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Student Instructor

Asylum Seekers at the U.S. Southern Border

Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.

3.1 Role

Welcome to your role as a participant in the National Security Council (NSC)! You can view your assignment by clicking on the “My Simulations” tab on your account page. You can learn about your role by reading the information provided in your case role, which can be found at the bottom of this page. Your case role description contains three parts: a description of your role, issues for consideration, and research leads. The role description details the position you will portray in the role-play. The issues for consideration will guide your thinking and assist you in approaching the case from the perspective of your assigned role. Research leads provide suggested materials and topics for further research specifically relevant to your assigned role. Review this information thoroughly and often, as your objectives and strategy in the position memo and role-play will be shaped by the institutional perspective of the role you have been assigned (unless you are playing a general advisor). If you have been assigned a customized role, please refer to guidelines set by your instructor.

Whether you have been assigned a specific role as an individual or part of a group, or as a general advisor to the president, we suggest you re-read the decision point and policy options to identify actions that are particularly relevant to the department or agency that you represent that may require further investigation. There are three subsections that follow. Research and Preparation (3.2) will aid your research for the position memo and provide additional reading to guide your research; the Guide to the Memorandum (3.3) provides information about position memos and an example; and the Guide to the Role-Play (3.4) provides more information on the  role-play. After you finish the role-play and subsequent debrief, you will have an opportunity to share your personal thoughts and recommendations on this case in a policy review memo (Section 4, Wrap-up).

All case roles are listed below.

Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.GO TO SECTION 4.1

Case Roles

Description of Role: 

The president is the head of state and commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. They preside over National Security Council (NSC) meetings and listens to the advice and information presented by others. The president is not expected to be an expert on any single subject, but instead draws on the expertise of the NSC to analyze options and choose what they feel is the best policy to advance U.S. interests. 

The president’s goals are to 

  • select one or more policy options after considering the opinions and recommendations of NSC members; and 
  • balance and promote U.S. interests, with an eye toward both immediate goals and long-term foreign policy strategy. 

 

Issues for Consideration: 

These can be used to frame the role-play and encourage debate among fellow NSC members.

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country?  
  • What is the range of attitudes in the United States on asylum policy? Do these attitudes vary by age, geographic region, income, or political affiliation? 
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • Where does the debate over asylum policy fit in the broader range of domestic concerns facing the United States? How is it similar or different to discussions of refugee resettlement or migrants in general? 
  • How is the present response to refugee entry different or similar to previous periods of high entry? 

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The vice president must be ready at a moment’s notice to assume the presidency if the commander in chief is unable to perform their duties. Vice presidents can play a relatively active role on the National Security Council (NSC), serving as a general advisor and freely advocating their own positions during meetings. In particular, the president may ask the vice president to serve as an independent voice, untethered to any of the agencies represented by other NSC participants. The president may also ask about the interaction between the issue at hand and the domestic political situation, including in Congress.

The vice president’s goals are to

  • provide advice to the president on any topic, including those overlooked by other NSC participants; and
  • understand the range of views in Congress and work to build congressional and public support for the president’s chosen approach.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country? 
  • What is the range of attitudes in the United States on asylum policy? Do these attitudes vary by age, geographic region, income, or political affiliation? 
  • How, if at all, would the White House need to work with Congress to execute any of the proposed policy options in this case? How could varying congressional attitudes influence the U.S. response to the current influx of asylum seekers? 
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • What, if any, constituencies in the United States have especially strong views on refugee resettlement? What does this suggest about the domestic political consequences of various responses? 
  • How is the present response to refugee entry different or similar to previous periods of high entry? 

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The national security advisor (NSA) has a special role in crisis management, serving as the “honest broker” for the national security policy process. Although the president makes final decisions, the NSA is responsible for ensuring that they have all the necessary information, that a full range of viable policy options has been articulated, that the prospects for success and failure have been identified, that any legal issues have been addressed, and that all members of the National Security Council (NSC) have had the opportunity to contribute. 

The national security advisor’s goals are to 

  • facilitate the president’s consideration of issues by keeping the NSC discussion on track and guiding it toward concrete policy options; and
  • build trust as an honest broker among the other NSC participants.  

