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Refugee Admissions Another Casualty of September 11
by Carl R. Baldwin

In the wake of the terror a attacks of September 11, 2001 the US government has suspended refugee admissions. Since refugees have demonstrated that they have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of future persecution, they would appear to be the last people in the world to regard as potential terrorists. The suspension of their admission therefore seems misguided and counterproductive.

The INS web site is eloquent on the subject of refugee protection: "Every year millions of people around the world are displaced by war, famine, and civil and political unrest. Others are forced to flee their countries in order to escape the risk of death and torture at the hands of persecutors. The United States works with governmental, international, and private organizations to provide food, health care, and shelter to millions of refugees throughout the world. In addition, the United States considers persons for resettlement in the United States." With these vivid words in mind, it is extremely disheartening to learn that, after the terrorist attacks, "the US refugee program has come to a halt, leaving thousands of refugees overseas in dangerous limbo, straining the limited resources of agencies that resettle them, and exacerbating the decline in annual US refugee admissions for yet another year." (Refugee Reports, September-October 2001.) As of this writing, the annual Presidential Determination authorizing refugee admissions, usually signed by the first week of the new fiscal year, has remained unsigned. During this moratorium, an interagency task force involving the Department of Justice and Department of State are conducting a review of refugee admission with an eye to security concerns.

Lavinia Limon, the Executive Director of the US Committee for Refugees, has defended refugee admission in this new age of heightened security concerns with these words: "Bona fide refugees, by definition, are fleeing persecution and war and often lack identity documents. Therefore, any new security policy will have to strike a delicate balance between what is reasonable to expect refugees to be able to provide and the need to insure that the security concerns of INS officers and others, including the public, are upheld. To our knowledge no known terrorist has ever entered the United States through the refugee program, largely because it has one of the most stringent screening processes of the immigration programs and because the refugee definition itself excludes dangerous individuals. We hope to be given the opportunity to help the Justice Department arrive at practical solutions that improve security, maintain the integrity of the program, and help bona fide refugees continue to access US resettlement."

It would be ironic indeed if the terror attacks kept the United States from showing its true and humanitarian colors

About The Author

Carl R. Baldwin graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1980, and became a member of the New York State Bar a year later. He worked for three years with the New York City Law Department, and then entered solo practice in immigration law, which he has continued to the present. His work with clients has included asylum applications, deportation defense, visa processing, adjustment of status, and naturalization. He has also worked to implement special laws, such as the 1986 "amnesty" (The Immigration Reform and Control Act), and the 1998 Haitian reform act (The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act). Mr. Baldwin is the author of Immigration News Monthly. He can be rached by e-mail at

He has written a book on immigration law, called "Immigration Questions and Answers," 1997, Allworth Press, 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 (212) 777-8395. The book, which contains essential background information about how the immigration law works, can be ordered in both an English Edition and a Spanish version from

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