Immigration News from October 25, 2021

In a big change to resettlement programs, the White House announced a pathway for private individuals or groups of up to five families to petition to resettle an Afghan evacuee family. 

(CNN) “The way the system currently works is an agency usually must have a local office — or a network of community groups — that will acquaint refugees with their new surroundings and help them get set up with housing and a job, among other services….

The new initiative, though, would allow groups of five individuals over the age of 18 to apply as a so-called sponsor circle. As part of that application, they will go through background checks, commit to fundraising in order to financially support evacuees for up to 90 days, complete training, and develop a plan for the family, according to Grigsby. 

“If approved, that group will then be responsible for securing housing, supporting refugees accessing benefits that are available to them through the federal government, like medical services, and help enroll children in school, among other responsibilities. Sponsors can house Afghans in their homes, though it’s encouraged that be for a temporary period unless it’s a relative, Grigsby said.” 

Around the world, 26,4 million people are registered as refugees. Few of them have any chance of resettlement in permanent homes. Though some may eventually be able to return home, refugee camps overflow and hope shrivels and dies. 

(Migration Policy Institute) “The 107,800 refugees resettled in 2019 accounted for fewer than 8 percent of those determined to need resettlement.

“Overall, the global refugee population has approximately doubled since 2011, with projected resettlement needs increasing by nearly 80 percent. “Yet over this same period, the number of individuals who have been resettled shrunk by more than half….

“There are many reasons for this resettlement gap. Processing policies and heavily bureaucratic procedures vary widely by resettlement country and often require significant time, information, and resources. Furthermore, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is responsible for submitting the vast majority of resettlement referrals, is frequently hamstrung by limited funding and challenging political dynamics in countries of asylum and resettlement. 

“Increased politicization of immigration in major immigrant-destination countries over the last decade has also hampered resettlement programs.” 

Mohammed Nishat worked on a U.S.-funded project to clear landmines in Afghanistan. Then came the Taliban takeover. He and his wife packed up their eight children–ages 7 months to 17 years–and fled. After a grueling journey, they landed in Minnesota on September 30. 

(Sahan Journal) “Almost 100 Afghans like Nishat have since arrived in Minnesota after fleeing their homes in August. The state has pledged to resettle more than 500 Afghans in the coming weeks. As the state evaluates its capacity for how many more people it can accept, resettlement agencies are trying to push for an additional 400 people. …

“Rachele King, the refugee coordinator at the state Department of Human Services, said she’s been coordinating the efforts of state agencies with community groups. She described the response to the emergency arrivals of Afghans in Minnesota as a community response more than a governmental one….

“Nishat’s family of 10 has been living out of two hotel rooms for more than three weeks now. He said that his caseworker is having trouble finding a three-bedroom house or apartment that will accommodate his family. Landlords have been unwilling to lease to Nishat because he doesn’t have an income source yet, Nishat said.”

Here are some ways you can help Afghan refugees in Minnesota now

GiveMN, a nonprofit fundraising organization, is accepting donations to support state agencies and community organizations coordinating the state’s resettlement efforts. Donations will be used to cover housing costs, meals, legal services, and resource coordination for new Afghan arrivals.

Hennepin County has started an Amazon Wishlist to collect donations for Afghan families. Some of the items to purchase include winter clothing, toys, religious items, kitchen supplies, and baby supplies.

And in other news

Several thousand migrants marched out of the southern Mexico border city of Tapachula on Sunday. Many, like Yaneli Castillo, say they don’t care whether they get to Mexico City or the United States–so long as they find somewhere that is safe and lets them work to support their families. With 90,000 asylum applications filed by September, the underfunded Mexican immigration system is overwhelmed. 

(Washington Post) “Yaneli Castillo fled Honduras with her two young children after gang members killed her husband in front of their house and threatened that she would be next.

“The 29-year-old arrived in southern Mexico four months ago and filed an asylum claim. She was still waiting for her application to be processed when new threats arrived — text messages from gang members who said they knew where to find her, she said.

