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Collecting Data on Refugees and Asylees: An Illustration of a Complex Process Chapters 4 through 6 concern the institutional bases for data collection and reporting on immigration and immigration-related matters. As these chapters show, immigration involves activities undertaken in the United States and abroad by a myriad of public and private organizations. To function smoothly, coordination among these various actors is essential. By describing in this chapter the process of immigration, our focus becomes the data collected at different points in the system as people pass through it, and how the data elements collected at one point find a programmatic use at a subsequent point while yet serving analytic and policy objectives. Our example is the process by which individuals enter the country as refugees (or seek status as asylees if already in the country), settle in communities, and adapt to their new world. we discuss--these toc collected by official immigration in general. aliens. in contrast the There are several reasons for choosing refugees and asylees for the case study. First, the Refugee Act of 1980 requires that data be collected and reported by a variety of federal, state, and private agencies. Second, several mechanisms for data coordination have been established within the refugee program; although there are still gaps--as are instructive. Third, the refugee data that are sources cover a wide range of issues common to ~ (Had the case study focused on undocumented ~ _ _ , _ chapter would have been notably short.) Fourth, the comparison between data collection on refugees and asylees is informative; although both groups must demonstrate that they meet the same definitional standards, different agencies or different arms of the same agency are involved in their processing and, thereby, in data collection activities. In reviewing the data on refugees and asylees, this chapter follows the process of their admission and resettlement, the organizations that are involved, and the circumstances under which data are requested and generated. The first section describes the process of refugee admissions, including the policies and procedures that apply at each stage and the data that are needed to accomplish the purposes of that stage; reviews the available data; discusses problems with those data and identifies gaps in them. The second section presents similar information for asylees. The third section describes the data collected on refugees and asylees after they have entered (for refugees) or been granted asylum 110
111 (for asylees), with particular emphasis on data pertaining to adjustment of status. REFUGEES Refugees are defined by U.S. law as persons who are outside their countries of origin and who are unable or unwilling to return because of persecution or the well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The process of refugee resettlement begins with the flight of refugees into countries of first asylum, where they seek protection. If the prospects for repatriation or settlement in the country of first asylum are unlikely or that country is unable or unwilling to provide them sufficient protection, resettlement--i.e., movement to a third country--may be a necessary solution to their plight. Setting Admission Numbers and Allocations Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States determines annually the number and allocation of refugees that are of special humanitarian concern to the United States and should therefore be admitted to this country. The President first proposes an admissions level, based on an assessment of the need for resettlement and the domestic capacity of the country to respond. The President then consults with members of the judiciary committees of the House and the Senate regarding the proposed number and allocation of refugee admissions during the next year. However, prior to the formal consultations, the President is required by law to provide the following information: (1) A description of the nature of the refugee situation; (2) A description of the number and allocation of the refugees to be admitted and an analysis of conditions within the countries from which they came; (3) A description of the proposed plans for their movement and resettlement and the estimated cost; (4) An analysis of the anticipated social, economic, and demographic impact of their admission to the United States; (5) A description of the extent to which other countries will admit and assist in the resettlement of such refugees; (6) An analysis of the impact of the participation of the United States in the resettlement of such refugees on the foreign policy interests of the United States; and (7) Such additional information as may be appropriate or requested by such members. Following the formal consultation, the two judiciary committees respond to the President's proposal, sometimes suggesting alternative levels or allocations of refugee admissions. Then, having reviewed the congressional recommendations, the President sets the admissions numbers and allocations for the year. For fiscal 1984, for example, the numbers were as follows:
112 Total refugee admissions East Asia Eastern Europe/Soviet Union Near East/South Asia Africa Latin America/Caribbean 72,000 50,000 12,000 6,000 3,000 1,000 The President also prepares a report on the proposed refugee admissions and allocations for the year, providing the information detailed above. Four federal agencies with major responsibilities for refugee resettlement are involved in preparation of the consultation proposal and the report: the Office of the U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and the Bureau of Refugee Programs in the State Department; the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services; and the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Justice Department. The Office of the U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs in the State Department encourages coordination between the government and private-sector agencies concerned with refugees and between various levels