CLOSE
Original image
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

How Do Refugees Get Vetted?

Original image
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

According to the United Nations, there is currently an unprecedented number of displaced people in the world; almost 34,000 people a day flee their homes to escape conflict and persecution, per the UN's 2015 statistics. Out of the estimated 21.3 million refugees in the world, only a small portion resettle in the United States. Since the federal refugee program was created in 1980, 3 million refugees have entered the U.S., with 85,000 entering between October 2015 and September 2016.

The Refugee Act of 1980 established a resettlement program and federal standards for screening and admitting refugees. Just how does that vetting work?

For most refugees trying to enter the United States, the process takes between 18 and 24 months and involves referrals from the United Nations, security checks and interviews with several national security agencies in the U.S., fingerprinting, and a health screening. According to the State Department, “No traveler to the United States is subject to more rigorous security screening than the refugees the U.S. Government considers for admission.”

First, applicants have to register as refugees with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which works in 128 countries and runs refugee camps in places like Turkey, Jordan, Thailand and Tanzania. Being a refugee means you’ve fled your home country and are afraid to return based on fear of persecution related to your race, religion, nationality, social group (like if you’re LGBT), or political views. Ideally, you have documents that confirm your story, like letters or written testimony from friends or relatives who know your situation. Sometimes an NGO or the U.S. consulate can refer you to the UNHCR, but that’s rare.

UNHCR vets refugees for eligibility with an eye toward how vulnerable their situation is—like if they’re an orphan, a victim of torture, or if they have serious medical needs [PDF]. They also are looking to weed out people who aren’t eligible as refugees, such as war criminals. Only around 1 percent of the refugee population around the world is deemed a “strong candidate” for resettlement in another country like the U.S. or Canada. While you can put down a preference, refugees ultimately don't get to decide where they are resettled, though having family ties or speaking a particular country’s language can help.

Once the UNHCR determines that a refugee is eligible and collects their documentation and biographical info, they get forwarded on to one of nine Resettlement Support Centers that the State Department contracts with for such services. The center interviews them and puts them into a database of worldwide refugees, checks their information, and then sends it on to the other agencies that will conduct background checks. The National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, and the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State all do background checks and screen refugees for threats of terrorism and any previous criminal history. The U.S. intelligence community also reviews applicants.

Then, all that information goes to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. Those agencies conduct more interviews (in the refugee's host country) and check for inconsistencies in the refugee's story. After the Department of Homeland Security decides you are not a national security threat, you get fingerprinted. Your fingerprints are run through FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense databases to further screen for threats.

As a Syrian refugee currently living in the United States recently wrote in Politico:

"Over 15 months I was interviewed five times—in person, over the phone, by the United Nations and by the United States. They asked me about my family, my politics, my hobbies, my childhood, my opinions of the U.S., and even my love life. No less than four U.S. government agencies had the opportunity to screen me. By the time I received my offer to live in the United States, the U.S. officials in charge of my case file knew me better than my family and friends do."

After that, if the U.S. government believes a refugee is eligible for resettlement in America, they still have to undergo a medical check to make sure they won’t be a threat to public health once they arrive, plus take a class to learn about American culture and customs.

Once a refugee is finally cleared, they are assigned to a resettlement destination chosen by the resettlement organizations and the State Department. Officials from the nine resettlement agencies meet once a week to go over the applications and place refugees around the U.S.

Even once they go through all that, there’s still one last step in the vetting: Like any other international traveler, refugees have to go through customs and get screened by TSA.

Sound complicated? It is. To help you better wrap your mind around the steps, the Obama administration visualized this process in an infographic on the White House website:

Once a refugee makes it through customs, representatives from domestic resettlement agencies meet them at the airport to help them settle into their new communities. But the process still isn't entirely over. Finally, if they make it through all that, they still have to apply for a green card a year after resettlement.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Original image
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
arrow
Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
Original image
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
How Long Could a Person Survive With an Unlimited Supply of Water, But No Food at All?
Original image
iStock

How long could a person survive if he had unlimited supply of water, but no food at all?

Richard Lee Fulgham:

I happen to know the answer because I have studied starvation, its course, and its utility in committing a painless suicide. (No, I’m not suicidal.)

A healthy human being can live approximately 45 to 65 days without food of any kind, so long as he or she keeps hydrated.

You could survive without any severe symptoms [for] about 30 to 35 days, but after that you would probably experience skin rashes, diarrhea, and of course substantial weight loss.

The body—as you must know—begins eating itself, beginning with adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and next the muscle tissue.

Google Mahatma Gandhi, who starved himself almost to death during 14 voluntary hunger strikes to bring attention to India’s independence movement.

Strangely, there is much evidence that starvation is a painless way to die. In fact, you experience a wonderful euphoria when the body realizes it is about to die. Whether this is a divine gift or merely secretions of the brain is not known.

Of course, the picture is not so pretty for all reports. Some victims of starvation have experienced extreme irritability, unbearably itchy skin rashes, unceasing diarrhea, painful swallowing, and edema.

In most cases, death comes when the organs begin to shut down after six to nine weeks. Usually the heart simply stops.

(Here is a detailed medical report of the longest known fast: 382 days.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios