At the beginning of this month, the heads of USCIS’s Refugee Affairs Division Barbara Strack, and the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, Matthew Emrich, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to report on the agency’s “role in refugee resettlement generally” and the “screening measures and safeguards that have been developed… and enhanced over time.”

Below, we’ll highlight some of the more significant aspects of this testimony.

USCIS Discusses Refugee Resettlement Case Processing

courthouse pillars in the sun
courthouse pillars in the sun

In explaining USCIS’ role in processing refugee cases, Strack and Emrich noted that the agency’s role is to conduct interviews with applicants to determine whether they are eligible for refugee status or whether they are “otherwise admissible” to the U.S.

To this end, USCIS has been enhancing its flexibility and “program integrity” via its Refugee Corps, a team of “specially-trained USCIS officers who are dedicated to adjudicating applications for refugee status overseas.” With the support of other USCIS programs, including the Asylum Corps and the Administrative Appeals Office, USCIS has been able to diversify its refugee operations, “working in 64 countries in Fiscal Year 2015.”

The testimony when on to point out that:

In order to fully explore refugee claims and to identify any possible grounds of ineligibility, specially-trained USCIS officers conduct an in-person, in-depth interview of every principal refugee applicant. The officer assesses the credibility of the applicant and evaluates whether the applicant’s testimony is consistent with known country conditions… In addition, refugee applicants are subject to robust security screening protocols to identify potential fraud, criminal or national security issues. All refugee status determinations made by interviewing officers undergo supervisory review before a final decision is made.

Security Checks & Refugee Pipeline Also iscussed

In terms of security checks, Strack and Emrich testified that USCIS conducts an array of “the highest level of security checks” to ensure that refugee applicants do not pose a threat to national security. These checks include a “suite of biometrics and biographic checks,” as well as “an additional lawyer of review of Syrian refugee applications, taking into account the myriad actors and dynamic nature of the conflict in Syria.”

The “pipeline” refers to the waiting list for “applicants who can be admitted to the United States, once all required security checks, medical examinations and other pre-travel steps are completed.”

In closing, Strack and Emrich explained that:

USCIS is prepared to work closely with the State Department and other interagency partners to support a larger refugee admissions program of 85,000 arrivals in FY 2016, including at least 10,000 Syrian refugees, while assiduously maintaining the integrity of the program and our national security.

What do you think about this testimony and USCIS plans for its refugee operations for 2016? Post your comments on our Facebook & Google+ pages.

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