of government with regard to both domestic and overseas resettlement activities. This office oversees activities related to the consultation process, but it is not involved in the admission or reset Clement of refugees. The Bureau of Refugee Programs, which administers the State Department' s refugee programs, is responsible for the development and implementation of U. S. policies related to refugee relief and assistance overseas, for setting priorities for admission of refugees to the United States, for providing resources for their processing and training overseas, and for reception and placement of refugees in U. S. communities. In the formal consultation process, this of lice is responsible for reporting on the worldwide refugee situation. In the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) operates the domestic assistance program and carries out the informational requirements of the refugee legislation. During the consultations, ORR provides information on the U.S. domestic assistance program and its capacity to resettle refugees who are admitted. Finally, the Immigration and Naturalization Service is responsible for determining if an individual meets the statutory requirements for admission to the United States as a refugee. The Refugee Act gives responsibility to the Attorney General for developing procedures for making those determinations. At the heart of the consultation report are descriptions of the conditions in countries that generate refugees, in countries of first asylum, and in countries that resettle refugees. These country reports on the world refugee situation, which are prepared by the State Department using annual reports from U.S. embassies, are meant to provide as comprehensive a picture as possible of the international refugee scene. The State Department also prepares statistics (presented in a separate volume for the first time in 1984) on the number of refugees who have left countries of persecution and sought asylum elsewhere, on those who are in need of protection and relief assistance, on those who have been resettled, on internally and externally displaced persons, and on the voluntary return of refugees to their home country. The statistics are drawn primarily from information provided to the Bureau for Refugee
113 Programs by U.S. embassies and consulates in the countries covered by the report, by international organizations such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (which assists Palestinian refugees) , and by foreign governments. The international organizations themselves publish periodic reviews of their assistance programs, including the numbers of refugees receiving assistance, and they have the capacity through their field offices to request specific additional information if it is needed. Counting Refugees Reliable data on the number of refugees worldwide are limited by two factors: differences of opinion as to definitions and difficulties in counting refugees, particularly during the height of a crisis. To quote from the Report to the Congress for Fiscal Year 1985 prepared by the Bureau of Refugee Programs (U.S. Department of State, 1984~: "In most instances, the statistics in this report should be regarded as orders of magnitude." The problem of counting is logistically the more difficult of the two to overcome, for several reasons. Refugee flows are, by definition, episodic, crisis-oriented phenomena, during which conditions and numbers can change often and quickly. In addition, the flows often occur in areas in which the statistical infrastructure is primitive or has broken down, as a result either of the flow of refugees or of the political events surrounding the flow. Trying to keep an accurate count of refugees under these circumstances is difficult, if not impossible. Beyond the logistical problems of counting, there are political factors that undermine attempts to reach an accurate count. For example, in order to get what they consider to be an appropriate level of international assistance, host countries sometimes overestimate the number of refugees living within their borders and resist efforts by others to take a census. Since the permission of the host country is needed to operate within its borders, international organizations are sometimes unable or unwilling to do their own censuses of refugee populations. Definitional problems are easier, but agreement is by no means readily at hand. The U.S. State Department defines a refugee, for the purpose of its report, as one who is in need of international protection, relief, and assistance. Given the use to which the country reports are put--i.e., to justify U.S. assessments of the need for relief and resettlement--this definition makes sense. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines a refugee as a person who does not yet have the protection of a government by virtue of citizenship, a definition that includes resettled refugees who have permanent status but have not yet become citizens. The UNHCR is the principal source for all other international organizations reporting data on refugees. The major U.S. nongovernmental reporter of data is the U.S. Committee for Refugees, which publishes a World Refugee Survey, containing data drawn from both the U.S. government and the UNHCR. On occasion, the numbers reported by the different organizations differ. Although the UNHCR and the State Department came to the same
