Soviet Refugees:

Processing and Admittance to the United States

NSIAD-90-158: Published: May 9, 1990. Publicly Released: May 9, 1990.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO evaluated the Department of State's and Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) efforts to implement an amendment that required them to categorize Soviet refugee applicants and give certain applicants an enhanced opportunity to qualify for refugee status, focusing on: (1) the adequacy and timeliness of the adjudication process; (2) the adequacy of staffing for processing refugee applicants; (3) whether the agencies effectively phased out Soviet refugee processing in Rome; and (4) the cost of conducting refugee processing in both Rome and Moscow.

GAO found that: (1) INS and State implemented the amendment; (2) INS and State did not schedule interviews with all the appropriate category members because the amendment did not affect their scheduling priorities; (3) it could not assess the amendment's overall impact on fiscal year (FY) 1990 Soviet refugee adjudications because the amendment only took effect in February 1990; (4) INS and State met their FY 1990 interviewing goals in Moscow; (5) INS officers did not consistently document denied claims, resulting in mandatory supervisory review of category cases; (6) INS did not correct documentation problems overseas; (7) most Soviet Jews expected to depart Rome by June 1990; (8) INS receipt of sponsorship assurances delayed refugee departures; (9) processing Soviets for refugee status in Moscow enabled U.S. officials to better manage the refugee flow into the United States and reduce refugee processing costs; and (10) the cost of processing Soviet refugees in Moscow could be less than one-half the cost of processing refugees in Rome.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS issued proforma refugee adjudication interview forms to ensure INS adjudicators document their rationale for approving or denying refugee claims, and issued guidance requiring INS supervisors to review all denials and certify that adequate documentation was provided.

    Recommendation: Because the Lautenberg Amendment requires INS to state, to the maximum extent feasible, the reason for denying refugee status to category cases, and INS documentation of denial decisions has been a continuing problem, the Commissioner, INS, should direct INS supervisors to review denied category cases and certify that the documentation is sufficient to support the decision.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

 

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