Immigration News: May 9, 2022

Photograph taken by the graphic designer Laura Pavelko in 2002. The picture is a cropped image of Mitchell Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Photograph taken by the graphic designer Laura Pavelko in 2002. The picture is a cropped image of Mitchell Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Afghan evacuees face major challenges as they try to deal with both resettling in a new country and wading through immigration bureaucracy. Some find help – like Afghan women in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Eastbrook Church combined forces to help eight of the 150 Afghan women students from the Asian University for Women who escaped the Taliban. The university discounted the year of intensive English language classes and the church came up with funds for tuition. What comes next?

[Wall Street Journal] “Some 76,000 Afghans were evacuated to the U.S. after Kabul collapsed last summer. Months later, thousands are still waiting for work permits and Social Security cards to arrive before they can start jobs and pay their bills.

“Others are experiencing problems with their health insurance, denied food stamps, lost vaccination records for children and a range of other issues hampering access to basic necessities.”

[WUWM] “Before, the students say they had five-year full scholarships at the Asian University for Women. Farzana says she worries about being able to afford a four-year degree at UWM. 

“‘I’m very thankful of the people here and everyone that are supporting us,’ Farzana says. ‘But I’m just saying, we have very stressful life. We have many stresses, many things to think about, and then this is also one of the things we have to think about.’

“Mahrukh uses a metaphor to describe it, saying it’s like carrying stones. One stone is worrying about their family, another is worrying about their country. Adding a third stone — the uncertainty about their own futures — won’t break them.

“‘It can’t change the girls who studied, who have a dream from Afghanistan,’ she says. ‘We are that much strong to start a new journey in a different country.'”

Wisconsin has jobs for new Afghan residents, who also must find transportation and pro bono attorneys to help with the complicated and lengthy process of applying for asylum.

[Wisconsin Watch] “Ali Akbar Gholami arrived in the United States last September with little more than his work ID. He had no time to gather much else as the Taliban took over the Afghanistan capital of Kabul and escalated a humanitarian crisis, prompting the U.S. to airlift him and 76,000 Afghan nationals to safety.

“But Gholami — who speaks fluent English, studied civil aviation for two years and previously worked at Kabul International Airport — brought skills and a work ethic that American employers desire amid a tight labor market. That’s particularly the case in Gholami’s new home state of Wisconsin, where the unemployment rate has dipped below 3%, pushing employers to boost salaries and benefits to attract and retain talent.

And in other news

How many migrants die on the southern border, trying to reach safety in the United States? No one knows. The Border Patrol is legally charged with recording and reporting the deaths. It isn’t counting.

[The Intercept] “The Government Accountability Office, in a little-noticed report released late last month, informed lawmakers that the Border Patrol ‘has not collected and recorded, or reported to Congress, complete data on migrant deaths.’ The omission included data the Border Patrol was required to track and turn over under legislation passed last year. The law specifically obligates the agency to include data collected by entities other than the Border Patrol itself in its reports on migrant deaths. The failings mark the first public government assessment of the agency’s response to the new legal requirements. …

“The GAO’s report comes as spring is turning to summer, historically the most lethal months for migrants crossing the border — last year was Arizona’s deadliest on record.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says undocumented immigrant children are a problem for schools and should be excluded. Texas educators say the children are not the problem: 

[Dallas News] “Dallas schools Superintendent Michael Hinojosa called the governor’s concerns ‘manufactured crises in the name of politics.’ …

“During a House Public Education Committee meeting April 26, before Abbott’s comments, three superintendents offered their views on how Texas’ border crisis has affected their schools. None who spoke said they faced an undue strain because of unauthorized immigrant students.

“In fact, despite reports of immigrants flooding over Texas’ borders, two of the superintendents — McAllen’s J.A. Gonzalez and Garland’s Ricardo López — said their districts had lost enrollment over the past few years, likely because of the pandemic.

“Gonzalez, López and Fabens Superintendent Veronica Vijil were more concerned with seeing other changes: universal prekindergarten, more funding for career training, increased teacher pay for better recruitment and retainment, and an increase in weighted funding for bilingual programs.”

Trump’s cuts to immigration, followed by the pandemic lockdown on immigration have led to a big, and costly, labor shortage in the United States. That shortage helps to fuel higher prices and inflation. 

[AP] “Just 10 miles from the Rio Grande, Mike Helle’s farm is so short of immigrant workers that he’s replaced 450 acres of labor-intensive leafy greens with crops that can be harvested by machinery.

“In Houston, Al Flores increased the price of his BBQ restaurant’s brisket plate because the cost of the cut doubled due to meatpacking plants’ inability to fully staff immigrant-heavy production lines. In the Dallas area, Joshua Correa raised prices on the homes his company builds by $150,000 to cover increased costs stemming partly from a lack of immigrant labor.”

For years, special units of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have been charged with investigating abuses by the Border Patrol. For years, they have done more to cover up than to investigate. Now those units are being abolished. 

[San Diego Union Tribune] “The agency announced Friday in a memo that the secretive units would phase out by October. 

“That followed months of activism by loved ones of people killed by border officials. As recently as this week, more families came forward to call on CBP to do away with the units and to have their loved ones’ cases reinvestigated. …

“The units — which have different names in different areas of the border such as Critical Incident Team, Critical Incident Investigative Team or Evidence Collection Team — were never given authority by Congress to investigate fellow agents’ use of force. There are three entities that do have authority to perform such criminal investigations. They are the FBI, the DHS Office of the Inspector General, and the Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility.”

Instead of helping people hit by the pandemic, Texas diverted the money to make more funds available for Governor Greg Abbott’s anti-immigrant Operation Lone Star.

[Washington Post] “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and top state lawmakers shifted around roughly $1 billion in federal coronavirus aid to help pay for their campaign to arrest migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, exposing gaps in a law meant to bolster the country’s response to the ongoing pandemic.

“Relying on the availability of generous federal relief funds, Texas repeatedly in recent months rerouted state money toward its controversial immigration crackdown — all without leaving a massive hole in its budget. But critics say the money would have been put to better use tending to a public health crisis that has killed more than 86,000 people in the state. …

“Congress never prohibited states from rejiggering their budgets to take full advantage of a program called the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which aimed to help cities and states pay front-line workers, purchase supplies and tend to other pandemic needs. The approach helped states save their money, which some local governments later reinvested in their efforts to arrest the spread of the virus. Others, like Texas, however, seized on the federal program to redirect their newly found savings for unrelated uses — including immigration enforcement.”

A Washington Post survey shows people in the United States are more welcoming of Ukrainian refugees than Afghan refugees. 

[Washington Post] “International organizations like the African Union and Human Rights Watch and social media users have documented bias in journalists’ language and in how Ukrainian and other nationals have been treated at the border by neighboring countries’ immigration services. Major media outlets, including Al Jazeera and CBS News, have issued apologies for biased commentary, which at times described Ukraine as a “civilized” nation of “prosperous, middle-class people” who “are not obviously refugees … [but] they look like any European family that you would live next door to.” Even politicians have described Ukrainian refugees in starkly and explicitly different terms than non-European refugees.

“Our research shows that such language influences and reflects ideas held by Americans at large, who favor refugees who share religion or ethnicity with the majority population. …

“While nearly 30 percent of our survey participants reported the highest degree of favorability (100) toward Ukrainian refugees, only 12 percent of respondents did so toward Afghan refugees. Our survey participants were also less likely to support the U.S. resettlement of Afghan as compared with Ukrainian refugees, with 54 percent supporting the resettlement of Afghans and 67 percent supporting the resettlement of Ukrainians.”

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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