INS AND THE INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is committed to ensuring that all claims for refugee and asylum protection are treated with fairness, respect, and dignity. Shortly after the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), the INS began to assess existing asylum and refugee training programs in order to address the specific training topics required under the IRFA. The INS also has formed a working group within the agency to coordinate compliance under the law, including training, development of guidelines relating to potential hostile biases, and enforcement of the new inadmissibility provision relating to foreign government officials who have committed particularly severe violations of religious freedom. This appendix summarizes the agency's actions thus far, as required under Section 102(b)(1)(E) of the IRFA.
I. Section 602 (a): Training of Refugee Adjudicators
Section 602(a)(1) of the IRFA amends section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act by requiring the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to provide "all United States officials adjudicating refugee cases under this section with the same training as that provided to officers adjudicating asylum cases under section 208." This training must include "country-specific conditions, instruction on the internationally recognized right to freedom of religion, instruction on methods of religious persecution practiced in foreign countries, and applicable distinctions within a country between the nature of and treatment of various religious practices and believers."
Prior to the IRFA, no specific statute or regulation governed the training of officers adjudicating refugee cases in the overseas refugee program. Refugee adjudications traditionally have been done by Immigration Officers stationed overseas who receive, in addition to basic training, specialized training consisting of a survey of refugee law and procedure, as well as in-country training. In recent years the majority of officers detailed for specific short-term refugee-processing work have been Asylum Officers, who receive approximately 5 weeks of specialized training related to international human rights law, nonadversarial interview techniques, and other relevant national and international refugee laws and principles. (1)
In the 18 months prior to the passage of the IRFA, the Refugee Division of the INS Office of International Affairs focused a number of training sessions on religious issues, including training on:
With the passage of the IRFA, the Office of International Affairs has developed short-term strategies to ensure that issues relating to religious freedom and persecution are addressed. During fiscal year 1999, the Refugee Division has taken the following steps:
To comply fully with the IRFA over the next year, the INS is exploring long-term and short-term solutions for ensuring that all Immigration Officers who adjudicate refugee applications receive training equivalent to that of Asylum Officers. Due to the differences between the asylum process and the refugee process, a new training regime is under development for refugee adjudicators that is equivalent to the pertinent portions of asylum training and also includes areas that are unique to refugee processing.(3) Until that program is in place, selected overseas officers will attend the Asylum Officer Basic Training Course (AOBTC).(4) The Refugee Division will continue to provide overseas officers with access to legal and country conditions information in the RefWorld CD-ROM databases and continue to expand "Global Reach" training in refugee and asylum issues to prepare officers for refugee adjudicatory responsibilities before they depart for overseas postings. These combined efforts will ensure that all officers with refugee processing responsibilities receive the additional training required under Section 602(a) by the end of fiscal year 2001. The Refugee Division also will continue to explore methods for providing supplemental training, such as site visits, video instruction, and other types of outreach.
All persons who adjudicate refugee requests also will receive country conditions training provided primarily by the INS Resource Information Center (RIC) in the Office of International Affairs, as well as copies of the annual Department of State report on International Religious Freedom mandated by Section 102 of the IRFA.
II. Section 603 (b): Training of Asylum Officers Adjudicating Asylum Cases, and Immigration Officers Performing Duties under section 235(b) of the INS (Expedited Removal).
Asylum Officers receive focused training on religious persecution as part of the AOBTC. The topic of religious persecution also is addressed throughout the training during sessions on interviewing techniques and writing skills.
Before passage of the IRFA, the INS headquarters Asylum Division directed each of the eight asylum field offices to develop training on religious persecution issues following the 1997 report by the Department of State, "United States Policy in Support of Religious Freedom: Focus on Christians." Since the passage of the Act, the Asylum Division has conducted one AOBTC and included in that training a section focused on religious persecution. The Asylum Division is in the process of writing a separate, formal lesson plan specifically on religious persecution to be used for training at the AOBTC. The division also is reviewing the exercises and examples currently in use throughout the training and augmenting them with additional exercises on religious persecution where appropriate.
All Asylum Offices have conducted training on the provisions of the IRFA. Asylum Offices also have been directed by the Asylum Training Unit to deliver field office training on religious persecution issues. All offices have shown to their Asylum Officers a videotape of a training session on the IRFA conducted by the INS Office of the General Counsel. Asylum Quality Assurance and Training Coordinators (QA/Ts) have been instructed that whenever a guest speaker is invited to conduct training on conditions in a particular country, the QA/T must ensure that the speaker covers the topic of religious persecution in that country. The trainers already have begun incorporating this as standard procedure in training.
