At a time when the U.S. refugee admissions program is under serious threat and the world’s displaced population is at its highest, over 65 million, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program has released a far-reaching report, “Fulfilling U.S. Commitment to Refugee Resettlement: Protecting Refugees, Preserving National Security & Building the U.S. Economy through Refugee Admissions.” Made possible by a grant from the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation and catalyzed by the current situation facing Syrian refugees, the report contains extensive recommendations regarding the United States’ historical role in protecting vulnerable refugees, safeguarding foreign policy interests, advancing American job creation, and complying with humanitarian and legal obligations.

“Fulfilling U.S. Commitment to Refugee Resettlement” offers new and critical information to Congress and the Executive Branch. The report:

  • Reviews U.S. legal and moral commitments under domestic and international law that together safeguard people fleeing persecution and fearing return to torture;
  • Identifies key national security reasons for supporting and enhancing the refugee program, in keeping with the U.S. foreign policy priorities of preserving regional stability in the Middle East;
  • Provides an in-depth discussion of the robust, multistep security assessment mechanisms already in place for screening refugees—who are already subject to the highest degree of security screening and background checks of any category of traveler to the U.S.—to make it more efficient and effective;
  • Offers viable policy solutions to improve the integration of resettled refugees through enhanced collaboration among government agencies, private resettlement agencies, and sponsors involved in domestic resettlement; and
  • Demonstrates the positive economic impact of refugee resettlement in the United States.

The Report also encourages non-governmental organizations to build on existing public-private partnerships to marshal more resources for resettlement. Drawing on the perspectives of longtime domestic refugee resettlement experts, the Report provides fresh insights into how these public-private partnerships work and the ways in which they can be strengthened.

“It is not consistent with U.S. strategic interests to allow the refugee crisis to fester.  This report makes it clear that the U.S. can honor its historic commitment to admitting refugees while at the same time keeping national security front and center,” said Howard Milstein. “Furthermore, there are overwhelming data that document the positive contribution that refugees make to the U.S. economy,”

In addition to extensive research into the legal and economic framework for the protection and admission of refugees, more than two dozen interviews were conducted with leading government officials, key non-governmental organizations, and academics to identify the changes to the refugee admissions system that have significantly improved the efficiency and effectiveness of refugee screening, processing, resettlement, and integration over the past year, as well as the areas in which the U.S. government can do more.

“As this Report recommends, continuing to invest in refugee resettlement and integration will strengthen our country: our economy, social fabric, communities and the nation as a whole are stronger because of our long tradition of welcoming refugees,” said Sabrineh Ardalan, assistant clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School, who led the student research team and edited the Report.

Georgette Bennett, Founder of the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees and an advisor to the project, added, “This report is an invaluable resource for the Administration, legislators, resettlement agencies, and everyone working this space.   It serves as an antidote to the misconceptions and fear that are driving so much of our public discourse and its fresh recommendations are a rational guide for the creation of humane and practical policies.   At the same time, the recommendations satisfy the President’s commitment to highly reliable vetting.”

The Report is part of HIRC’s longstanding commitment to refugees, since the United States implemented its obligations under international refugee law with the 1980 Refugee Act. In addition to its work on international refugee issues, the Clinic is also involved in appellate litigation and policy advocacy at the local, national, and international levels, teaches students refugee law and trains them in the representation of persons seeking asylum and related humanitarian protection.