114 general conclusion regarding the number of refugees worldwide in 1983--about 8 million in total--they showed markedly dif ferent numbers for specific countries. For example, the UNHCR estimated that there were 234,000 refugees in Burundi; the State Department estimated less than 60,000. No explanation for the discrepancy, or for the figure itself, was given in either source. In the 1984 reports the dif ferences were reconciled, with both sources reporting about 60,000 refugees. Again, no explanat ion for the reconciliation was provided. Since counts can dif fer, even when definitions are the same, depending on how and when the data are collected, it is not surprising that there are discrepancies. What is troubling, though, is the lack of explanat ion of fered by the various organizat ions as to how spec if ic figures were formulated and from whom the data were collected or received. Without such explanations (at least in statistical appendices that can be made available on request), the reasons for the differences are unclear. In addition, none of the organizations provides much guidance in their reports as to why numbers change from year to year: whether new flows have occurred, permanent solutions have been found, or new censuses have been taken. In sum, then, it is difficult for an outside user of these refugee reports to make informed judgments about the comparability or accuracy of the data in them. Processing Refugees for Admission Since there are generally more refugees who are in need of resettlement than the United States and other resettlement countries are able or willing to accept, criteria have been established to determine if a given individual will qualify for the U.S. program. The application of these criteria requires data collection. Refugee processing varies from area to area, depending on the number and concentration of people who may be eligible for resettlement. This section describes how the process usually works. Prescreening by Voluntary Agencies Applicants for admission are referred to the U.S. program by the UNHCR or other internationally based organizations, which collect data on the ties that refugees have to the various resettlement nations. They are prescreened by the staff of U.S. voluntary agencies under contract to the State Department to determine if they are eligible for resettlement. Biographical data are collected about refugee applicants and members of their family, including name, sex, birth date, country of birth, country of residence, and marital status. In Southeast Asia the prescreening Is conducted by the joint voluntary agencies (JVAs) 5 which operate under cooperative agreements with the Bureau for Refugee Programs. The JVAs coordinate data collection for all the voluntary agencies that assist in resettling refugees . Almost al l the JVAs use the same form for recording biographical data. Elsewhere in the world, however, there is no consistency in the reporting format, although standard questions are asked. Each voluntary agency uses its own biographica 1 data form.
115 Agencies differ also in the amount of additional information about employment and educational background or previous experiences that is collected from refugee applicants. During the interview, a case number (one per family) is assigned; that number is used in later phases of the admissions process. The first letter of the case number indicates where the refugee is being processed; if a refugee moves prior to admission, additional letters are added to the case number to show the subsequent locations. INS Screening Upon completion of the prescreening, the applications of refugees who meet U.S. admission priorities are reviewed by a State Department refugee coordinator and then presented to INS officers. The INS officers interview applicants to determine whether they are admissible under U.S. law. At this point, INS form I-590 is used to collect information similar to the information collected by the voluntary agency representative. At a later point in the process, information on the medical condition of the refugee is collected and added to the refugee's official file. If approved for admission as refugees to the United States, all family members are issued alien numbers (A-numbers). These numbers, and the case numbers assigned by the voluntary agency staff, are the two major means of identifying refugees. The INS collects statistics on the approvals and denials of refugee applications as part of its management reporting system (form G-23~. The informal ion inc. ludes the number of appl icat ions pend ing at the beginning of the month; the number of new applications filed; the number approved; the number denied, by reason; the number otherwise closed; and the number pending at the end of the month. The data on approvals and denials are used by the INS and the State Department for both monitoring and planning purposes. Their use for monitoring is difficult, however, because there are no clear standards against which approvals and denials can be measured, that is, no basis for determining how many of the refugees presented to the INS should be approved or disapproved. Generally, therefore, people concerned with refugee admissions look at fluctuations in the rate of approvals and denials rather than at absolute numbers: for example, inconsistencies from month to month and from post to post in Southeast Asia have provoked considerable criticism of INS practices, leading to the development of new guidelines for the processing of refugees. Sponsorship Assurances After the INS approves an application but before permission to travel to the United States is given, a sponsor, which can be an individual, a church group, or a resettlement agency, must be identified for each refugee. The data collected at the t ime of the initial screening of the applicant are used for determining sponsorship. The data, generally stamped with information about the refugee's current location (i.e., whether he or she is at a refugee processing center), are sent to the
