During the process of rescuing and resettling Afghans over the past year, the U.S. government created a system of “sponsor circles” — private groups and individuals who came together to sponsor specific Afghan individuals or families in their communities. This assistance was more than financial: sponsors also committed to helping the refugees adjust to their new lives, find housing, get jobs, etc. When Russia invaded Ukraine, a slightly different system emerged, allowing U.S. individuals to identify specific Ukrainians whom they would receive in the United States. This program, called Uniting for Ukraine, became the only way for Ukrainian refugees to enter the United States. Now plans call for a new sponsorship initiative–but one that would allow sponsorship only of refugees already identified by the United Nations and awaiting resettlement.
None of the plans allow sponsorship of asylum seekers. None would allow U.S. individuals to sponsor someone fleeing persecution or terror, who had already made their way to the United States. The sponsorship plans would not apply to any of the desperate Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Cubans, or Venezuelans at the southern border.
[AP] “The move comes amid increasing pressure on President Joe Biden, who vowed in a 2021 executive order to increase opportunities for Americans to resettle refugees and restore the U.S. as the world’s safe haven. The Trump administration decimated the refugee program, which traditionally tasks nine resettlement agencies with placing refugees in communities. …
“The pilot program will match regular Americans with refugees overseas who have already been approved for admission to the U.S., the spokesperson said. Later, the plan will let Americans identify a refugee overseas and apply to resettle them.”
And in other news
The Biden administration will restart full visa processing in Cuba in 2023, as part of an effort to discourage unauthorized immigration. The Cuban Family Reunification Parole program allows U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have sponsored relatives in Cuba for an immigration visa to apply to have their relatives come to the United States before visa numbers become available. The program, begun in 2007, was suspended under the Trump administration, but restarted this summer.
[CBS] “When the policy change takes effect, Cubans sponsored by their U.S.-based relatives will no longer need to travel to Guyana for interviews with U.S. consular officers, one of the required steps in the immigrant visa process. Instead, all Cubans applying for visas to come to the U.S. will undergo these interviews at the embassy in Havana.
“The upcoming shift will fully reverse the Trump administration’s decision in 2017 to halt visa processing in Cuba and require applicants to undergo interviews at the U.S. embassy in Guyana. The Biden administration had restarted limited visa processing in Havana earlier this year.”
The Biden administration relaunched the Central American Minors Refugee and Parole Program (CAM program) in March 2021. The program is supposed to allow parents and legal guardians in the United States to petition for their children to join them here, making it possible for the children to travel safely, with legal documents, rather than making the dangerous trip overland. It’s not working, according to a new report from the International Refugee Assistance Project.
[CNN] “Bottlenecks, long wait times and lack of attorney support that have plagued the program since the start have yet to be resolved, the report found….
“Since March 2021, when the program was restarted, only a few hundred of the nearly 3,800 eligible families have had their cases completed, according to the report.
“Those were all from applications filed before Trump ended the program.
“”At current processing rates, it will likely be more than a decade before all of those who applied between 2014 and 2017 have their cases processed,’ the report concluded. …
“’It’s really positive that the Biden administration restarted this program and continues to defend it. But now it needs to make it functional,’ Lacy Broemel, policy analyst at IRAP, a refugee advocacy and legal aid organization, which is supportive of the CAM program.”
When then-15-year-old Marielena Chacon was diagnosed with cancer, she faced a huge additional burden: translating the diagnosis and everything the doctor said to her mother, who did not speak English. That’s where Patty Santos comes in, acting as a patient advocate.
[KARE 11] “‘Most of our interpreting, you know, is going to be for the parents. If they’re a child that’s born in the US, and they go to school here, they’re going to have English,’ Santos said. ‘But they’re still children and especially in our case, they are dealing with this diagnosis. So we never want to put a patient in the situation of having to interpret for their parents.’
“Santos said they do the same for other family members. No matter their age, they’re never asked to be the interpreter.
“Santos’ role goes beyond just translating, however. As someone who works mostly with immigrants, she’s an advocate for the entire family. She said sometimes the families she works with are undocumented, and her job also includes writing letters to immigration offices and explaining the family’s difficult situation. …
“Since her diagnosis, Marielena has gone through a lot. She went through chemotherapy, a coma, long days in the ICU and a subsequent hip replacement due to the avascular necrosis caused by chemo. She said having Santos through all of this was tremendously helpful.”
Minnesotan Rhyan Buettner Desmaret, her husband and their five children are trapped in the violence of Haiti. They can’t get visas for their three adopted children to return to the United States with her. Desmaret has been living in Haiti for years, working with a clinic that care for malnourished children and their families.
[Duluth News Tribune] “Desmaret said she has tried a half dozen times over the past decade to obtain visas for her adopted children.
“‘The problem is the legal adoption status of the kids,’ she said. ‘Our adoption was fully approved by social services, but we are waiting for a final judge’s signature for our adoption decree. Unfortunately, there is no way for courts to operate at all in the current climate.’
“She said she expects it will take months for the Haitian courts to function again once the latest round of violence ends. She filed an emergency petition for visas in December, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it would be at least nine months before they could help her, she said. She said she has been calling the agency with an emergency appeal since last week Wednesday.”