Immigration News: May 13, 2022

Haitians seeking asylum are in the news today, with 200th U.S. deportation flight since September 2021 and the tragic deaths at sea of at least 11 would-be migrants near Puerto Rico. The United States has now barred asylum seekers for more than two years, and asylum has become a political football. Despite the drumbeat of news, facts about asylum law are little known. Did you know, for example, that crossing a border to request asylum is not illegal? And that asylum—not refugee status— is the only option open to people in the Western hemisphere? 

In an interview with Frank News, immigration prof Austin Kocher explains how asylum works, the difference between asylum and refugees, and much more.

“Those requesting asylum, typically, just come to the US-Mexico border. The US-Mexico border receives refugees from all over the world. Anytime there’s any kind of geopolitical activity, anywhere in the world, you will see people from the countries with unrest show up at the US-Mexico border to request asylum. 

“The world shows up at that border.

“In normal times, when Title 42 is not in place, these people approach the border, cross into the country, illegally, and then request asylum. They are then screened and go to a detention center for what right now is an average of about three weeks. After those three weeks, they are released on a monitoring program until they are able to go through the rest of the process. The rest of the process involves going to an immigration court, and having several hearings with an immigration judge until that judge makes a decision. …

“]If] you are fleeing a country as a refugee, ideally, you should be able to go to a safe place, register as a refugee, and then wait for the international community to find a place to resettle you. Unfortunately, because countries have not responded as much as they should have to the needs of refugees, many refugees in the world actually stay in these very dangerous, impoverished camps.  … There are children who are adults now who have spent their entire lives in the camp. …

“There’s one final point that is almost never talked about in the news. Unfortunately, there are basically no refugee camps in the Western hemisphere, so there isn’t even an option for people from El Salvador, let’s say, to go to a UNHCR refugee camp. There are no refugee camps.”

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Immigration News: May 12, 2022

Ukrainian refugees
Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Six million. As of today, more than six million refugees have left Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24. Millions more are internally displaced by the war. 

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Immigration News: May 11, 2022

For a change of pace, tonight’s post starts with two family/food stories. Union Hmong Kitchen is the restaurant, but the food and memories and history come alive in Yia’s mother’s kitchen.

[MPR] “Through listening to stories of his parents’ ordeal and hardships, Yia has built not just a restaurant but a storytelling space that’s an homage to them. Though he towers over her by more than a foot, Pang is boss and chef in this home kitchen. Her influence on her son is as palpable as the food we’re about to enjoy.

“’The food that we do at the restaurant, yes, it’s Hmong food,’ Yia explains, ‘and it’s a reflection of mom and dad’s table, but [at] mom and dad’s table, that’s where you’re gonna get what you’re longing for. We want to give people a taste — so that they want to actually explore more.’”

The American Dream is especially sweet for Cambodians in California, who own about 80 percent of the state’s doughnut shops. 

[CBS] “The mom-and-pop doughnut stores that dot California’s strip malls carry mostly the same mouth-watering doughy delights. But beyond the rows of glazed, chocolate and sprinkles lies a different kind of richness, in the stories of the Americans behind the counter.

“Roughly 80% of doughnut shops in southern California – that’s well over a thousand – are owned by Cambodian refugee families. They arrived in America in the late 1970s and early ’80s seeking safety as the Communist Khmer Rouge committed genocide in Cambodia’s killing fields. Millions were executed or disappeared. 

“Many who escaped settled in California, and found work in doughnut shops.” 

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Immigration News: May 10, 2022

Big Brother is Watching You sign
Image by Ventdorage, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

ICE is watching you. Its data collection, authorized in the aftermath of 9/11, includes citizens and non-citizens and is conducted without warrants or judicial oversight. ICE spies on us through drivers’ license records, utility bills, and facial recognition technology. 

[The Guardian] “US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) has built a vast digital surveillance system that gives it access to the personal details of almost every person in America, a two-year investigation by Georgetown University law center has found. … 

“Operating largely in secret and with minimal public oversight, Ice has amassed a formidable armory of digital capabilities that allows its agents to “pull detailed dossiers on nearly anyone, seemingly at any time”.

“The vast mountain of data to which Ice now has access includes:

• Driver’s license data for three of every four adults living in the US.

• Data drawn from the utility records of 75% of adults, covering more than 218 million unique utility consumers in all 50 states.

• Information on the movements of drivers in cities that contain 75% of the US population.Facial recognition technology drawn from the driver’s license photos of at least a third of all adults.”

[Los Angeles Times] “Immigration and Customs Enforcement has crafted a sophisticated surveillance dragnet designed to spy on most people living in the United States, without the need for warrants and many times circumventing state privacy laws, such as those in California, according to a two-year investigation released Tuesday by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology.

“Over the years, privacy law experts and civil rights activists and attorneys have accused ICE of overreach in its surveillance tactics directed at immigrants and Americans alike, but the Georgetown report paints a picture of an agency that has gone well beyond its immigration enforcement mandate, instead evolving into something of a broader domestic surveillance agency, according to the report, called “’American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century.’”

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Immigration News: May 9, 2022

Photograph taken by the graphic designer Laura Pavelko in 2002. The picture is a cropped image of Mitchell Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Photograph taken by the graphic designer Laura Pavelko in 2002. The picture is a cropped image of Mitchell Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Afghan evacuees face major challenges as they try to deal with both resettling in a new country and wading through immigration bureaucracy. Some find help – like Afghan women in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Eastbrook Church combined forces to help eight of the 150 Afghan women students from the Asian University for Women who escaped the Taliban. The university discounted the year of intensive English language classes and the church came up with funds for tuition. What comes next?

