Immigration News from October 8, 2021

Refugee resettlement agencies, which get funding from government contracts, were gutted during the Trump years. Now they are rushing to rebuild and respond immediately to the pressing needs of more than 50,000 Afghan evacuees. 

(NPR) “Most days, newly arrived Afghans fill the lobby of a church basement in Fairfax County, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

“Families with young kids, young couples, older adults — they’re all here for help with their resettlement cases, and to stock up on donated toiletries and housewares that are piled everywhere in the Fairfax office of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area.

“Since August, the organization has helped as many people as it did all of last year….

“‘People are coming with really pressing immediate needs. Sometimes it’s just as basic as clothing, showers, food,’ [Kristyn Peck, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area,] said. ‘And then trying to make sure that they have a place to stay that night. And then move them into permanent housing as quickly as possible.'”

Immigration attorney Sharifa Abbas fled Afghanistan with her family in 1989, when she was six years old. Now she is helping the latest wave of Afghan evacuees. She estimates that she provided some sort of legal assistance to more than 100 people over the course of several days. Besides the trauma of fleeing their country, many were in desperate need of legal assistance to deal with U.S. immigration processes. 

(Mother Jones) “I came to find out that there were a lot of people being held for prolonged periods of time. Their phones and passports were taken away, and their families had no way to contact them. These people are coming new to the country. They don’t know what’s going on. They don’t even know that you can have a lawyer. I had a situation where this woman was about to pass out from crying, and she told me that her son was being held back at the airport. It had been almost 10 days, and she thought that he was detained and that he was being tortured. She was panicking because she didn’t know what had happened to her son. 

“Family members who were either US citizens or permanent residents living in the United States contacted me informing me that their family member was being held at the airport. With one such person, CBP [Customs and Border Protection] basically made him sign a voluntary withdrawal of admission and sent him back to Qatar. I asked why they were being held, why it was that some were released and some were held, nobody seemed to know anything. They’ve transferred a lot of these people to the Caroline detention center [an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Bowling Green, Virginia]. They’re being held there, and a lot of people are being put into removal proceedings. I’m representing a client who came on the evacuation flights and who is now in immigration court proceedings. The rest of his family was paroled in, but he’s been singled out. He’s been in detention for over a month now. He hasn’t committed any crimes. He came in just like everybody else, he has two US citizen children. He has extended family who live here, and he assisted the US military in Afghanistan. No information is being released to anyone, neither to us nor the family nor the person that they’re holding. He’s not the only one. I know of several other people that are being held there.”

And in other news

Yamiche Alcindor interviews Guerline Jozef, president of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. 

(PBS) “Yamiche Alcindor: Today, we heard from the former special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote.

“He resigned amid deportations. He called them inhumane and counterproductive. Today, he said that sending Haitians back to Haiti is harmful and dangerous to the country and to Haitian migrants. What do you make of his assessment?

“Guerline Jozef: Absolutely. He’s 100 percent correct.

And it’s why we have been asking for them to stop deportation, because we see deportation as a form of violence upon Haiti and the Haitian people, as we see Haiti unable to recover from all this turmoil. Yet, today, the United States have decided, instead of providing protection to Haitians, they are deporting.

“And I want to highlight that they are deporting pregnant women. Little children, little Black boys, little Black girls in need of protection are being deported to Haiti right now. It is, as Ambassador Foote mentioned, unacceptable, inhumane and a complete disregard for Haitian lives.”

A proposed highway improvement project threatens to take valuable acreage from the Hmong American Farmers Association–a farm that has been cooperatively developed and shared by many small producers over the past decade. 

(Sahan Journal) “The Hmong American Farmers Association fears losing valuable acreage, and the land lies near the Vermillion River, a critical spawning habitat for Minnesota’s brown trout population. Any construction that emerges from the study will be subject to public comment and environmental reviews. …

“Hmong farmers transformed Minnesota’s local food economy when they began arriving in the Twin Cities in the 1970s, injecting local farmers markets with fresh produce and new varieties such as Thai chili peppers. Today, more than 50 percent of farmers selling in metro area farmers markets are Hmong.  But access to land remains a challenge for many family farms.

“In 2011 a group of farming families, including siblings Pakou and Janssen Hang, formed the Hmong American Farmers Association to help increase profits through cooperative sales.” 

Customs and Border Protection insists that anyone entering the country–including U.S. citizens returning from travel abroad–is required, on demand, to give up passwords and access to their electronic devices. A new bill would stop that.

(The Hill) “The Protect Data at the Border Act would apply Supreme Court precedent requiring probable cause to search electronic devices after arrests to border crossings. 

“The government has claimed an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s broad warrant requirement for activities at the border despite a lack of statutory clarity on the matter.”

Conservative Border Patrol agents are resisting the Biden administration mandate that all federal employees get vaccinated

(Washington Post) “Police departments across the country are struggling with vaccine hesitancy, but at CBP, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, the politics are especially fraught. With immigration arrests along the Mexican border soaring to the highest levels in decades, Republican lawmakers blame the Biden administration’s policies for exposing U.S. agents to greater risk, even as they denounce vaccine mandates that would help protect them….

“The NBPC [National Border Patrol Council] does not encourage members to get vaccinated and has said it would like to file a legal challenge to Biden’s mandate that all federal employees be immunized by Nov. 22, but it has not yet found lawyers willing to take the case.

The union president said the rising deaths saddened him but that the vaccines remain a ‘personal choice.'”

A Cuban immigrant who came here 50 years ago joins a DACA recipient in urging immediate Congressional action on a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

(The Hill) “Though our ages and countries of origin differ, our backgrounds have many similarities. Our parents worked in kitchens, on construction sites, in grocery stores, and as truck drivers lugging heavy sacks of sugar and rice on and off trucks, so that we could eat, have an apartment to live in, and go to school. We grew up quickly, interpreting for our parents as the bridge between them and expensive immigration lawyers. As children, we negotiated fees, filled out forms and kept calling immigration lawyers when months and years passed without updates from them about our legal status. 

“Our experiences then and now mirror that of many young people today who balance studies, part-time work, interpreting, form-filling and chasing after immigration lawyers. They are all too aware that the worries of food, housing, money and employment keep their parents awake at night — and that their futures in this country remain unguaranteed.

“One thing is clear: A lack of action from Congress has prevented the reform the system so desperately needs.” 

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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