Secretary of State Tillerson Should Avoid "Meaningless and Misleading" Conclusions in Refugee Admissions Reports

A bipartisan group of former senior U.S. officials today urged Secretary of State Tillerson to ensure that a State Department report mandated by President Trump contains key elements to ensure it contributes to responsible policy making.

President Trump’s directive came in a March 6, 2017 Presidential Memorandum on immigration, which was issued in conjunction with the March 6 Executive Order restricting immigration and refugee resettlement. The President’s directive requires that Secretary Tillerson prepare two reports within 180 days – an estimate of the long-term costs of the United States Refugee Admissions Program and an estimate of the number of refugees being supported in countries of first asylum for the same long-term cost as supporting refugees resettled in the United States. Both reports are expected to be submitted to the President in early September.    

(A) poorly designed study will not be a useful document for policymakers and will lead to poor policy decisions.

Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International and co-signer of the letter, said, “We want these studies to shed light and not heat on the immigration and refugee resettlement debate, and the letter provides a road-map to ensure that is the case. The letter also reflects concern that a poorly designed study will not be a useful document for policymakers and will lead to poor policy decisions.” 

Among the signers of the letter are former senior officials of the past four Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, including three general counsels of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), a former acting INS Commissioner, and two former Assistant Secretaries of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. In all, ten former officials and immigration scholars signed the letter. 

With respect to the first study, the authors write that “an assessment of the long-term costs of the Refugee Admissions Program must also gauge the long-term economic and social benefits of the program, and that failure to do so will paint a misleading picture of the program’s value to the United States.” They note that failure to recognize those benefits “will create an unfairly skewed perspective of what the Refugee Admissions Program is worth to the United States.” 

(A)n assessment of the long-term costs of the Refugee Admissions Program must also gauge the long-term economic and social benefits of the program, and that failure to do so will paint a misleading picture of the program’s value to the United States.

The authors state that the request for the second study is “particularly problematic,” because it treats two very different policy measures – temporary protection and permanent resettlement of refugees – as comparable solutions to what are very different challenges. The authors note that “comparing the provision of first asylum on a temporary basis to the permanent durable solution of resettlement will result in the unremarkable finding that, on a per capita basis, the former is cheaper. But that would be a meaningless and potentially misleading finding.”

The authors of the letter offer suggestions on how both studies could be made useful to policymakers focused on refugee assistance and resettlement issues.

Signers of the Letter to Secretary of State Tillerson:

T. Alexander Aleinikoff, Director, Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School, and former General Counsel, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)

Ryan Allen, Associate Professor of Community and Economic Development, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

Arthur “Gene” Dewey. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration

Bill Frelick, Refugee Rights Program Director, Human Rights Watch

Matthew LaCorte, Immigration Policy Analyst, Niskanen Center

David A. Martin. Warner-Booker Distinguished Professor of International Law, Emeritus, University of Virginia, and former General Counsel, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)

Kathleen Newland, Senior Fellow and Co-Founder, Migration Policy Institute

Joseph Grover Rees, U.S. Ambassador (retired) and former General Counsel, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)

Myrta (Chris) Sale, Former Deputy Commissioner, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and former Acting Commissioner, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service

Eric P. Schwartz, President, Refugees International and former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration

 

Print Friendly and PDF