Tied up in the chaos of the global refugee crisis, the United States has been struggling to contain the number of refugees that have arrived in California, which hosts about 3.3 million people.
The number of asylum seekers who arrived in the state last year has surged from about 200 to 1,500.
But there’s a problem: Some of them are not being counted as refugees.
And so, a state agency is asking the public to help it determine who the refugees are and where they’re from.
The California Department of Public Health is asking for the public’s help in its efforts to track the number and status of those refugees who are living in the United State and are not eligible for refugee status.
“We’ve asked the public for help identifying people who are in our state, but we can’t find any data that shows that they’re actually refugees,” said Karen L. Hildreth, director of public health for the California Department.
“So we’ve been working with DHS to try and identify people who might be eligible for protection.”
Asylum seekers in the US who are not counted as refugee status are allowed to live and work in the country for up to 120 days.
But if they do not qualify for refugee protection, they face deportation.
The refugee status of refugees is determined on a case-by-case basis.
So, if a refugee is living in an area where the US is actively participating in a UN refugee convention, for example, then he or she can be granted refugee status there, Hildrick said.
“But that case-specific case needs to be reviewed by DHS to determine if the refugee is actually eligible for that status,” she said.
The state agency has started tracking the numbers of refugees who have been granted refugee protection in the past year and is in the process of determining who should be counted as a refugee.
If a refugee does not meet the criteria for refugee recognition, they are not allowed to re-enter the US for 120 days after being granted refugee recognition.
“There are some cases where it could be a case of a refugee who is in California that may be considered a refugee for the purposes of refugee recognition,” Hildrey said.
Asylum seeker numbers have skyrocketed in California over the past two years.
Between 2015 and 2017, the number rose from about 100,000 to about 1,300, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The agency’s goal is to count all refugees who arrived to the US in 2017.