Sunday is World Refugee Day. (Religious News Service)
“U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota thanked Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service during an online event Thursday (June 17), in the name of ‘all the refugees you have settled and the millions around the world who have benefited from your work.’
“Omar knows, she said, because she is one of those refugees….
“Ahead of World Refugee Day, LIRS also celebrated the contributions of former refugees.
“Vignarajah pointed to the work of Omar and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, another Democrat, who shared in a prerecorded message that his parents had fled Nazi Germany to come to the U.S.
“Lubab Al-Quraishi, a former Iraqi refugee who had been a pathologist in Baghdad, explained that thanks to an executive order by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy that licensed foreign-trained health care workers to help fight COVID-19 in his state, she spent the past year leading a team who tested nursing home residents for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.”
Discredited and inaccurate extreme vetting processes reject thousands of refugees, especially those from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This report by the International Refugee Assistance Project urges a comprehensive review and reform of the existing security vetting system.
“When President Trump took office, he was able to pursue his goal of stopping the admission of refugees— especially Muslim refugees—by exacerbating the problems with a vetting system already riddled with backlogs and high rates of discretionary denials. …
“When a refugee receives a discretionary denial based on a security check, they simply receive a standard “Notice of Ineligibility” letter with a box checked indicating that they were denied as a matter of discretion. …
“At this point, the refugee’s hope for safe passage has hit a dead end. A refugee denied based on a security check will generally not have any other options for resettlement in a third country. With limited resettlement globally, the UNHCR generally cannot re-submit the same case to another country for resettlement consideration; a U.S. security rejection, no matter how spurious or unsupported, will discourage another country from considering the application. Refugees understand what this means for them. in Nauru, a remote island in the South Pacific where refugees were awaiting resettlement in harrowing conditions, USCIS denied refugee admission to over 260 refugees, many of them Iranian or Somali, as a result of extreme vetting. After receiving the rejection notice, one Iranian woman threw herself into the ocean in an attempted suicide.”
One of the most urgent challenges facing the Biden administration is the need to rescue Afghans who worked for the U.S. armed forces. Tens of thousands of these workers—and their families—are in danger of Taliban retaliation as U.S. troops pull out. Apart from those waiting to apply, a backlog of 18,000 applications are waiting to be processed. (Reuters)
“A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday would speed up the processing of special immigration visas (SIVs) for Afghans at risk of Taliban retribution because they worked for the U.S. government.
“The bill also would raise from 11,000 to 19,000 the number of SIVs available for qualifying Afghans.”
Biden Administration Changes Made
The Biden administration is replacing a Trump-era office focused on publicizing crimes by immigrants with a new office serving immigrant crime victims.(Associated Press)
“VOICE will be replaced by The Victims Engagement and Services Line, which will combine longstanding existing services, such as methods for people to report abuse and mistreatment in immigration detention centers and a notification system for lawyers and others with a vested interest in immigration cases.
“The new office will add a service for potential recipients of visas designated for victims of human trafficking or violent crimes in the United States.
“’Providing assistance to society’s most vulnerable is a core American value. All people, regardless of their immigration status, should be able to access victim services without fear,’ said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.”
A May 27 memo from ICE, made public just this week, directs ICE attorneys to exercise discretion and consider dropping cases of people who had been in the country a long time or had other humanitarian grounds. But will ICE follow this new direction? (The Hill)
“‘The problem is that ICE is an enforcement agency whose knee-jerk reaction over the past more than a decade now is increasingly to detain people even when it’s just not necessary in the case. And is this memo going to do enough to push them in the other direction? That remains to be seen,’ [Greg Chen with the American Immigration Lawyers Association] said.
“The number of those in detention has risen to 25,000 under President Biden, even as many migrants are swiftly expelled after crossing the border due to a Trump-era policy still in use by the new administration.”
Vice President Kamala Harris’s “Don’t come” message dominated news coverage of her trip to Central America. Apart from that unhelpful messaging, which ignores the bitter realities driving immigration, Harris’s trip also promised far more helpful promises of investment and support for anti-corruption efforts. WOLA’s in-depth review of recent trips and announcements from Harris, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, USAID chief Samantha Power, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, concludes:
“Addressing the root causes of migration to ensure that leaving one’s country is a choice—not the only available survival strategy—is the right focus.
