Waiting Games: Asylum, DACA, Family Separation

#StandOnEveryCorner in St. Paul

#StandOnEveryCorner in St. Paul

Asylum seekers face increasing barriers, beginning with Attorney General Sessions’ attempt to bar victims of domestic or gang violence.

“I had the unenviable task of telling them that it was much more difficult for them now,” Dorchen Leidholdt, director of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at the Sanctuary for Families, told Al Jazeera. The women told her, “It’s good you let us know, so we can know how to pray, so we can ask God to help us.”

Lawyers help, too. A TRAC analysis showed that nearly half of asylum seekers with lawyers won their cases, compared to only one in ten unrepresented asylum seekers. TRAC also found that the number of unrepresented asylum seekers is rising.

Immigrants in detention have greater difficulties getting representation and hearings. They are often held in remote locations, with little access to lawyers.

Even women who have been admitted to the United States as refugees face tough going. Burned with acid, maimed, fearing for her life, Deborah Jane fled her abusive husband and his gang in Uganda four years ago. After a sojourn in a refugee camp, she was admitted to the United States in January, 2016.

“[Deborah Jane] immediately applied to have her children — the youngest of whom was 4 years old — to join her in the U.S. A year later, around the same time Donald Trump assumed the presidency, her paperwork was approved. “We just needed the children to do interviews, medical — a few things, and then they’d be able to come,” Jane told The Intercept, “But since then, there has been only silence.”

Still waiting on DACA: Three federal district courts have ruled against the Trump administration’s rescission of DACA. Their rulings require the government to accept DACA renewals, but do not require processing of new DACA applications. A federal district judge in Texas, widely considered hostile to DACA, is expected to rule soon on a legal challenge to the existence of DACA filed by Texas and other state attorneys general. If he rules against DACA, the cases will be heading for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The uncertainty weighs heavy on DACA recipients and their families. Fear is pervasive. Most respondents to a new survey from the Center for American Progress think about being deported at least once a day. Among those who are parents, “76 percent reported that they think about ‘being separated from [their] children because of deportation’ at least once a day, and 74 percent think about ‘not being able to see [their] children grow up because of deportation’ at least once a day.” About 40 percent of DACA recipients whose status expires in 2018 still have not applied for renewal.

The survey also details gains from DACA, finding that, “About 96 percent [of DACA recipients] are in school or working and 78 percent have seen an increase in their average hourly wage, while more than six in 10 were able to buy their first car after enrolling in DACA.”

Fighting family separation: 38 parents, separated from their children at the border and now reunited, are fighting deportation in a lawsuit filed in the DC federal district August 17. Judge Dana Sabraw’s order has kept them in the United States so far, but that’s only temporary relief. They want a chance to present their asylum cases, a chance they say was denied because of the circumstances of their interviews while their children were detained:  

“Parents describe being interviewed after going weeks without seeing their children, and in some cases knowing nothing about where their children were. Many had trouble concentrating in a fog of insomnia, depression, and grief; others couldn’t understand the purpose of the interview and thought if they got through it more quickly they would see their children again. Some had barely any recollection of the interview after the fact….

“The reason, to lawyers and psychiatrists, is obvious: Parents were being asked difficult questions — in an interview designed to recount the traumas they’d suffered in their home country and test their credibility — while totally consumed with the anxiety that came with not having seen their children in weeks….

“The new lawsuit shows just how true this is. The lead plaintiff, given the pseudonym “Dora,” was interviewed right after she’d just spoken to her son for the first time after their separation — a conversation in which he’d told her he was being good so an official would not hit him with a belt. She was interviewed while crying over the phone call and repeatedly told the asylum officer she was confused about what she was being asked. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t pass.”

This is also family separation: Sudi Wardere came to the United States when she was 10 years old. Two years ago, expecting her first child, she petitioned for an immigrant visa for her husband. Now her son is 14 months old, and their family is still separated, because her husband is a Somali national, kept out of the country by Trump’s Muslim ban.

More judges coming: President Trump says we don’t need judges, just deportations. We’re getting more immigration judges anyway—82 new judges since January 2017, and 75 more in the pipeline. The current total of immigration judges across the country: 351. The current backlog of immigration cases: more than 700,000, and growing.

Crazy Rich Asians: Minnesotans Bo Thao Urabe and Kay Yao share their stories in a New York Times article debunking the “model minority” myth:

“I watched my parents struggle to make ends — going to adult school to learn English, working factory jobs and cleaning homes to make ends meet,” said Bo Thao-Urabe, 45, of St. Paul, Minn., who came as a refugee from Laos in 1979, after extensive American bombing during the Vietnam War. “As kids we got up extra early to go dumpster diving for aluminum cans in those early years. In the summer months, we became farm laborers throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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