Soviet Refugees:

Processing and Admittance to the United States Has Improved

NSIAD-91-245: Published: Jul 11, 1991. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 1991.

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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 section 599D of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for fiscal year (FY) 1990, which requires those agencies to categorize Soviet refugee applicants and give certain applicants an enhanced opportunity to qualify for refugee status, focusing on: (1) whether State and INS implementation of Section 599D and the refugee processing procedures in Moscow and the District of Columbia were effective; (2) whether the INS adjudication process in Moscow was fair, consistent, and conformed with INS guidance; (3) whether the Soviet refugee admissions ceiling would be met for FY 1991; and (4) the status of public interest parole offers being extended to Soviets denied refugee status.

GAO found that: (1) INS and State began implementing Section 599D on February 1, 1990, applying the new adjudication standards to all category members, including those previously denied refugee status; (2) between October 1989 and April 1991, INS adjudicated about 48,600 category members under Section 599D criteria and approved almost 98 percent of them; (3) INS enlarged the Soviet processing center facility and staffed the units with well trained personnel; (4) the District of Columbia processing center is fully operational and has expanded processing capabilities; (5) in FY 1991, an international organization began facilitating post-adjudication processing, travel arrangements, and medical screening; (6) overseas Soviet refugee processing costs are expected to be about $68.5 million less in FY 1991 than in FY 1990, due to centralized processing in Moscow; (7) INS consistently applied its refugee denial process, but INS officers in Moscow improperly granted refugee status based only upon applicants' assertion of a single discriminatory or prejudicial status; (8) State expects to fall short of the FY 1991 Soviet refugee admission ceiling by 10,000 to 15,000 refugees, primarily due to problems refugees are experiencing in obtaining Soviet government exit permission, but recent Soviet emigration legislation and a proposed bilateral arrangement with the Soviet Union should rectify such problems; and (9) although the United States intended offering public interest parole to Soviets denied refugee status only as a temporary measure, such refugees were still being offered this measure as a means of emigrating to the United States.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The INS Commissioner, in late 1991, issued guidance requiring INS officers in Moscow to comply with existing refugee adjudication guidance.

    Recommendation: Because INS officers in Moscow were not adjudicating category members' refugee claims in accordance with current INS guidance, the Commissioner, INS, should ensure that the adjudication process in Moscow conforms with INS guidance by either: (1) requiring that INS officers in Moscow comply with existing guidance; or (2) modifying the guidance criteria to more nearly reflect actual practice while remaining consistent with section 599D.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service


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