Appendix D: INS and the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA)

International Religious Freedom Report 2002
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is committed to ensuring that all claims for refugee and asylum protection are treated with fairness, respect, and dignity and that all mandates of IRFA are properly implemented. This appendix summarizes the agency's actions during FY2002, as required under Section 102 (b)(1)(E) of IRFA.

I. Training of Asylum Officers and Refugee Adjudicators
The INS provides extensive training to Asylum Officers in order to prepare them to perform their duties of adjudicating asylum claims. The training covers all grounds on which an asylum claim may be based, including religion. Asylum Officers receive approximately 5 weeks of specialized training related to international human rights law, non-adversarial interview techniques, and other relevant national and international refugee laws and principles. During the 5-week training, as well as in local asylum office training, the INS provides Asylum Officers with specialized training on religious persecution issues.

The INS also provides Refugee Adjudicators with a specialized two-week training course in refugee law and overseas refugee procedures, as mandated by IRFA. The course was largely adapted from the Asylum Officer Basic Training Course (AOBTC), with some new modules developed specifically for overseas refugee processing. The training program pays special attention to religious persecution issues. Refugee training is conducted as needed when new officers are deployed overseas.

The Resource Information Center (RIC) in the INS Office of International Affairs Asylum Division serves both Asylum Officers and Refugee Adjudicators and is responsible for the collection or production, and distribution, of materials regarding human rights conditions around the world. The RIC has published an online guide to web research that is posted on the internal INS website, the INS Intranet. An INS Intranet site was created with links to government and non-government websites that contain information on religious persecution. The RIC separately catalogues religious freedom periodicals and separately codes RIC responses to field queries that involve religious issues.

II. Training of Immigration Officers Performing Duties under Section 235 (b) of the INA (Expedited Removal)
Approximately 4,500 Immigration Inspectors and 2,500 Detention and Deportation Officers may at some time be involved in the expedited removal/credible fear process and therefore are subject to the training provisions of Section 603(b) of IRFA. The INS has produced a training video that will be used to ensure that all officers who may be involved in the expedited removal/credible fear process under INA Section 235 (b) understand the need for sensitivity to persecution claims. The video will be disseminated to field offices in the near future.

III. Guidelines for Addressing Hostile Biases
The INS has included specific anti-bias provisions in the language services contract used by Asylum Officers in the Asylum Pre-Screening Program. The contract and interpreter oath also include special provisions that ensure the security and confidentiality of the credible fear process. The INS is in the final stages of incorporating anti-bias provisions in procedures for handling interpretation at all stages of the inspection process.