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Immigration Report: May 6, 2022

Border wall mural, photo by Jonathan McIntosh, used under Creative Commons license

Nothing is going to convince immigration opponents who continue to howl about “open borders,” which are no part of anyone’s policy. In contrast, the Biden administration continues to methodically plan to more efficiently process immigration at the border. 

[Border Report] “Biden administration officials say they’re shoring up law-enforcement, setting money aside for partner nonprofits and speeding up the processing of migrants in anticipation of the May 23 rollback of the Title 42 public health order.

“They’re also equipping buses with technology to process newly encountered migrants as they’re heading to or from U.S. Border Patrol stations and finding ways to keep processing centers from becoming overcrowded with a projected influx of up to 18,000 new migrants once Title 42 is lifted.”

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Immigration News: May 5, 2022

Feeling the need for some good news in a fairly disastrous week? Start with a heartwarming story that begins with the refugee journey of two sisters, ages 12 and 17, in 1999. The story continues with a social media search and a joyful reunion of the sisters and the woman who gave them a gift when they needed it most. 

[Star Tribune] “The joyful and emotional reunion online Sunday put the Blaine resident in touch with Ayda Zugay and her older sister, Vanja Contino, for the first time since May 31, 1999. Peck was on her way home from playing tennis in France when she met the then-teenage refugees escaping to the United States from the war-ravaged former Yugoslavia on a flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis. Peck was touched by their story about having to leave their parents behind. So she handed the girls, then 12 and 17, an envelope and told them not to open it until they left the plane.

“Peck had placed her earrings and a $100 bill inside the envelope with an encouraging message on hotel stationery. …

“Zugay and her sister used the money for food that summer while staying with their brother, a college student in Iowa, until they were placed with a host family. The sisters have never forgotten the stranger’s gesture, and for two decades had unsuccessfully searched for the mystery woman named ‘Tracy.'”

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Immigration News: May 4, 2022

U.S. officials report an increase in the number of Cubans arriving at the southern border on foot. At the same time, anonymous U.S. government sources said there is a new agreement with Mexico, in which Mexico agrees to take back more Cubans and Nicaraguans who are expelled from the United States.

[New York Times] “Since October — the start of the federal government’s 2022 fiscal year — nearly 79,000 Cubans have arrived at the United States’ southern border, more than in the previous two years combined, according to Customs and Border Protection figures. In March, more than 32,000 Cubans arrived at the border, most of them flying first to Nicaragua then traveling overland to the United States, according to a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of ongoing dialogue with the Cuban government. …

“The numbers are the highest since the Mariel boatlift in 1980, when 125,000 Cubans migrated to the United States after the island nation opened its seaports to American vessels to evacuate anyone who wanted to leave.”

[Washington Post] “The [U.S.-Mexico] deal is potentially significant because the Mexican government has more latitude to carry out deportation flights to Cuba and Nicaragua, nations whose frosty relations with Washington severely limit the United States’ ability to return their citizens. The number of Cuban and Nicaraguan migrants detained along the U.S. southern border has hit record levels in recent months, part of a wider migration surge under President Biden. …

“Cuba was the second-largest source of border-crossers, April data show. Nearly 35,000 were detained by CBP, up from 32,000 in March. The number of Nicaraguans apprehended fell to about 12,500, down from 16,000 in March. Mexico remains the single largest source of unauthorized migration.”

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Immigration News: May 3, 2022

Vice News has obtained copies of complaints filed by four non-profit legal organizations on behalf of thousands of migrant children held in Border Patrol detention. The 52-page document details systemic abuse, painting a picture of an agency that consistently fails to provide basic care and decent treatment for the children in its custody.    

[Vice] “The complaints, detailed here for the first time since being filed on April 6, allege migrant children in CBP custody are routinely denied medical care, served rotten or inedible food, and abused verbally and physically. The complaints also allege CBP routinely violates a court order that’s supposed to limit a kid’s time in CBP custody to 72 hours; instead they’re subjected to prolonged stays in frigid holding cells known as hieleras or ice boxes.  …

“The abuse described in the four complaints runs the gamut from CBP agents calling migrant kids obscenities in Spanish to threatening to beat kids with a nightstick, to even more extreme cases. One 16-year-old girl from Mexico, identified by the initials PAM, said the agents pulled her hair and nearly knocked her over while conducting a body search. She was pregnant at the time.”

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Immigration News: May 2, 2022

A new procedure slated to go into effect on May 31 would streamline the asylum process, in an attempt to reduce the 5-year wait time for a decision to 6 months. Asylum courts currently have a 1.7 million case backlog. Texas is suing to stop the change. 

[Texas Tribune] “Under the new process, asylum-seekers could be released into the country pending the outcome of their cases instead of being held in custody. If a migrant apprehended at the border claims they could be persecuted or tortured if they return to their home country, the asylum officer would decide if they have a credible claim. If the officer declines an asylum claim, migrants could appeal to an immigration judge. …

“Texas has filed nearly two dozen lawsuits in Texas-based federal courts, most of them led by Paxton, against the Biden administration over everything from federal mask mandates to the administration’s decision to halt the long-disputed Keystone XL pipeline. Trump-appointed judges have heard 16 of the cases and ruled in favor of Texas in seven. The other nine are pending as of March 15.”

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