Since the great wars from 1918 to the Cold War of 1947, the problem of displaced people has constantly been a problem of several neighbouring and influential nations considering the threat it may impose to their national security. Some of these displaced people were forced out of their homes by their home military or dictator, others moved in the fear of death in their own nations, and a few were seeking asylums in other nations in full belief that their home justice system cannot protect them in the time of need. As part of the Allied Forces, the United States has already fostered almost thousands of refugees and asylum seekers since the First Great War and has incorporated several amendments to ensure that these people can become citizens of the country. The presence of the refugees not only ensured cultural diversity in the United States but also presented that if the United States do not adapt a more comprehensive reform over their refugee program, the country’s credibility and security will be at stake.
Refugee immigrations began since the early periods as noted in the Bible. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees noted that the Israelis from the Bible continued to immigrate in other countries to make their way to the Promised Land, and freedom from oppression. However, the first recognized refugees were the Huguenots or the French Protestants of 1685 who moved out of France due to King Louis XIV’s position over religious minorities. Almost 200,000 Huguenots fled due to the Edict of Nantes that should have protected them from the French monarchy. Several of these Huguenots moved to England, Germany, the Netherlands, and other European nations while other fled to the United States. The French Revolution even escalated the refugee movements in the world due to the spiteful revenge of the aristocracy. European citizens continued to flock out of their home nations by the time the Great Wars of the 1900s came into way . However, it is in World War II which made many Europeans and other migrants move to far regions, reaching into millions. World War II caused millions of Europeans and other minorities from the Middle East and Asia to move out of the region, easily becoming the biggest refugee movement in European History. Germans were mostly affected by the move due to their nationality connected to Hitler, while some of Hitler’s victims moved out of the region in hopes they can forget the tragedy. With the Soviet Union rallying supporters and troops in the region, many also flee to escape being forced by the army .
The international community had to help in the refugee issue due to their direct or indirect involvement in the Great Wars. European nations had varying reactions to the growing refugee movement as they also had to help their citizens recover from the Great War. However, the United States became the most prominent country to allow refugees enter its shores .Since the Second World War, the United States became one of the many countries selected by displaced persons to immigrate into considering its superpower status and stable economy. The United States has maintained a set of standards when it comes to admitting refugees and asylum seekers to the country after the Second World War, immediately enacting the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. The law allowed 400,000 displaced Europeans, mostly from Nazi affected regions, to apply for refugee status and eventually be considered a candidate for US citizenship. Many groups have noted that the Act is similar to the anti-Communist policies the government has enacted, while others considered the Act as the beginning of US’s slow decline in upholding strict immigration policies. In addition to the 1948 Displaced Persons Act, the United States Congress also enacted several other laws such as the US Escapee Program of 1948 for displaced citizens from Communist countries and the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 to enable 214,000 refugees to enter the countries. Several other countries from the Communist nations such as Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, China, Korea, and Cuba were also included in the present US refugee laws as the Soviet Union at that time was making sure its forces were stronger than the US. The refugees from the Soviet countries were assisted by various ethnic and religious non-government organizations integrated to the refugee program.
In the 1970s, at least 100,000 refugees from Indo-China entered the United States due to the several civil wars like the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Some of the countries were also fighting back against their Western protectors. The Indo-China crisis paved the way for the UN Charter to include refugees and displaced people in their advocacy. The US, in lieu of the “refugee” definition of the UN, created the Refugee Act of 1980 to ensure that the federal government can support a Refugee Admissions/Resettlement Program that can assist in refugee, asylum seekers, and displaced persons once they enter and remain in the country. Since the inception of the 1980 Refugee Act, the US has recorded at least 3 million refugees are in the country with an average of 98,000 refugees per year. It is also through the Refugee Act that enabled the federal government to sustain the US Refugee Resettlement Program .