The Resource Information Center in the INS Office of International Affairs serves both the Asylum Division and the Refugee Division and is responsible for the collection and distribution of materials regarding human rights conditions around the world. The RIC plans to catalog separately religious freedom periodicals and to code separately RIC responses to field queries that involve religious issues. A list of documents focused specifically on religious persecution and distributed to the asylum field offices is provided in Section V. There are also numerous reports distributed by the RIC that are country- or region-specific that do not focus on religion but which contain some information on religious persecution in that country or region.
EXPEDITED REMOVAL/CREDIBLE FEAR
Approximately 4,500 Immigration Inspectors and 2,500 Detention and Deportation Officers at some time may be involved in the expedited removal/credible fear process and therefore are subject to the training provisions of Section 603(b). During fiscal year 2000, the INS will conduct training on religious persecution for these officers through a combination of direct and videotaped instruction. The INS currently plans to train local coordinators and then distribute the videotape to all INS districts, ports, and sectors for mandatory viewing by all INS officers.
The INS working group also is developing plans to include training on the IRFA and religious persecution at national conferences during the next fiscal year. A memorandum on the nature of the IRFA, the new inadmissibility requirement, and procedures for evaluating inadmissibility already have been issued. A second, agency-wide memorandum on issues related to the IRFA is planned.
The INS IRFA working group has advised that the best approach for providing initial training on religious freedom and persecution issues is through the expansion of the basic training on asylum and human rights issues included in the Immigration Officer Basic Training course. The working group currently is engaged in discussions with the officials in charge of this program regarding course development, funding, and personnel matters. Because of the large number of persons who must receive instruction under the Act, the working group also is exploring the use of various electronic media--such as the INS intranet, e-mail, and CD-ROM technology--for conducting future update and training sessions.
III. Section 602 (c): Guidelines for Addressing Hostile Biases: Employees Hired Abroad
Preliminary guidelines have been drafted for the hiring of personnel abroad who work in refugee-related situations, and revisions to these drafts are under discussion within the INS working group. The INS anticipates developing the guidelines more fully through consultation with overseas personnel officers and the relevant components of the Department of State in the course of the following fiscal year.
IV. Section 603 (a): Guidelines for Addressing Hostile Biases: Interpreters
Guidelines for interpreters of conversations between aliens and Immigration Inspectors/Asylum Officers are to be developed jointly by the Department of State and the Department of Justice. In the asylum field offices, applicants for asylum currently provide their own interpreters. In the expedited removal/credible fear process, the INS provides interpreters through the use of contracted services. Officers at ports-of-entry currently employ various means of interpretation. The ports may use an Immigration Officer or the INS Interpreters' Unit in New York, if available, or they may use one of several commercial services, if funding permits. Although some ports-of-entry rely on airline personnel for assistance, most ports are now aware of the general provisions of the IRFA relating to use of interpreters and have been advised to avoid the use of airline interpreters whenever possible for secondary inspection activities. A master contract between Language Services Associates and the INS was approved in July 1999, and while it currently is used only by Asylum Officers in the Asylum Pre-Screening program, the interpreter services that it provides are available to other components of the INS. The contract has special provisions to ensure the security and confidentiality of the credible fear process. The INS will explore expansion of the contract to include specific anti-bias provisions. The INS also will send out an agency-wide memorandum that includes information on the necessity of avoiding the use of interpreters who exhibit improper biases during any stage in the credible fear process.
V. Religious Persecution Articles Distributed by the INS Resource Information Center
The following is a comprehensive, chronological list of the specialized documents on abuses of religious freedom distributed by the RIC to the asylum offices and the Refugee Division since 1992. They were distributed at the time they came to the attention of the RIC, which, in some cases, was one or more years after the date of publication. This list does not include 130 post-1995 news articles that the RIC has sent to all asylum offices, 60 of which were circulated to the field in the first 7 months of 1999.
Immigration and Refugee Board Documentation Centre. Mohajirs: Issue Paper (Ottawa: IRBDC, September 1990), 24 p.
Immigration and Refugee Board Documentation Centre. Ghana: Freedom of Religion (Ottawa: IRBDC, May 1991), 9 p.
Immigration and Refugee Board Documentation Centre. The Ahmadiyya (Ottawa: IRBDC, June 1991), 31 p.
Amnesty International. Pakistan: Violations of Human Rights of Ahmadis (London: AI, ASA 33/15/91, September 1991), 11 p.