116 Refugee Data Center (RDC), which is funded by the Bureau for Refugee Programs. The RDC began operations in October 1979 as a temporary center within the American Council of Voluntary Agencies (ACVA), with responsibility for maintaining information on the relatively small number of refugees entering the United States at that time. By 1979, as the rate of admissions rose to 14,000 per month, the RDC became the main data center with information about the vast majority of refugees sponsored by U.S. agencies. Once a sponsor is confirmed, an assurance form (I-591) is completed and returned to the RDC for processing. The information is entered into the RDC computer and sent to the overseas voluntary agency in the country in which the refugee is located. The information is recorded on an ACVAFS form #1, which includes: name of the principal applicant and family members; A-number; date of birth; place of birth; nationality; sponsoring voluntary agency; local sponsor; local relative, if applicable; airport of final destination; and a statement that the agency "agrees to assist the principal refugee named above to obtain employment and housing for him/herself and family, if any." The overseas agency then notifies the INS that an assurance has been obtained and the refugee can be admitted to the United States. The RDC also uses the information to prepare a computer printout of refugee assurances by city and state of local sponsors. This report, which is sent to the national voluntary agencies and state refugee coordinators, provides detailed information about each refugee case. The information includes: names; sponsoring voluntary agency; case number; case size (number of individuals in the family unit); estimated date of arrival; country of birth; sex; date of birth; English-language level; occupation (using Department of Labor 3-digit codes); and highest level of education completed. The printouts are distributed to the voluntary agencies and state refugee offices for dissemination to service providers within their areas. Because each refugee is listed by name, issues of confidentiality arise in the use of these printouts. Furthermore, no summary tables are published, and it is difficult to construct, from the printouts, an overall picture of the characteristics of refugees who have been sponsored by U.S. agencies. Since the RDC has information that is not yet available in other refugee data systems (see below regarding the ORR system), it would be useful to have these data summarized in a more easily used format. Travel and Entry to the United States Most refugees travel on flights arranged by the Intergovernmental Committee on Migration (ICM), a nonprofit group established to function as the "travel agency" of the refugee program. Working with the State Department to spread arrivals over time, ICM develops travel manifests that specify when individual refugees and their families will travel to the United States. These travel manifests, called nominal rolls, are transferred to the RDC where the information is entered into the master computer so that local sponsors and others can be informed of a refugee's arrival. The information constitutes official confirmation of a refugee's arrival as far as RDC is concerned.
117 Refugees travel with the ACVAFS form #1, described above, or a letter from a U.S. embassy that specifies that their admission has been approved. They are also issued INS form I-94 (arrival/departure record), which becomes their major form of identification after entry. Use of the I-94 has presented difficulties for the refugee program since its primary use is for nonimmigrants (visitors, etc.), and items that make sense for that group may not make sense for refugees. For example, when a new I-94 fond was introduced in January 1983, it initially caused problems for the refugee program because it did not contain space for some of the information that was routinely used by refugee service providers in identifying and serving clients: the A-number, English-language level, and sponsoring agency. Negotiations between the State Department and the INS led to changes in filling out the forms, and agreement was reached on how and where to insert the additional data. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has maintained a computer system for identifying and tracking arriving refugees since 1980, when minicomputers were installed at the four West Coast ports of entry and in New York. Information is also kept at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta regarding refugees who enter elsewhere. These data are used to notify local health departments about the arrival of refugees with major health problems. Statistics on refugee arrivals are kept by three separate U.S. government agencies: the Bureau for Refugee Programs in the State Department, the INS, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. These agencies do not agree as to the number of refugees entering the United States. In fiscal 1983, the discrepancies were large: the INS reported 57,064 refugees, the Bureau for Refugee Programs reported 61,681, and ORR reported 60,622. During the first quarter of fiscal 1984, the discrepancies remained but the direction of the differences changed, with INS reporting more arrivals than the State Department. In part the discrepancies occur because each agency counts refugee admissions at a different point in the process. The Bureau for Refugee Programs uses the ICM nominal rolls as the basis of its statistics, adjusting its data to account for refugees who do not travel as scheduled or who travel on their own. In other words, the State Department counts refugees at their point of departure for the United States. The INS and the ORR count refugees at ports of entry, when they actually enter the country, but the two agencies use different sources of data: the INS uses data collected from its own officers; the ORR uses information transferred to it from the quarantine officers who stamp and keep a copy of the ACVAFS form #1. All these agencies are believed to miss some arrivals. The Bureau for Refugee Programs may miss refugees who do not travel under ICM arrangements since they will not appear on the ICM nominal rolls (although it may still overestimate the number of arrivals since some refugees may make travel arrangements with ICM and then not use them during the fiscal year in which they are counted). The INS and the ORR may also miss refugees who make their own travel arrangements, particularly if they enter at one of the smaller ports of entry or one that is not a usual point of arrival for refugees. The categories of refugees who are most likely to be undercounted are the spouses and minor children of refugees who have already entered the United States, because