However, the continuous entrance of displaced people in the US is causing several problems and controversies considering the numbers and people applying for refugee status in the country. One of the biggest controversies over the refugee immigration in the US is the issue over their system of refugee resettlement and admission. Since the inception of the US Refugee Resettlement Program and procedures that declare as to how the country would accept refugees, many groups and studies have seen flaws and weaknesses which may tear apart the entire system if not remedied. In the study done by Columbia University, the problem of the refugee program can be determined in two parts: structure and lapses the program fails to deliver to the refugees. In terms of structure, the study done by the University cited that there are conflicting policy goals inside the Refugee Program and the different agencies and groups involved in the main program. Considering the number of agencies involved, there are only two main agencies that control the brunt of the work for refugee administration; the PRM and the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
For the PRM, the refugee resettlement program is not just a regular foreign policy act but a means to show that the US federal government understands the plight of the refugees, people which are considered the world’s most vulnerable group. The agency also noted that the refugee program is offered throughout the globe, operating in a system that is complicated in nature due to the challenges it has to accustom itself into due to the situations of each nation. However, since the ORR is another main actor, their outlook of the program differs with the PRM as they note that refugee immigration is a domestic social service. The conflicting ideologies of both major actors in the refugee immigrations system cause the divergence of priorities regarding refugees and who must be given more importance. The report also cited that with these varying policies in the program, the number of refugees admitted to the US significantly dropped after 9/11 since both the PRM and the ORR could not decide how they would select refugees after the incident .
The US Senate also noted that the US has issues in funding the US Refugee System considering that the country continuous to enter in expensive ventures such as military deployment in the Middle East and others. According to the report of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, resettlement efforts in some US states are failing because funding continuous to be drained, causing lapses and gaps to occur for local governments to assist refugees. The lack of funding also causes issues over local resources as some governments would utilize their state budget to sustain the refugee program, especially if there are campaigns and programs allotted for the USRAP. The Senate also noted that some of the general programs of the USRAP such as orientation, language training, and training kit are very expensive and impractical to the refugees. The lack of funding also affects the quality of instruction given to refugees which is why refugees are left distraught and confused with several US proposals and lifestyle. The Senate also noted that despite the per capita grant given to refugees by the time they enter the country, refugees would still have to wait for a long time before the grant is given . In support of the issue of funding, the International Refugee Committee noted that the cash assistance given to US-based refugees are not sufficient, considering that the lifestyle in the US is expensive as compared to their own home nations. The cash grant is not even enough to sustain the rent and would require to get financial assistance from their love one from their home countries . In one of the reports written regarding Refugee Budget, the US federal government are only limited to a couple of million dollars. Since there is an issue with a concrete system for refugee assistance, the US government continuous to have problems over budget management.
Other groups have noted that the US system for Refugees has issues over the coordination, planning and evaluation of refugees, especially if they are indeed receiving benefits from the USRAP. For the Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute, the refugee program has gaps as to anticipating the nature of refugees entering the country and due to the incapacity of the government to provide the proper orientation and support, refugees are left unaware as to how they can get their benefits. There is also a lack of communication between the various agencies and organizations connected to the refugee program, adding to the stress of assisting the refugees in the country. This problem is seem mostly in information sharing, especially upon accounting for refugee immigrations. Since the information is not shared immediately and completely due to the various grids it has to channel into and the protocol each agency would need to apply before the release of the information, local program coordinators often find themselves in a gridlock due to problems in funding to serve the number of refugees not anticipated due to the information given to them .
Monitoring and evaluation is also considered a problem as noted in a study done by Halpern. He noted that the US federal government does not have a group of people that would monitor and evaluate the condition of refugees and communities they are assigned into. Data collection in the part of the ORR or the Office of Refugee Resettlement only reflect short-term data and results of the program, taking into consideration their economic status and the community they are assigned into. The government must be able to address these gaps as this reflects the incapacities of agencies to cover the issue completely. Data is also hard to collect due to the environment each agency handles. Refugees are not even aware that monitoring and evaluations are done in their communities . In addition to this, refugees do not get the information needed to live in the country considering that the information provided is outdated and faulty. Some first-time visitors to the US even find orientations for refugees incapable of ensuring that they can cope up with the environment in the country. Reports even claim that some refugees are left in culture shock because there was no decent orientation for them to understand these changes. Language barrier is also noted by many refugees as a problem not considered by the refugee program .
The side-effects caused by the program is also considered one of the main problems of the refugee program of the United States, considering that the refugee immigrations in the country continuous to increase each year. With the lack of complete and accurate information, refugees find themselves in a state of chaos as they are assigned to communities that cannot provide their specific needs and have biases over their racial distinction. There is also the issue over the discrimination of refugees in the country. The current program also fails to sort out refugees with their same racial groups, adding to the problem of discrimination as no one can help them understand the culture and changes around them.There is also the issue over the time limit of applications and the number of applications that can be done. Refugees complain that they can only get one shot in applying for the program, especially given the short time given for them to prepare the documents for the program .
