|2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom:
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State, September 5, 2000
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 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 IRFA. In 1999 the INS formed a working group 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 during FY2000, as required under Section 102 (b)(1)(E) of IRFA.
Section 602 (a): Training of Refugee Adjudicators
Section 602(a)(1) of 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 passage of 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 immigration law 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.
In FY2000, the Office of International Affairs, Asylum Division, modified the 5-week AOBTC curriculum to accommodate the IRFA training requirements for overseas officers processing refugee claims. The Asylum Division conducted two AOBTC sessions, attended by 47 new Asylum Officers and 20 overseas Immigration Officers. The overseas officers received the same training and took the same exams required of Asylum Officer with respect to asylum eligibility, fraud, credibility, and interviewing. Asylum Division and Refugee Branch personnel conducted separate trainings on job-specific aspects of asylum adjudication and refugee processing. The course also included a specific lesson devoted to IRFA and throughout the course additional emphasis was placed on religious persecution issues.
All persons who adjudicate refugee requests will continue to 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 religious freedom mandated by Section 102 of IRFA.
Section 603 (b): Training of Asylum Officers Adjudicating Asylum Cases, and Immigration Officers Performing Duties under Section 235(b) of the INA (Expedited Removal).
Asylum Officers have received focused training on claims involving religious issues since the Asylum Division's inception in 1991, and this was augmented during the last year both with basic asylum training and continuing training in the field offices. Two AOBTC classes were conducted during FY2000 in which a total of 47 new Asylum Officers and 20 overseas Immigration Officers were trained.
Local Asylum Office trainers continue to follow the current policy of including a discussion of religious persecution whenever relevant during training on country conditions. In addition all offices in FY2000 had training specifically on religious persecution, and many of these sessions were presented by outside experts. During FY2000 the Asylum Division continued to promote online research. Each officer now has access to the public Internet and to supplemental legal and country conditions information databases. Training in the use of these resources has been given in all offices, and examples of religious groups and religious persecution in different countries were used as exercises to conduct online research.
The RIC has published an online guide to web research on the INS Intranet, and an area was created for and devoted to government and non-government links to religious persecution websites. The RIC in the INS Office of International Affairs serves both the Asylum Division and the Refugee Unit, and is responsible for the collection and/or production and distribution of materials regarding human rights conditions around the world. During FY2000 the RIC has catalogued separately religious freedom periodicals and coded 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 attached. 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 may at some time be involved in the expedited removal/credible fear process and therefore are subject to the training provisions of Section 603(b). During FY 2001, the INS will conduct training on religious persecution for these officers through a combination of direct, video-taped, and computer-based instruction. The working group is conducting negotiations with a media services company to produce an IRFA training video.
During FY2000, the INS also has presented information on IRFA and religious persecution claims to outside agencies. The Asylum Division cohosted a panel on understanding religious claims at the June 2000 national Immigration Judge conference, and provided instructional materials on IRFA and useful religious persecution website addresses. As part of that presentation, the INS presented an analysis of FY1998 and FY1999 statistics on new asylum requests in light of the country of origin and whether there was a religious component to these cases. This data has been used to develop additional training materials and was shared with the Department of State and the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge. The INS Office of General Counsel also has provided training at the Department of State's Foreign Service Institute. This training included an overview of asylum and refugee policy and legal issues, and specifically addressed religious persecution issues and IRFA.
AGENCY-WIDE TRAINING ON IRFA
During FY2000 all employees were notified of IRFA and its effect on operations within the INS. The new inadmissibility provision of INA Sec. 212(a)(2)(G) relating to foreign government officials who have committed particularly severe violations of religious freedom was explained, and website addresses for more IRFA information were provided. All employees will continue to be notified concerning agency implementation of IRFA and updates to procedures and regulations.
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 basic training on asylum and human rights issues included in the officer basic training courses. Work continues to be done with the Immigration Officer Academy and the Border Patrol Academy to incorporate additional asylum and refugee training materials, including information on religious persecution, into the basic curriculum.
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 has initiated discussions with the Department of State (DOS) regarding inclusion of IRFA obligations in the standard DOS contract entered into with non-governmental agencies involved in refugee processing. We anticipate developing the guidelines more fully through consultation with overseas personnel officers and the relevant DOS components in the course of the following fiscal year.
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. All ports-of-entry employees have been notified of the provisions of IRFA relating to use of interpreters with hostile biases, and have been advised to avoid the use of any airline interpreters whenever possible for secondary inspection. During FY2000 officials at major ports-of-entry were queried by the INS IRFA working group, and additional queries are being developed in order to complete work on the guidelines.
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 it provides are available to other INS components. The contract has special provisions to ensure the security and confidentiality of the credible fear process, and it can be modified to include specific antibias provisions. In FY2000 the INS procurement office has aided the Asylum Division in developing a list of language service providers contracted by the General Services Administration. This list of contractors now may be used by any division of the INS to obtain language translation and interpretation services.
¹ Asylum Officers complete an initial 5-week Immigration Officer Basic Training Course, and 5 additional weeks of the Asylum Officer Basic Training Course (AOBTC). The AOBTC, which is held approximately twice per year, includes international human rights law, asylum and refugee law, interviewing techniques, decision-making and decision-writing skills, effective country conditions research skills, and computer skills. Compulsory in-service training for all asylum officers is held weekly.
RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION ARTICLES DISTRIBUTED BY THE INS RESOURCE INFORMATION CENTER
Below is a comprehensive, chronological list of the specialized documents on abuses of religious freedom distributed by the INS Resource Information Center (RIC) to the asylum offices and the Refugee Branch 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 hundreds of articles the RIC makes available to asylum field offices in the biweekly News Summary for Asylum Adjudicators.
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.
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.
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. Pakistan: The Mohajirs. (Ottawa: IRB DIRB, September 1992).
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.
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. Israel: Jews from the Former Soviet Union. (Ottawa: IRB DIRB, February 1993).
Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information, and Research Branch. Nigeria: Religion and Conflict. (Ottawa: IRB DIRB, March 1993).
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, 7 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 Minority. (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, PB. 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.
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