process of obtaining refugee status.