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Harvard Study Finds Shortcomings in 1990 Asylum Rules

December 14, 1992

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ The political asylum regulations adopted by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1990 are an improvement, but still fall short of what is needed, says a group that studied the system.

″There was a really bad system before,″ said Deborah Anker, the director of the National Asylum Study Project at Harvard Law School. ″There was very little independent decision-making. That’s changed.″

But the group’s report, to be released today, found the system still marred by administrative problems. They included losing applicants’ files, an unrealistically high quota of cases for asylum officers and widely uneven quality among the officers.

The report is the first comprehensive evaluation of the most recent asylum regulations, according to today’s Boston Globe. The 1990 rules were issued in response to charges that previous procedures were unfair to applicants.

Gregg Beyer, director of the asylum programs for INS, acknowledged shortcomings in the system and said the government already was implementing many of the recommendations made by the Harvard study.

The 1990 regulations established a corps of asylum officers and resulted in the opening of seven new asylum offices around the country.

According to the report, the newly trained officers are generally more qualified, better informed and more open-minded than their predecessors. U.S. foreign policy considerations are less likely to determine the outcome of an individual case.

An exception to the overall improvement, according to the report, were cases of Haitian refugees held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The approval rates for Haitians seeking to come to the United States varied from a high of 85 percent in January to a low of 2 percent in early April, following a U.S. State Department briefing to asylum officers, the report said.

In fiscal year 1992, the government granted 4,019 people political asylum. There is a backlog of more than 215,000 cases.

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