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country? 
  • What is the range of attitudes in the United States on asylum policy? Do these attitudes vary by age, geographic region, income, or political affiliation? 
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • What are the most important factors for the president to balance when making a decision on refugee policy? 
  • Where does the debate over asylum policy fit in the broader range of domestic concerns facing the United States? How is it similar or different to discussions of refugee resettlement or migrants in general? 

 

Research Leads: 

Description of Role:

The chief of staff oversees the Executive Office of the President, which provides the president with support to govern effectively. This post has traditionally been home to many of the president’s closest advisors. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the chief of staff ensures that the president has the necessary analysis on the full range of factors relevant to the case, including the U.S. political situation. They also guide the process of implementing and communicating presidential decisions. 

The chief of staff’s goals are to 

  • highlight the domestic implications of U.S. foreign policy choices; and  
  • develop strategies to carry out the president's policy and communicate it to U.S. and international audiences.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country? 
  • What is the range of attitudes in the United States on asylum policy? Do these attitudes vary by age, geographic region, income, or political affiliation? 
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • What are the most important factors for the president to balance when making a decision on refugee policy?  
  • What, if any, constituencies in the United States have especially strong views on refugee resettlement? What does this suggest about the domestic political consequences of various responses? 
  • Where does the debate over asylum policy fit in the broader range of domestic concerns facing the United States? How is it similar or different to discussions of refugee resettlement or migrants in general? 
  • How can the president best articulate a decision and communicate it to the American people and the world? 

 

Research Leads: 

Description of Role:

The Department of State maintains the U.S. diplomatic presence around the world, conducting foreign relations and using an on-the-ground perspective to generate country-specific knowledge. As head of the department, the secretary draws on this knowledge to present an authoritative view of the United States’ bilateral relationships, the relationships between foreign countries, and the behavior and interests of foreign governments. 

The secretary of state’s goals are to 

  • serve as the president’s principal foreign policy advisor; and 
  • analyze how policy options will affect the interests, reputation, and relationships of the United States. 

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country?  
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • What are the various capacities of industrialized and developing countries to adapt to changes projected to occur in the global refugee situation? 
  • What is the range of views among the United States’ allies on refugee admissions? 
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in this issue? How, if at all, could they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation? 

 

Research Leads: 

Description of Role:

The secretary of defense is the principal defense policy advisor to the president, under whose direction they exercise authority over the Department of Defense. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the secretary analyzes the security situation in the relevant region and explains the likely implications of U.S. military involvement, both for the immediate crisis and for the United States’ overall strategic position. 

The secretary of defense’s goals are to 

  • understand the options for and feasibility of any military action, as well as its possible outcomes; and 
  • identify ways to prevent the deterioration of a crisis to the point where it mandates U.S. military intervention. 

 

Issues for Consideration: 

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees into the country?  
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • How does the United States’ historical role in refugee resettlement factor into the current debate? 
  • Where does the debate over asylum policy fit in the broader range of domestic concerns facing the United States? How is it similar or different to discussions of refugee resettlement or migrants in general? 
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in this issue? How, if at all, could they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?

 

Research Leads: 

Description of Role:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is the highest-ranking member of the U.S. military and the principal military advisor to the president, the secretary of defense, the National Security Council (NSC), and the Homeland Security Council. The CJCS does not exercise command authority over U.S. troops. Instead, they work with the heads of the U.S. military services to provide advice to the president and other senior leaders. 

The CJCS’s goals are to 

  • serve as the president’s military advisor on the NSC; and  
  • advise the president on specific military options and the corresponding risks, benefits, and implications.  

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • How would changes to the refugee admittance ceiling affect U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees into the country?  
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • How is the global refugee situation projected to change in the coming years? What response should the United States have to these projections? 
  • Where does the debate over asylum policy fit in the broader range of domestic concerns facing the United States? How is it similar or different to discussions of refugee resettlement or migrants in general? 
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in this issue? How, if at all, could they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The Department of the Treasury carries out policy on issues related to the U.S. and global economies and financial systems. The secretary of the treasury, as head of this department, serves as one of the president’s chief economic advisors. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, they analyze the economic dimensions of foreign policy issues and weighs the potential impact of policy options on U.S. economic concerns, including growth, trade and investment, and the position of the U.S. dollar. 

