What is a Refugee? Definition and Meaning

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According to the Department of Homeland Security, a refugee is someone who flees their home country because they fear persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group (Refugees and Asylees, 2018). Refugees apply for asylum to another country to find a new place to live; the current legislation and policies make it difficult for one to be granted asylum in the United States. Furthermore, the United States government should take the current humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) seriously and act immediately through granting asylum.

Asylum seeking policies

The Immigration Act of 1980 places a formal process for refugees seeking asylum. The refugees walking through Mexico can apply for asylum affirmatively. When seeking asylum affirmatively, refugees can be at a port of entry (Refugees and Asylees, 2018). Asylees must also apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within one year of their arrival. The asylee must complete an I-589 Application, which asks a series of questions like why they are seeking asylum, whether they have faced harm, mistreatment, or threats or fears harm or mistreatment in their country of residency (I-589, Application, n.d., pg. 5). To receive asylum, refugees must receive a favorable grant from an asylum officer when applying affirmatively (Refugee Admissions, 2018).

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There are three possible solutions for asylum applicants: being denied, local integration, or resettlement in another country. If the refugees’ story is not credible they are denied and will returned home. Often, stories are perceived as not credible due to the institutional differences between formalized American bureaucracy and informal processes of underdeveloped or developing countries (Recker, S., 2010).

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