“’I was trying to do the right thing, and waited and waited with all my papers, and they never helped me,’ she said. ‘So I decided to join the caravan out of fear.’”

New reports of Border Patrol misconduct show the total inadequacy of the agency’s disciplinary system. Some 60 agents were found to have engaged in serious misconduct, and 57 of them are still working with migrants today.

(Washington Post) “A U.S. Customs and Border Protection discipline board found that 60 agents “committed misconduct” by sharing violent and obscene posts in secret Facebook groups but fired only two — far fewer than an internal discipline board had recommended, according to a House Oversight and Reform Committee report released Monday.

“The report found “significant shortcomings” in the agency’s handling of the incidents and said most agents who engaged in misconduct are back on the job working with migrant adults and children.”

For Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), a path to citizenship is personal.

(Washington Post) “In the neighborhood where Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) grew up, undocumented immigrants have long occupied the aging bungalows and faded campers that jam up against roaring freeways.

“’Ilegales,’ his father, Santos Padilla, now 80 and a naturalized U.S. citizen, said with a sweep of his hand following Mass one recent Sunday when asked how he and his late wife arrived in the United States. ‘Like everyone.’…

“Nowhere has more at stake than California, home to 2.2 million undocumented immigrants, the nation’s largest share, and the Pew Research Center estimates that fewer than 10 percent are new arrivals. Many have waited years, even decades, for permanent residency, the first step toward citizenship.”

Delay after delay, denial after denial wreak havoc on emotional health of immigrants. 

(Time) “While we debate annual refugee caps, if Title 42 should be repealed and whether to welcome Haitian and Afghan refugees, each day migrants experience the trauma of instability. This additional trauma—often ignored because of other acute, pressing issues—has lasting physical and psychological health effects that we document in our refugee and migrant patients for decades. Understanding this often-invisible trauma is a vital component of recovery and rehabilitation….

“As a result of the instability and vicarious trauma, immigrants of all legal statuses experience weathering, a term used in medicine to describe the physiological wear and tear of stress that can result in advanced aging,” 

While border crossings are high, they are not as high as statistics suggest. The number of “apprehensions” does not measure the same thing today that it did three years ago. That means statistics are comparing apples and oranges. 

(NPR) “That’s because the flow of migrants has changed dramatically since 20 years ago, when millions of peoplesuccessfully crossed illegally into the U.S. without getting caught. It’s also because of a public health order adopted in response to the pandemic, which has led thousands of migrants to cross repeatedly, driving up the most recent year’s numbers….

“Back in 2000, when the previous record for Border Patrol apprehensions was set, the flow of migrants at the Southern border looked very different. 

“For one thing, immigration authorities caught a much smaller percentage of people crossing the border. …

“Today, a much bigger share of migrants are families or children who want to turn themselves in to the Border Patrol so that they can apply for asylum or other protections. …

“[T]housands of migrants are being counted more than once in the total number of Border Patrol apprehensions during the past year….

“DHS officials estimate that the recidivism rate during some parts of the year was as high as 38% — meaning the number of individual migrants apprehended while crossing the border last year was likely closer to 1.1 million than 1.7 million.” 

Arrest and jail without charges, isolation and denial of due process, and failure to even record the arrests or locations of immigrant prisoners: these are among the abuses that are hallmarks of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s “crackdown” on immigrant border crossers. Because of lack of evidence, many of the cases are never charged.  

(CNN) “The 27-year-old man tried to hold it together as he walked to his cell. It was weeks since he had been arrested. Weeks with no charges and no access to an attorney, he told CNN. Worst of all, two weeks without being able to talk to anyone on the outside, especially his wife and 7-year-old son. 

“Emotions took over. “I started crying,” he told CNN, remembering that time. 

“Amid his isolation, in an orange jumpsuit, all he had was his faith. 

“‘I thanked God for the good and the bad I was going through,’ he said….

“‘This is not the system that should exist in our country. And in fact the Constitution says that this is not the system that should exist in our country,’ said defense lawyer Jindal of Restoring Justice. ‘Every step of the way we are seeing a very, very troubling violation of rights.'”  

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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