Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1-1-2014


Hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents live in the country lawfully and indefinitely but are not citizens. The rules governing the lives and freedom of these residents vary depending on their immigration status. This Article explores the boundaries of and rules attaching to two such important groups–resettled refugees and asylees–and explains why they must be deemed (unconditionally) admitted under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Whether a noncitizen is deemed “admitted” often determines whether he or she will be deported–banished–from the United States. It also may determine whether the noncitizen is subject to months or years of incarceration during resolution of her case, or while awaiting deportation. Perhaps because of these populations’ relative indigence, which contributes to their inability to access counsel, the case law in both the administrative and federal courts is strikingly confused and often misleading. For example, the Board of Immigration Appeals has stated for decades that refugee admission is “conditional”–although that term appears nowhere in the relevant statutory provisions. I analyze the historical trajectory of the concept of admission as it relates to refugees and asylees to reach my conclusion that they are (unconditionally) “admitted.” Today, as debates over immigration reform continue to rage, it is particularly important to understand the consequences of amendments relating to the grounds for detaining and deporting persons deemed not “admitted,” and why refugees and asylees do not fall into this category.