118 they are the people most likely to travel under their own t rave 1 arrangements. Also likely to be missed are the few refugees who do not require sponsorship assurances because they have suf ficient resources to support themselves in ache United States. The official reports on refugee admissions, like the official statistics on worldwide numbers of refugees, provide little explanation as to the discrepancies among them. With the exception of the ORR, the reports that are disseminated to people outside the authoring agencies have few notes explaining the sources of the data. On occasion, changes have been made in the statistical reports without any explanations. Agency Coordination At present there is little formal consultation or coordination among the agencies that count refugee arrivals. Nor is there a single agency with responsibility for monitoring the accuracy of the data issued by each agency as "official" statistics. The lack of coordination and absence of a single agency designated as responsible for preparing an accurate and official data set presents problems, particularly in duplication of effort in the collection of data and differences in basic identifying data from system to system that make the transfer of records difficult. For example, separate forms asking for the same basic information (name, birth date, country of birth, etc.) are filled out by the voluntary agencies and the INS, but currently there is no check on the accuracy of the information that is recorded. Refugees also are identified in some of the systems (e.g., RDC) by case number and in others (e.g., ORR) by A-number. The State Department's Office of the U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs has proposed a new approach to the issue of identification. A Name Check System (AVLOS), which is operated by the State Department foreign service posts, would be used for recording basic data. After the INS approves a refugee for admission and an A-number is assigned, a copy of the INS biographical information would be given to the State Department for entry into the AVLOS computer system. This system current ly has the capability to record name, date of birth, and place of birth. Four other data elements would be added: sex, country of citizenship, alien number, and entry status/classification. The AVLOS file would be available to the other agencies that collect data on refugees to be used as the basis for opening, updating, or validating refugee records. The INS also plans to include these basic identifying data on the I-94 form, to be collected at ports of entry to record a refugee's entry. Once plans for installing computer terminals at ports of entry are implemented, the I-94 data would be entered into the computer system and made available to all the appropriate agencies. These data would become the official U.S. data on refugee admissions. While this plan may ultimately help eliminate discrepancies, it is recognized by all parties that the installation of computer terminals at the ports of entry will take some time and is not a short-term solution to the problem. The plan also does not address the issue of duplication of effort in data collection. As a first step, the development of a working group in refugee statistics should be considered. With regular
119 meetings of those who are concerned with this issue, perhaps more immediate improvements in the statistical system can be implemented. ASYLEES People seeking political asylum in the United States must meet the same criteria as those seeking to enter as refugees; the definitions (see above) are the same. Unlike refugees, who are selected from overseas, asylum seekers are self-selected from aliens already in the United States. They present themselves to U.S. authorities and request political asylum, whether they are legally in the country on a temporary visa or have entered the country illegally. Valid asylum claims cannot be denied on the basis of numbers, national preferences, illegal entry status, or other selection criteria. When a person who has entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa presents an asylum request that is determined to be without merit, that person must depart or be subject to deportation or exclusion, just like any other illegal entrant. The volume of asylum applicants has increased dramatically since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act. While the INS received only 3,000 applications in 1979, there were 40,000 in 1981, and the present INS backlog is about 160,000 cases. The Political Asylum Process Requests for political asylum are filed either with INS district directors or with immigration judges. People who make themselves known to the INS have their cases heard by the district director, and they may raise their requests a second time in immigration court. Requests for political asylum that are made by people who have been apprehended by the INS can only be brought before immigration judges. When a request for political asylum is filed, the local INS district office opens a file on the applicant, containing the A-number, asylum application (form I-589), and other pertinent information relating to the asylum claim. Because asylum determinations are handled within the INS and because they affect alien residence status, much of the information collected by the INS on asylum applicants is aggregated with the information collected on aliens generally. For example, data on deportations and voluntary departures include but do not record separately persons who have applied for political asylum. The INS forwards all asylum requests to the Department of State for advisory opinions, which are prepared by the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (BHRHA). Most advisory opinions are form letters, recommending either approval or denial. As such they do not give any of the data on the basis of which the approval or denial was decided or the source of any of the information used. When applications are filed by people from countries acknowledged by U.S. authorities to have a high level of human rights violations, such as South Africa or Iran, or when applicants come from countries whose governments the United States opposes, such as the Soviet Union, denial letters usually state the reasons for the negative decision.