The federal government’s position over the Arab-Israeli conflict’s refugee crisis is also another issue that the government had to address. Since they can no longer see the possibility of permanent Arab-Israeli peace, Eisenhower’s administration selected several issues that could help reduce the tensions between the warring parties. In the case of the refugee crisis, the US government tried to resolve the Palestinian refugee crisis before certain events affect it. Many noted that the US embraced a moderate position inclined to blend both repatriation and resettlement towards Israeli refugees. However, in some occasions the US remained neutral especially in the Jordan Valley problem and the Jewish immigration issues over the borders of Jordan and Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the US tried to reach a compromise within the warring parties to ensure that refugees can safely transfer to their intended locations. However many saw US action as a failed approach to even protect its own security interests such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia
The Iraq War in 2003 also raised some scepticism over the US federal government considering that some of the victims all raced to the US for refuge. According to Michael Walzer, the US has some obligations for these people who lost their homes because of the war the country has brought. He notes that these refugees became refugees because the US had caused them to lose their homes and sense of security in their own lands. This responsibility therefore links the US to these Iraqi refugees, making them affiliated with the country. Walzer even cited that the US also took it upon themselves to support and aid the refugees from Vietnam. However, this was contradicted by John Bolton, a known foreign policy expert in the time of the Bush Administration. Bolton noted that the US is only obligated to help Iraqi to be freed from oppressive dictators and rulers, giving them new institutions and sense of security. The US had done its part and no longer needs to compensate the Iraqi refugees. The Bush administration accepted and supported Bolton’s sentiments as the country only allowed a few Iraqi refugees to enter the borders. The US failed to offer the Iraqi refugees safety caused other countries to be over burdened by the sudden influx of refugees. In 2006 for example, Jordan and Syria had to accommodate 1.2 million refugees from Iraq as compared to the US’s 20,000 refugee admissions.
At present, refugee and displaced persons to the United States still continue as these people hope that the United States can give their families a new life. However, the United States must now consider restructuring their US Refugee Resettlement Program to ensure that the United States can still sustain the influx of refugees without giving up the capacities of the country to protect its people. The country has always maintained its capacity to sustain refugees since the Second World War but even a country such as the US can also slip in ensuring that these refugees and asylum seekers can settle in comfort in a foreign land. Refugees not only help in creating new diversities for the US, but they also serves as a reminder as to the ugly side of nations from which they have fled away from.
Adess, S. "Refugee Crisis in America: Iraqis and Their Resettlement Experience." Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute, 20 October 2009. Web. 28 July 2012.
Barnett, Laura. Global governance and the evolution of the international refugee regime. Toronto, February 2002. Print.
Bruno, Andorra. U.S Refugee Resettlement Assistance. Washington, D.C: Congressional Research Service, 2011. Print.
Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Refugee Resettlement in the United States: An Examination of Challenges and Proposed Solutions. New York: International Rescue Committee / Columbia University, 2010. Print.
Hahn, Peter. Caught in the Middle East: U.S Policy Toward the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1945-1961. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Print.
Halpern, Peggy. Refugee Economic Self-Sufficiency: An Exploratory Study of Approaches Used in Office of Refugee Resettlement Programs. Washington, D.C: US Department of Health and Human Services, 2008. Print.
International Rescue Committee. "Iraqi Refugees in the United States: In Dire Straits." International Rescue Committee, June 2009.Web. 29 July 2012
Preston, Julia. "Reports Say Deadline Hinders Asylum Seekers." New York Times 30 September 2010.
Refugee Council USA. History of the US Refugee Resettlement Program. 2004. Web. 30 July 2012
Steiner, Niklaus. International Migration and Citizenship Today. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2009. Print.
US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Abandoned Upon Arrival: Implications for Refugees and Local Communities Burdened by a US Refugee Resettlement System that is not Working. Washington: US Government Printing Press, 2010. Print.
Wasserstein, Bernard. World Wars: European Refugee Movements After World War Two. BBC News: History, 17 February 2011. Web. 30 July 2012