Asia Watch. Freedom of Religion in China (New York: Human Rights Watch, January 1992), 77 p.
Immigration and Refugee Board Documentation Centre. Pakistan: Treatment of Ahmadis Who Return (Ottawa, IRBDC, February 1992), 16 p.
Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information, and Research Branch, CIS, Baltic States and Georgia: Situation of Jews (Ottawa: IRB DIRB, July 1992), 35 p. Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information, and Research Branch, Pakistan: The Mohajirs (Ottawa: IRB DIRB, September 1992).
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center. Information Packet Series. Syria: Syrian Jews: Historical Perspective and Current Events (Washington, DC: INS RIC, IP/SYR/92.001, August, 1992).
Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information, and Research Branch, Israel: Jews from the Former Soviet Union (Ottawa: IRB DIRB, February 1993).
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Syria, Persecution of Syrian Jews, distributed by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center, Master Exhibit Series, (Washington, DC: HIAS, ME/SYR/93.001, 1993)
Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information, and Research Branch, Nigeria: Religion and Conflict (Ottawa: IRB DIRB, March 1993).
Baha'i International Community, The Baha'i Question: Iran's Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of a Religious Community (New York: BIC Publications, 1993), 55 p.
Kenvin, Helene. Civil War, Ethnic Strife, and the Disintegration of Jewish Life in Georgia, January 1992 through March 1993 (Esopus, NY: Caucasus Network, April 2, 1993), 15 p.
Amnesty International. Persecution of Christians in China: Appeal for Zhang Lezhi, Yan Peizhi and Xu Zhihe (London: AI, ASA 17/23/93, June 1993), 3 p.
Kenvin, Helene. Anti-Semitic Violence in Georgia (Esopus, NY: Caucasus Network, July 22, 1993), 3 p.
Kenvin, Helene. Brutalization of Georgia's Jewish Community (Esopus, NY: Caucasus Network, September 19, 1993), 4 p.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center, Nigeria: Christians in Kano, Query Response (Washington, DC: INS RIC, NGA94-01.ZHN, October 8, 1993), 8 p.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center, Georgia: Treatment of Jews, Query Response (Washington, DC: INS RIC, GEO94-01.ZNK, December 30, 1993), 8 p.
Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information, and Research Branch, Ahmadis in Pakistan: Update December 1991 to October 1993, Question and Answer Series (Ottawa, Canada: IRB DIRB, January 1994), 27 p.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center, Egypt: Coptic Christians, Query Response (Washington, DC: INS RIC, EGY94-01.ZNK, February 10, 1994), 4 p.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center, Profile Series, Russia: The Status of Jews in the Post-Soviet Era (Washington, DC, INS RIC, PR/RUS/94.001, September 1994), 39 p.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center, Lebanon: Status of Jews, Query Response (Washington, DC: INS RIC, LBN94-01.ZNK, March 7, 1994), 10 p.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center, Pakistan: Muslims Who Convert to Christianity, Query Response (Washington, DC: INS RIC, PAK94-03.ZHN, March 10, 1994), 16 p.
Human Rights Watch/Middle East. Egypt: Violations of Freedom of Religious Belief and Expression of the Christian Minories(New York: HRW/Middle East, Vol.6, No. 2, November 1994), 36 p.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center, Russia: Jews, Query Response (Washington, DC: INS RIC, RUS94-01.ZSF, April 14, 1994), 16 p.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Resource Information Center, Armenia: Baptists/Evangelicals, Query Response (Washington, DC: INS RIC, ARM94-01.ZLA, April 19, 1994), 3 p.
Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information, and Research Branch, Anti-Semitism in Latvia: The Current Situation, Question and Answer Series (Ottawa, Canada: IRB DIRB, September 1994), 13 p.
Lambert, Anthony, P.B., What is the Size of the Chinese Church? Special Report (Santa Ana, CA: News Network International Syndicate, September 19, 1994), 23 p.
Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information, and Research Branch, Anti-Semitism in Estonia: The Current Situation, Question and Answer Series (Ottawa, Canada: IRB DIRB, November 1994), 9 p.
Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information, and Research Branch, Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union: Chronology 1727 to 1 January 1992, Question and Answer Series (Ottawa, Canada: IRB DIRB, November 1994), 23 p.
UNHCR, RE: Asylum Claim by Christian Woman from Syria, Letter from Scott Busby, Associate Legal Counselor, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with attachments (Washington, DC: UNHCR, November 15, 1994), 16 p.