120 The BHRHA does not keep a formal count of the advisory opinions it writes. At the end of each month, the staff members inform the office director how many cases they have completed, for which nationalities, and whether their determinations were favorable or unfavorable. This permits the Asylum Affairs Section to answer public inquiries, but this office does not turn the information into a formal record. Successful asylum applicants initially are allowed to remain for one year in the United States, and at that point they may become permanent resident aliens by completing the standard application (form I-45. Numbers of asylum applications by country of origin are reported on the G-23 form. Information is publicly available, on a monthly basis, on pending cases, new cases, cases approved, and cases denied. In addition, the INS collects data on the number of requests sent to the State Department for advisory opinions, the number of advisory opinions received, the cases pending for which there are letters, and the cases decided and awaiting a response from the applicant. Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals Immigration judges, appointed by the Attorney General, are located in the office of the Chief Immigration Judge, part of the Department of Justice but independent of the INS. Hearings before immigrat ion judges represent the first level of administrative judicial review. The decisions of immigration judges can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Immigration judges hear asylum cases filed by people who have either been denied asylum status by an INS district director or not presented their claims to a district director. The latter usually arise in exclusion or deportation proceedings. While the INS asylum interviews are confidential, immigration court proceedings are relatively open and adversarial in character, with the applicant frequently represented by legal counsel and the INS always represented by a trial attorney. In January 1983 immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) were placed together in a new unit, separate from the INS, called the Executive Office for Immigration Review. The separation was effected, in large part, in response to criticism about the apparent lack of independence of the review and appeals agencies from the INS itself. An important change resulting from the reorganization was in the record-keeping procedures: prior to the change, the INS kept monthly consolidated case records that combined the cases heard by the district directors and the immigration judges; now the two categories are reported separately. After the reorganization, the immigration judges adopted the counting procedures of the BIA, keeping track of the total number of cases according to whether they involved exclusion or deportation proceedings; however, the judges ceased to record the nationality of the applicants so that immigration court statistics of asylum grants and denials by nationality can no longer be compiled. Fortunately, this situation is due to be remedied in early 1985, at which time data collection will be more comprehensive than it was prior to the reorganization.
121 Data Insufficiencies and Gaps There are several major problems with the data on applicants for asylum. Perhaps the most obvious is the lack of an accurate count of those seeking asylum. Although the INS has improved its data-keeping mechanisms and introduced greater uniformity into reporting procedures throughout its operations, there is still little confidence in statistical information generated from the INS district offices, which are the source of information about aliens seeking asylum. A need exists, therefore, for the development and controlled implementation of a standardized record-keeping procedure, incorporating necessary quality control, for asylum seekers as well as other categories of aliens. Wittingly or unwittingly, asylum applicants also contribute to inaccurate counts by filing more than one application, by filing incomplete applications, and by failing to appear for hearings. Applicants often fail to appear for their second INS interviews or for their hearings, sometimes because they have not received the notices of their appearances, but at other times because they expect negative rulings. Officials claim, for example, that when the New York district office began to rule negatively on many Polish cases, the applicants simply went across the river to Newark, where the reception was more sympathetic, and applied again, presumably under different names. Some districts apparently treat a nonappearance as a voluntary departure, assume the person is no longer in the country, and close the case. Other districts maintain active files for hundreds of applicants who have, in effect, disappeared. A second problem involves the application form. In June 1981 a revised 45-item form replaced the existing 30-item form. On the old form, the application itself contained primarily biographical and immigration data. Many questions relevant to asylum evaluations, e. g., ethnic and religious affiliations and reasons for leaving the country of origin, appeared on a supplemental form, which applicants frequently left incomplete. The new form incorporates the questions previously on the supplemental forms and requires more specificity on the questions related to an applicant's "well-founded fear." Unfortunately, many of the pre-1981 forms are still in use, because the backlog, particularly in immigration court, is extremely heavy. There are several gaps in information about applicants for asylum. As noted, INS statistics do not distinguish nationality in certain areas such as cases before immigration judges in which such information is needed. Furthermore, the data specify neither the number of asylum applicants among those who are subsequently deported or accept voluntary departure nor the countries to which asylum applicants from particular countries are deported. The Department of State and the INS may determine that the members of a certain nationality group merit "extended voluntary departure." This status entitles those who make themselves known to INS officials to remain in the United States until conditions in their countries of origin are safe enough to ensure their physical safety. According to the State Department and the INS, national groups granted extended voluntary departure in the past have remained in the United States after the special status was removed. There is no statistical evidence to support
