Immigration News for Monday, May 10, 2021

Minnesota stories:

Dania Barrera Carrasco details the roadblocks she encountered when trying to schedule vaccine appointments for herself and family members. These barriers keep Latinx vaccination rates in Minnesota lower than those of the community as a whole. (MinnPost)

“In order to increase the number of Latinx people receiving the vaccine, we must ensure that sites follow the guidelines for distribution, add in translated materials while also finding methods to push for vaccination appointment sign-ups in Latinx communities, and ensure that sites are fully aware of the documentation guidelines to provide a sense of assurance for undocumented people.” 

MPR interviews Anthea Yur, an Asian-American mechanical engineer and community activist. She explains the roots of her activism: 

“When I think of my own cultural pride, I think of the resistance and the resilience and the strength and courage that I’ve seen growing up with my parents. Seeing that they integrated themselves into small towns. We first immigrated from Taiwan. Well, first, my mother emigrated from Burma to Taiwan. And that was just a crazy, incredible experience for her to just want to provide more for our family. And then we were raised in Iowa. And so seeing that resilience, and that strength, and that power, to still feel your cultural pride while trying to adapt to a society that is literally telling you to go home, is telling you to go back to your country, telling you to forget your culture, to me that is so inspiring. 

“And it’s so important to me as a second-generation immigrant, it’s so important to me to really fulfill that ‘American dream,’ that my parents chased. And without racial equity, I can’t live that dream for them.” 

Painfully Slow Progress 

While Biden has increased the refugee cap, refugee admissions still depend on increasing processing abroad—and that’s not happening quickly. Only 2,334 refugees were admitted between the beginning of this fiscal year on October 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021. (Vox)

“Tens of thousands more refugees are still stranded abroad, waiting for their chance to come to the US, including many who have already been interviewed by US authorities and are facing lengthy processing delays. ,,,

“Refugees have to undergo extensive, in-person processing and vetting. Typically, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) identifies a refugee abroad and refers them to a receiving country such as the US. A refugee support center, run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) or a resettlement agency, helps the refugee prepare an application showing the basis of their claim with supporting identity documents, if available.

“That application is sent to DHS, which then dispatches an official out into the field to interview the applicant and determine whether they fit the legal criteria for what constitutes a refugee: that they face “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.

“If they advance, they undergo a medical evaluation and their application is shared with unspecified federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to screen for potential security threats. They can only get on a plane to the US if they pass.

“’It’s a miracle anybody gets through it, frankly,’ Hetfield said. ‘We used to say it takes 18 to 24 months, but that was under the Obama administration, and now it takes between 18 months and forever — or never.’”

Slowly but surely, the Biden administration is loosening restrictions on asylum seekers and families, admitting more than 10,000 asylum seekers so far. Dayana and Lazaro, two Cuban political dissidents, arrived at the border in 2019. (CBS News)

“Dayana, who was pregnant at the time, was allowed to enter and stay in the U.S. on humanitarian grounds. Lazaro, however, was sent back to Mexico and instructed to wait there indefinitely for his U.S. asylum court hearings….

“Lazaro was stranded in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, for a year and seven months and missed the birth of his daughter, Ashley, who was born in the Dallas area last July. He said he hit an emotional low point during the coronavirus pandemic, when the court hearings for his asylum case — the gateway to reuniting with Dayana and meeting Ashley — were postponed indefinitely. …

“Lazaro and Dayana are looking forward to starting a new life with their daughter in the U.S. Like other asylum-seekers admitted into the U.S., they still have to continue their immigration proceedings to pursue asylum or other forms of permanent legal status.” 

Immigration Courts Must Change

The attorney general can take cases away from immigration judges and rewrite the rules. That’s what Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions did in an asylum case, issuing a unilateral ruling that denied asylum to women fleeing domestic abuse. It’s time to reverse his ruling. (The Hill)

“Sessions’ decision adopted the long-discredited notion that gender-based violence is merely a ‘private’ matter, rather than a human rights violation, and therefore cannot be grounds for refugee protection. So much for the idea that ‘women’s rights are human rights.’ The ruling was a shameless attempt to slam the door on people fleeing countries like Ms. A.B.’s native El Salvador, where human rights violators are frequently members of victims’ own households and communities who perpetrate violence with impunity….

“Merrick Garland can protect survivors like Cristina by simply vacatingSessions’ decision and related asylum rulings from Trump’s Department of Justice. This would at least bring us back to where we were before — not a perfect world, but one where asylum seekers had a fairer shot — while the Justice Department prepares a more humane and legally defensible set of principles to guide future decision-making in asylum cases.” 

Trump-appointed immigration judges included many with zero immigration law experience and others with prosecutorial and enforcement backgrounds. Immigration courts became more politicized than ever before, and the immigration court backlog ballooned to an unheard-of 1.3 million. (New York Times)

“Every day, hundreds of immigration judges slog through thousands of cases, unable to keep up with a crushing backlog that has more than doubled since 2016. Many cases involve complex claims of asylum by those who fear for their safety in their home countries. Most end up in legal limbo, waiting years for even an initial hearing. Some people sit in detention centers for months or longer, despite posing no risk to the public. None have the right to a lawyer, which few could afford anyway….

“In 2020, the immigration courts denied 72 percent of asylum claims, the highest portion ever, and far above the denial rates during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations….

“The solution is clear: Congress needs to take immigration courts out of the Justice Department and make them independent, similar to other administrative courts that handle bankruptcy, income-tax and veterans’ cases. Immigration judges would then be freed from political influence…” 

The entire immigration court system needs to be reformed. In the meantime, President Biden must stop appointing Trump-selected judges. (The Hill

“The Biden team has hired a slate of immigration judges initially selected during the Trump era, angering advocates who argue the White House is already failing to deliver in its pledge to push back against the prior administration’s shaping of the judiciary.

“The first 17 hires to the court system responsible for determining whether migrants get to remain in the country is filled with former prosecutors and counselors for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as a few picks with little immigration experience.”  

Speaking Out For Children

Colombian immigrant Juliana Urtubey, a bilingual California special education teacher, has been named National Teacher of the Year. (Education Week)

“Urtubey said she wants more accessible bilingual education, and is hopeful the Biden administration will give teachers a seat at the table when it comes to policymaking. 

“’I’m really grateful to lean into this idea that teachers are leaders from their classroom,’ she said. ‘Cohesively, at our schools we can advocate for these changes. And now there’s more of a space for us to collaborate with policy because policy really needs to be informed by what teachers see every single day.’

“She also said she wants to use her platform as National Teacher of the Year to advocate for creative ways to recruit and retain teachers of color.”

An Iowa mom makes the case for admitting undocumented children, insisting that many other Iowa and U.S. families are ready to host unaccompanied minors and governors should not stand in their way.(Des Moines Register)

“I am a white parent of three biological children, and six years ago we invited two undocumented, unaccompanied Latino boys (ages 12 and 14) to join our family. We helped walk the boys through a legal process as their permanent legal guardians. One of the boys, Jose, continues to live with our family. He has graduated from high school in Orange City and is entering the workforce, and I now consider him my son. He has ongoing contact with his mom in Mexico and his undocumented sister and nephews who are also in our area. 

“I learned of the boys’ need for housing through an informal Christian network; they had both endured more than any child should, including the loss of close family members. Walking with the boys through their cultural and developmental transitions in a white, rural community hasn’t been easy, and our story is not perfect. I have, however, learned how much joy can come from being present in parenting.”

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,, 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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