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IRAP Shares an Extensive Collection of Refugee Processing Documents Obtained Through FOIA

August 24, 2022 (2 min read)

IRAP, Aug. 2022

"Through the Freedom of Information Act, IRAP has obtained an extensive collection of documents related to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Together, these documents shine a light on the generally opaque U.S. refugee processing system. 

In 2019, amid an unprecedented multi-year attack on the U.S. refugee system, IRAP filed a lawsuit seeking records withheld by federal agencies to explain the current state of refugee processing, including training materials, manuals, and policies that govern officers’ evaluations of refugee applications. Documents obtained through this lawsuit, as well documents collected through other lawsuits and FOIA requests filed by IRAP, reveal previously unknown information on how U.S. refugee processing functions. 

For refugees, these processes have immense, often life-and-death implications. The government has shared little about refugees with the public, despite President Biden’s February 2021 Executive Order 14013 ordering the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to “ensure that the current policies and procedures related to [the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program] are publicly available on their respective websites” within 180 days. As of August 23, 2022, 564 days after President Biden issued his order, the government has shared just a fraction of its refugee policy and procedure documents as required. USCIS has posted just 8 policy documents on a recently created webpage, and DOS appears to have published none.  

Given the urgency for refugees and advocates, IRAP is filling the void from the government’s non-compliance by sharing hundreds of documents totaling thousands of pages that reveal critical info on how U.S. refugee processing functions. The State Department and USCIS have not made these documents publicly available on their website as required by the EO, but they have released them publicly through FOIA, FOIA litigation, and other litigation. Additionally, IRAP staff working with law students from the USC Gould School of Law and Harvard Law School IRAP chapters have collected documents related to certain “Highlighted Topics” and have included short summaries of the documents and why they are relevant. 

We currently have “Highlighted Topic” summaries of: 

  • USCIS Training Modules for Refugee, Asylum and International Operations officers. These are one of the main sources of USCIS’s refugee law and policy guidance. Many of the modules also apply in USCIS asylum adjudications. 
  • Documents relating to the application of Terrorism-Related Inadmissibility Grounds (TRIG) and Exemptions. TRIG is a complex area of immigration law that is often unfairly applied to refugee applicants. 
  • Documents relating to Priority 3 Family Reunification Processing. 
  • Documents relating to I-730 Family Reunification Processing.
  • Documents relating to policies governing the case processing and adjudication of children’s refugee applications.
  • Documents relating to refugee processing case transfers. These policies affect refugees transferring cases from one country to another.

These documents may be most useful to advocates and policymakers working on U.S. refugee law and policy. For those seeking legal information about how the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program functions in order to navigate U.S. refugee processing as an applicant or while assisting an applicant, we recommend the guides on IRAP’s legal information website covering U.S. refugee processing."