122 this position, nor to support arguments that people do return to their countries of origin when conditions improve. At a minimum, data are needed both on the number who come forward to request extended voluntary departure status and on those applicants who subsequently leave the country. Such issues and those raised above are appropriate for review by an interagency task force that should be established to deal with data needs for refugees and asylees. THE U.S. DOMESTIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAM Upon admission to the United States (or approval of application, for asylees), refugees and asylees are eligible for a range of programs that are aimed at promoting their self-auf ficiency. The State Department's Bureau for Refugee Programs is responsible for administering a reception and placement grant program, using cooperative agreements with private voluntary agencies. Under the cooperative agreements, agencies are required to establish case files on each arriving refugee family unit. These files are to record biographical data, health information, English-language level, and other pertinent information to assist in developing plans for employment and meeting the service needs of the refugees. The files are also to detail the services that are provided to the refugee during, at least, the first 90 days. Most other assistance programs for refugees are funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services and adminis tered by the states. The programs include cash medical assistance, social services, health assessments, educational programs for children, and targeted assistance programs for areas of high impact. Data Collection and Reporting The Refugee Act of 1980, as noted earlier, contains relatively detailed and specific requirements for data collection and reporting, and these requirements were continued and expanded when the ac t was reauthorized in October 1982. All the requirements cover both refugees and asylees. In addition, public interest in refugees, as a highly visible component of the net ion ' s immigrat ion, has been strong. In this context, the collection and dissemination of statistics on refugees has become institutionalized. The Refugee Act of 1980 requires an annual report to Congress on the progress of refugees who have arrived in the United States since 1975; ache retroactive mandate is noteworthy. Specific language in the act provides for "an updated profile of the employment and labor force statistics for refugees," "a description of the extent to which refugees received . . . assistance or services, . . . a description of the geographic location of refugees, . . . evaluations of the extent to which the services provided . . . are assisting refugees in achieving economic self-sufficiency, achieving ability in English, and achieving employment commensurate with their skills and abilities," and a summary of the information collected at the time refugees become permanent resident aliens. The Refugee Assistance Amendments of 1982 contained additional data collection requirements on two topics: refugee receipt of cash or medical assistance by state of residence and nationality and
123 the secondary migration (away from the initial resettlement site) of refugees in the United States. The ORR has been assigned the responsibility of carrying out the reporting requirements of the act. Accordingly, an automated data system for compiling and storing records on individual refugees has been established, and a system of regular reports by state grantee agencies to the ORR exists. An annual survey of Southeast Asian refugees provides a regular picture of their progress, focusing on employment and the use of services. Through agreements with other federal agencies, certain additional statistics on refugees are being compiled. Finally, an evaluation research program has produced several studies of topics related to refugee adjustment, and other studies are being done. Reports by State Agencies to the ORR Since the first quarter of fiscal 1983, state refugee program agencies have been required to report certain of their program activities to the ORR on form ORR-6. This Quarterly Performance Report is the basis of program statistics on refugee use of cash and medical assistance funded by the ORR and on the number of refugee clients being served in other types of ORR-funded programs. When completed fully and accurately and combined nationwide, these quarterly reports can yield a useful picture of the refugee cash, medical assistance, and social services caseloads supported by the ORR. ORR Reports Several regularly scheduled reports are generated from the ORR data system and the state reports submitted to the ORR, others are being developed, and ad hoc reports are produced to meet management needs. Each month, following preparation by the Center for Disease Control of its tape file of arriving refugees, the ORR prepares a set of monthly report tables, which provides current monthly and fiscal-year-to-date arrival figures. This set, which is the basis of the ORR monthly data report, normally contains five standard tables: estimated total state populations of Southeast Asian refugees; arrival numbers by state of resettlement; arrival numbers by country of birth and country of citizenship; age-sex distribution of arrivals; and arrival numbers by sponsoring agency. This report is distributed by the ORR to all state refugee program agencies, the national headquarters of the voluntary agencies, other federal agencies, and congressional offices. Further distribution by these recipients is encouraged, and state refugee program coordinators have agreed to serve as distribution centers for their own local agencies and service providers. The ORR also produces state-specific tables covering the same subjects as the national tables, with each state's arrivals broken down further by county of resettlement. These monthly reports are distributed to the state refugee program coordinators in the mailing with the national report. The county-level tables also are used by ORR officials for detailed analysis of resettlement patterns and to assist them in deciding where to place special projects and direct special funding.