“Improving living conditions and reining in systemic corruption are deep-seated challenges that will take years to help address and thus require a long-term, sustainable commitment on the part of the U.S. government. This long-term plan should address economic inequality and insecurity, but must prioritize supporting the rule of law, governance, and human rights.
“At the same time, to be effective, assistance to the region must include rigorous oversight mechanisms, concrete benchmarks to measure progress, and close collaboration and coordination among U.S. agencies and with other donors working in the region.
“But in the short and medium term, families and individuals will unfortunately continue to be forced to flee life-threatening violence and living conditions. They require protection and legal paths to seek it—an obligation of both Mexico and the United States within their respective territories. Investment in addressing root causes cannot substitute guaranteeing access to asylum and respecting migrants’ rights in the United States and Mexico.”
A new garden and mini-park will grow at Riverside Plaza, home to a large immigrant population. (Sahan Journal)
“Riverside Plaza, which is popular with Somali families, was completed in 1973 and designed by architect Ralph Rapson in the ‘brutalist’ style. Currently, the space around its buildings is largely made of concrete. But some tenants at Riverside Plaza hope to change that.
“On the agenda in the coming months is a new and improved greenspace on Cedar Avenue, which will include new shrubs and plants for pollinators, rain gardens, and a new parklet. Metro Blooms, which partners with communities to build ‘resilient’ landscapes, will begin the project in the fall, after fielding ideas from the community….
“‘We want the residents to have an area where they can sit, [especially in the] summertime, and gather together outside,’ she said, adding that she wants tenants to be comfortable, rather than having to perch on ledges or other surfaces. ‘We believe it’s going to be a real nice addition for our residents and the property as a whole.'”
Fadumo Yusuf is coordinating the first-ever Somali Community Outdoor Book Fair on June 19 from 5–8 p.m. at the Dar-Us-Salaam community center in Burnsville. The book fair features Somali authors from Minnesota. (Sahan Journal)
“Fadumo is the author of ‘Ayan, of the Lucky,’ a novel about a young Somali woman who is trying to become a doctor while navigating a civil war in her home country. Fadumo published the novel a year ago. She is also featured in “Green Card STEM Voices,” a collection of essays from immigrants and refugees in Minnesota who work in science, technology, engineering, and math….
“There will also be a panel discussion with five authors who will talk about their writing and publishing experiences. Fadumo added that kids are welcome. There will be a tent designated specifically for kids and children’s books. Three children’s book authors will be reading their books at the event….
“Fadumo added that she deliberately made sure authors from varying backgrounds and experiences are featured at the event. There will be authors who worked with traditional publishing houses, and self-published authors like Halima too. The works featured also vary by genre and age groups.”
And in other news
Two years ago, a gunman opened fire in a WalMart store in El Paso, killing 23 people and injuring dozens more. His racist manifesto talked about a “Hispanic invasion.” Now Texas Governor Greg Abbott is using the same language about immigrants. (Texas Tribune)
“Democrats and immigration rights advocates are condemning Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for describing immigrants crossing the border as an ‘invasion’ this week, calling the rhetoric ‘dangerous’ to Latino communities while pointing out that it mirrors language used by the accused El Paso shooter two years ago….
“U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, condemned Abbott’s and Patrick’s remarks in a tweet shortly after the Wednesday border press conference.
“’If people die again, blood will be on your hands,’ Escobar wrote….
“’They can’t claim ignorance and say they didn’t know this language could potentially lead to violence because it happened before,’ [immigrant rights activist Marioo Carrillo] said. ‘I wish elected officials thought more about their words because those words have consequences. Are there others that read or listen to remarks like that and think, ‘Well, I don’t want our country to be invaded, so I’m going to take things into my own hands’?'”
The U.S. economy needs immigrant workers. The Trump administration stopped them from coming, freezing green card applications and halting most temporary work visas. (Axios)
“President Biden reversed the green card decision and recently let the worker visa ban lapse.
“But it will take time for the immigrant worker pool to be refilled, particularly as potential immigrants from certain countries remain blocked due to COVID-related health concerns. Moreover, many U.S. embassies and consulates continue to face massive backlogs of visa applications, often without enough resources to resume regular operations.”