David North recently posted a blog entry, the Uses and Abuses of the Asylum System, on the Center for Immigration Studies website. Normally, I disagree (sometimes vehemently) with postings on the CIS website. But this time, I'm pretty much in agreement with Mr. North.
In his posting, Mr. North describes the refugee system and the asylum system. Apparently, he previously prepared a comparison between refugees and asylees, examining the use of public benefits by each group (he references his study, but I did not notice a link to it). He found that asylees generally use less pubic benefits than refugees. He posits that asylum seekers tend to be wealthier and better educated than refugees--asylum seekers make (and pay for) their own way to the United States; refugees are selected overseas from people in camps or otherwise outside their countries.
His assessment certainly comports with my experience. My clients these days are asylum seekers; many of them are educated people who are reasonably well off. In the early 1990's, I worked in refugee resettlement. My clients then were a mixed bag--Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union tended to be well educated, but poor. Amerasians and other refugees from Indochina were generally less well educated, and many were indigent.
Mr. North also notes that asylum seekers from some countries have filed meritless cases in an effort to delay their removal from the United States. I agree that this is a problem, though it is not really anything new. Indeed, the asylum system was reformed in 1996 to reduce the incentive to file meritless claims. Before 1996, asylum seekers received a work permit shortly after they filed for asylum. Now, they must wait 150 days before they can apply for a work permit. Of course, some people still file meritless claims in order to delay their removal. Unfortunately, Mr. North does not suggest what could be done about this. If we offer asylum to people with a genuine fear of persecution, it is difficult to prevent others from taking advantage of our generosity.
I do have one minor quibble with Mr. North's posting. He notes that during FY 2008-2010, asylum seekers from Iraq were the group most likely to receive political asylum in Immigration Court (only 13% of Iraqi cases were denied). He writes:
The sad irony is that the U.S. government, after spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives to make life better in Iraq, has done so little good there, in the eyes of its own Immigration Judges, that when it comes to arguing that one is persecuted in one's own country, those from Iraq are the ones most likely to win.
I don't know if this is exactly correct. By the time a case reaches the decision stage in court, it is usually at least one year old, and often two or three years old. This means that any past persecution occurred probably two to five years earlier. During that time, conditions were much worse in Iraq. Mr. North may be correct--maybe IJs think we have not done much good in Iraq--but it is just as likely that the cases before them originated at a time when conditions in Iraq were less secure. My guess is, we will see the grant rate for Iraqi cases dropping over the next few years (unless of course the country falls apart again).
In any case, it is nice to agree with the Center for Immigration Studies for a change.