124 At the close of each fiscal year, a number of special tables are produced from the ORR data system for the annual Report to the Congress. Some of these tables essentially summarize the information presented in the monthly tables. In addition, information from the state reports on public assistance utilization and secondary migration are presented. The statistics represent the ORR's official program statistics for the year just ended. A narrative discussion accompanies the tables. Other statistical reports are not presented in tabular form in the Report to the Congress but are summarized in the narrative. The permanent resident alien file is also a major source of follow-up information on refugees. The data are collected by the INS on form I-643 and given to the ORR for presentation in its Report to the Congress. In use since 1982, the I-643 form is completed at the time a refugee applies for ad justment of status to permanent resident alien; it includes items on changes in residence since entry, household composition, work history, and the use of cash assistance programs. The ORR also carries out an annual survey of Southeast Asian refugees, which represents the continuation of a series of nationwide telephone surveys that were begun in 1975. The survey is done in October. Sample sizes in recent years have ranged from 1,000 to 1,300. Its major purpose is to fulfill a requirement in the Refugee Act of 1980 to report to Congress annually on "an updated profile of the employment and labor force statistics for refugees who have entered under this Act since May 1975, as well as a description of the extent to which refugees received the forms of assistance or services under this chapter during that period." Questions in the survey focus on labor force participation, employment, participation in educational and training programs, and the use of public assistance. Major findings appear in the annua 1 Report to the Congres s . Information From Other Federal Agencies Through interagency agreements, ORR is currently funding studies on refugees based on data from two existing federal sources: the Medicaid system and the Internal Revenue Service. The Medicaid study, which is limited to three states, will obtain information on the patterns of refugee use of public medical assistance, including type of service, frequency, cost, and the condition for which assistance is sought. The IRS study, based on aggregate data for 1980, 1981, and 1982, covers numbers of tax returns filed, aggregate income reported (by source), and total federal income taxes paid by the cohort of Southeast Asian refugees who entered the United States in the 1975-1979 period. This cohort of refugees is identifiable because its members were assigned special social security numbers during entry processing; similar information for this cohort will be obtained for sub sequent tax years . The ORR Evaluation Research Program Since fiscal 1981 ORR has funded a number of research contracts to assess refugee adjustment to life in the United States and to evaluate ORR-supported projects to facilitate adjustment. Among the issues covered in those studies are economic self-sufficiency, the role of the refugee community, the effectiveness of language training programs, and residency patterns and secondary migration.
125 At present, the ORR data collection system is well-established and capable of generating information on a wide range of issues. The major weakness in the system is the lack of in-house analytic capacity or adequate funding either to allow for timely distribution of the data for analysis or to permit contracting for analytic resources outside the agency. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS It is quite clear that the processes involved in determining those refugees eligible for entry into the United States and in effecting the long journey from refugee camp to resettlement in this country are both complex and involve a variety of participants here and abroad. They require and generate many different kinds of data for use in administrative control, program management, program evaluation, policy review, and policy development. However, the utility of the data is compromised by uncertain quality that is a reflection, in large measure, of an absence of concern with consistency, coordination, and purpose. For example, different series purport to measure the same thing but use different definitions; efforts are needlessly duplicated; one group revises a form without consulting a second group whose data needs are based on the same form. Yet the picture is mixed. The legislation establishing the refugee program in the United States sets an example well worth noting in specifying data requirements and analytical products; the agency charged with meeting these requirements, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has struggled to meet the mandate and, on the whole, has set an example that others would do well to emulate. But the effort cannot be left to rest there. Therefore, the Panel recommends that the U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs: o Establish an interagency task force, representing all federal offices responsible for or concerned with refugee issues. The task force, supplemented by persons with appropriate statistical and data processing competence, would undertake to review the statistical program and provide recommendations: --on maximizing the utility of data currently being collected; --on establishing standard definitions and resolving existing contradictions in the data; --on a priority ranking of data needs and where responsibility for each should be placed; --on which data items or series should be deleted; --for institutionalizing coordination among the participants in the area of data compilation; and --on resources and time required to implement quality control and other appropriate statistical methods designed to ensure the maintenance of an adequate data bare for policy and program needs.