The secretary of the treasury’s goals are to 

  • serve as a senior presidential advisor on economic policy; and 
  • determine how foreign policy options might affect the U.S. economy and financial system, the global economy, and economic relations between the United States and others. 

 

Issues for Consideration: 

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country?  
  • According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, how is the global refugee situation projected to change in the coming years? 
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • What does evidence suggest about refugees’ economic situations once resettled in the United States? Do the majority of resettled refugees contribute to the U.S. economy, or do they rely on portions of the welfare state? 
  • How have other Western countries’ economies been affected following refugee resettlement? 
  • Where does the debate over asylum policy fit in the broader range of domestic concerns facing the United States? How is it similar or different to discussions of refugee resettlement or migrants in general? 

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

Created after September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) focuses on such issues as terrorism prevention, border security and immigration, disaster response, and cybersecurity. Agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration are part of this department. The secretary must help the president and other National Security Council (NSC) members understand any risks to the United States and its citizens that may arise from the situation and possible policy responses. 

The secretary of homeland security’s goals are to 

  • advise the president on the homeland security dimensions of crises and potential policy responses, including any threats or implications for U.S. border security; and 
  • ensure the implementation of steps to protect the country and manage any security risks arising from the issue under consideration.  

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • How would changes to the refugee admittance ceiling affect U.S. national security? What is the state of national security in other countries with strict refugee admittance ceilings? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees into the country?  
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • How is the global refugee situation projected to change in the coming years? What response should the United States have to these projections? 
  • Where does the debate over asylum policy fit in the broader range of domestic concerns facing the United States? How is it similar or different to discussions of refugee resettlement or migrants in general? 
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in this issue? How, if at all, could they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation? 
  • Do what degree are U.S. military or civilian personnel involved in other countries with high levels of population movement? 

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The U.S. intelligence community consists of seventeen agencies and organizations that gather and analyze intelligence to help policymakers formulate and implement U.S. foreign policy. The director of national intelligence oversees this network of agencies. They focus on providing the latest relevant information to National Security Council (NSC) members and articulating the capabilities and interests of the intelligence community.  

The director of national intelligence’s goals are to 

  • provide complete, accurate, and up-to-date information to the NSC on the situation under discussion; and 
  • serve as the principal advisor to the president and the NSC on intelligence matters. 

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • How would changes to the refugee admittance ceiling affect U.S. national security? What is the state of national security in other countries with strict refugee admittance ceilings? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees into the country?  
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, how is the global refugee situation projected to change in the coming years? 
  • Where does the debate over asylum policy fit in the broader range of domestic concerns facing the United States? How is it similar or different to discussions of refugee resettlement or migrants in general? 
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in this issue? How, if at all, could they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?  
  • Do what degree are U.S. military or civilian personnel involved in other countries with high levels of population movement? 

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The attorney general is the head of the Department of Justice and the chief lawyer of the U.S. government. The department represents the United States in legal matters, including by prosecuting violations of federal law. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the attorney general gives the president advice and opinions on the legal aspects of policies under consideration.  

The attorney general’s goals are to 

  • consider the legal elements and implications of U.S. foreign policy options; and  
  • ensure that any policies decided by the NSC are in compliance with domestic and international law.

 

Issues for Consideration: 

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country?  
  • According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, how is the global refugee situation projected to change in the coming years?  
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should these various interests influence U.S. actions? 
  • What is the range of attitudes in the United States on asylum policy? Do these attitudes vary by age, geographic region, income, or political affiliation? 
  • How will the refugee admittance ceiling affect immigration courts? What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?  
  • How is the present response to refugee entry different or similar to previous periods of high entry? 

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The role of the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) is to advance U.S. foreign policy interests in the bodies and forums of the UN system. Reporting to the secretary of state, the permanent representative helps formulate and articulate the U.S. position on all political and security matters under discussion at the UN. At National Security Council (NSC) meetings, they outline policy steps available to the United States at the UN and advises NSC participants on the positions and actions of other UN member states. 

