Debunking “Extreme Vetting”: Recommendations to Build Back the U.S. Refugee Admission Program

International Refugee Assistance Project
Date of Publication: 
October, 2020
Source Organization: 

Refugees are the most highly vetted of all groups entering the U.S. When President Trump came to office, as this report details, he pursued the goal of halting the admission of refugees, especially Muslim refugees, by taking advantage of existing problems within an opaque vetting system encumbered by backlogs and high rates of discretionary denials. The U.S. admitted nearly 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016, the last fiscal year of the previous administration, but accepted only 10,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020. This report documents the “extreme vetting” changes implemented by the Trump administration in order to decimate the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) and target Muslim refugees. The report draws on information IRAP learned by litigating against refugee admission policy changes, filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and representing clients in the refugee application process. IRAP finds that changes to the vetting process under the Trump administration had a devastating impact on refugees seeking admission to the U.S. These changes resulted in delayed applications for tens of thousands of refugees, denied protection to eligible refugees, prolonged family separation, and the dismantling of the refugee resettlement infrastructure. The report argues that while reversing these effects of Trump administration policies may take years, the Biden administration should set a higher goal for refugee admissions in each fiscal year, in order to restore the USRAP, uphold U.S. humanitarian commitments and protect the longevity of the USRAP. The report recommends that the U.S. government comprehensively review the USRAP’s current vetting process and implement needed reforms, establish an ongoing oversight mechanism, and create transparency initiatives. (Georgia Whitaker for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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International Refugee Assistance Project (2020, October). Debunking “Extreme Vetting”: Recommendations to Build Back the U.S. Refugee Admission Program