Placing the Immigration and Naturalization Service into bureaus of the Department of Homeland Security has positive and negative consequences, says Raleigh Deffenbaugh, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, New York.
"On the positive side, we finally see a separation of service from enforcement functions," Deffenbaugh said. "Under the old structure, enforcement seemed to always trump service. Also, the leadership of the service bureau is quite favorably disposed toward the refugee program and has already taken measures to strengthen the core of people who will be interviewing refugees overseas.
"On the negative side, it's still distressing that refugee functions should be put into a department whose main mission is to combat terrorism."
Limits on family reunification pose another difficulty. At presstime, only spouses and children of refugees from four countries in Africa were allowed to enter the United States. "We continue to advocate for the government to be more family friendly and admit close relatives of refugees from all countries," Deffenbaugh said.
By the end of March, 8,860 refugees had been admitted, he said, adding, "That's far below [President Bush's] goal of 70,000, and it represents only 18 percent of the State Department's planning figure of 50,000."
Odds are neither goal will be met in the next six months, Deffenbaugh says. "The government is still trying to overcome the new, complicated security checks [as well as] the dangers faced by U.S. officials in traveling to where refugees need to be processed," he adds.
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