The U.S. permanent representative to the UN’s goals are to 

  • advise the president and secretary of state on the diplomatic actions the United States can or should take at the UN; and 
  • promote the United States’ interests and values at the UN.  

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country?  
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should these various interests influence U.S. actions? 
  • How does the United States’ historical role in refugee resettlement factor into the current debate? 
  • What role does the United Nations, specifically the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), play in efforts to process and resettle refugees? How does the United States support the UNHCR’s work? 
  • According to the UNHCR, how is the global refugee situation projected to change in the coming years? 
  • What is the range of views among the American public toward the UNHCR and its work with refugees? 
  • How should the United States articulate its interests and views on refugee admissions in forums such as the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council? 
  • What are the various capacities of industrialized and developing countries to adapt to changes projected to occur in the global refugee situation? 
  • How could UN accords on migration, such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, and the Global Compact on Refugees, inform the United States’ refugee policies? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?  

 

Research Leads: 

Description of Role:

Part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s responsibilities include safeguarding U.S. borders, preventing drug smuggling, enforcing immigration laws, protecting agriculture, and ensuring trade compliance.  

The Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s goals are to 

  • highlight the national security dimensions of U.S. border security, including any threats or potential crises, and advise on potential policy responses; and 
  • develop strategies to promote economic prosperity for the United States.  

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country?  
  • According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, how is the global refugee situation projected to change in the coming years? 
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • What changes to would need to be made to current U.S. Customs and Border Protection practices with a lower refugee admittance ceiling?  
  • What is the range of attitudes in the United States on asylum policy? Do these attitudes vary by age, geographic region, income, or political affiliation? 
  • How could UN accords on migration, such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and the Global Compact on Refugees, inform the United States’ refugee policies? 
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this situation? How should these various interests influence U.S. actions? 
  • What are the most important factors for the president to balance when making a decision on refugee policy? 
  • How would changes to the refugee admittance ceiling affect U.S. national security?  

 

Research Leads: 

Description of Role:

Created on March 1, 2003, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a federal law enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its responsibilities include immigration enforcement, investigating illegal movement of people and goods, and preventing terrorism.  

The Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s goals are to 

  • advise the president on the national security dimensions of U.S. border security, including any threats relating to transnational crimes; and 
  • develop strategies to enforce immigration laws in United States. 

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country?  
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? 
  • According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, how is the global refugee situation projected to change in the coming years? 
  • What are the most important factors for the president to balance when making a decision on refugee policy? 
  • How would changes to the refugee admittance ceiling affect U.S. national security?  
  • How would changes to the refugee admittance ceiling affect undocumented people in the United States?  
  • What is the range of attitudes in the United States on asylum policy? Do these attitudes vary by age, geographic region, income, or political affiliation? 
  • How is the present response to refugee entry different or similar to previous periods of high entry? 

 

Research Leads: 

Description of Role:

The general advisor offers analysis and recommendations that are unconstrained by the interests of any department or agency. They are tasked with providing a comprehensive assessment of the situation at hand and ideas for policy options that serve U.S. interests.  

The general advisor’s goals are to 

  • understand the breadth of the issue and outline its stakes for the United States; and 
  • advise the president on the range of policy options proposed by all NSC members. 

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What responsibility does the United States have to accept refugees and asylum seekers into the country?  
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?  
  • According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, how is the global refugee situation projected to change in the coming years? 
  • What is the range of attitudes in the United States on asylum policy? Do these attitudes vary by age, geographic region, income, or political affiliation? 
  • How would changes in U.S. refugee resettlement policy affect the United States’ role globally? 
  • What, if any, constituencies in the United States have especially strong views on refugee resettlement? What does this suggest about the domestic political consequences of various responses? 
  • How is the present response to refugee entry different or similar to previous periods of high entry? 
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in this issue? How, if at all, could they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation? 

 

Research Leads: 

This is a customized role created by the instructor. Please see your instructor for your role description.

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