Friends of Refugees

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Archive for the ‘asylees’ Category

Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 18, 2015

running

A refugee program, called the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program, or CAM, is a new immigration initiative that aims to prevent minors from risking their lives to cross the border illegally, as thousands have done over the past few years. Most were from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, nations plagued by high murder rates, drug trafficking, and human smuggling. Under the new program minors facing persecution back home may qualify for refugee status, putting them on a path to a green card, resettlement aid, and eventual US citizenship. Minors who do not meet the strict legal standard for a refugee, but are still at risk, will be considered for “parole,” an immigration status that lets them come to the US but does not offer the other benefits. The program aims to create a legal process for these minors to immigrate, and to curb the growing influence of human traffickers. An article in the Boston Globe explains the details of the program:

Federal officials are rolling out a new refugee program that could reunite thousands of children facing danger in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador with their immigrant parents in the United States.

Officials announced the program with little fanfare in November, and it has taken time for the word to spread. Thousands of immigrants who have had temporary legal status for many years could be eligible to apply for the first time to bring their children to America.

The program could expand if President Obama wins a court battle over separate initiatives to grant deportation reprieves to millions more. Those initiatives suffered a setback Monday when a federal judge imposed a temporary injunction on the programs…

…officials say the new program aims to prevent children from risking their lives to cross the border illegally, as thousands did last summer.

We’ve established this program, frankly, it’s two-fold, to prevent children from taking this journey and to prevent the exploitation of their families by traffickers,” said Lawrence Bartlett, director of refugee admissions at the State Department, which is running the program with Homeland Security. “We think the smuggling networks are fairly robust and it’s to really guard against that and to really protect these kids.”

Under the new program, which started Dec. 1, children facing persecution back home may qualify for refugee status, putting them on a path to a green card, resettlement aid, and later, US citizenship. Children who fall short of the strict legal standard for a refugee, but are still at risk, will be considered for “parole,” an immigration status that lets them come to America but does not provide the other benefits.

In some cases, federal officials said, the spouses and grandchildren of immigrants with temporary status could be considered for admission if they face harm, though the program primarily is for unmarried children under 21…

The refugee program, called the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program, or CAM, is one of a battery of controversial new immigration initiatives the White House unveiled in recent months after the House refused to take up a bill on illegal immigration…

The number of minors taken into federal custody after crossing the border has roughly doubled each of the last two years — from 13,625 to 24,688, and to 57,496 last fiscal year, according to the Administration for Children and Families, which processes the children.

Most were from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, nations plagued by high murder rates, drug trafficking, and human smuggling. And most were released to parents or sponsors in the United States, including 1,500 children in Massachusetts from October 2013 through the end of last year…

Vice President Joe Biden announced the refugee program at a summit of Central American presidents in Washington on Nov. 14 — and federal officials say it is part of a broader multimillion-dollar effort to stem violence and human smuggling in the region. There is no end date, although it will be evaluated every year.

Under the rules, parents from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras can apply for the refugee program if they have lawful status, which includes immigrants — such as Montiel — who have Temporary Protected Status, a status granted to tens of thousands of Hondurans and Salvadorans whose homelands were engulfed in natural disasters…

The refugee application is free, but parents can only apply for their children through nearly 350 approved refugee resettlement agencies, such as Catholic Charities, Jewish Family Service, or Ascentria Care Alliance, formerly known as Lutheran Social Services of New England.

After parents apply, children will undergo interviews with US Citizenship and Immigration officers in their homelands to ascertain whether they qualify as refugees — those who fear persecution because of race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or because they are in a particular group, such as gay people.

Children also must undergo DNA testing to prove their relationship to their parents.

Federal officials declined to estimate how many parents are expected to apply… Read more here

Posted in asylees, children, el salvadoran, gangs, Guatemalan, honduran, Obama administration, safety, teens, TPS (Temporary Protected Status), unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR oversight of unaccompanied minors shelter questioned

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 21, 2014

citationsAn ORR shelter in Texas for traumatized unaccompanied minors has been cited for overly using restraints. State records show children at Shiloh have made allegations of physical abuses and painful restraints. The state has cited the company that runs the facility 21 times for violating restraint guidelines. The local prosecutor has urged ORR officials to increase monitoring and lower the number of placements to “reduce the risks.” (one has to wonder if cases like this lead to the resignation of ORR’s director — its easier to cut and run when failing to answer questions no longer works). An AP article at the Star-Telegram has the details:

MANVEL, Texas   A shelter for traumatized immigrant children near Houston that has received $13 million in federal funds and been cited for overly using restraints says staff members deeply care about the well-being of residents, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Shiloh Treatment Center in rural Manvel is among a network of shelters that Congress says needs greater oversight from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has been overwhelmed by a record number of children from Central America.

The shelter network overseen by the agency, known as ORR, has jumped from 50 to 125 facilities since the federal government began contracting with Shiloh in 2009, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Facilities such as Shiloh take among the most challenging immigrant cases, including children who arrive traumatized by their journeys or violence back home. State records show children at Shiloh have made allegations of physical abuses and painful restraints, and a local prosecutor wrote to federal authorities in 2011 with concerns…
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson said that when he called ORR with questions about Shiloh this summer, it only sent him a letter with basic information.

“The one thing that comes out over and over is the lack of transparency,” Olson said…

Jeri Yenne, Brazoria County’s Republican district attorney, said she firmly believes that Shiloh’s staff is made up of well-intentioned people. But she sent a letter to federal officials after the state had documented abuse allegations at Shiloh and another treatment center founded by Hill, according to the newspaper.

Yenne said she urged officials to increase monitoring and lower the number of placements to “reduce the risks.” An agency spokesman said federal staff are assigned to monitor every facility…

The newspaper reported that the agency has not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Houston Chronicle in January for monitoring reports and other communication with Shiloh. Read more here

Posted in abuse, asylees, children, ORR, PTSD, teenagers, Texas, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama administration declares Central American minors priority for deportation; lawyers scramble

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 27, 2014

FASTPresident Obama’s immigration executive order which includes among other things setting up a program to allow 4000 minors into the country annually from Central America is in marked contrast to his administration’s declaration this past summer that puts similar minors who entered the country illegally on a fast track to deportation. Immigration courts have established accelerated dockets to speed up the process, and lawyers are scrambling to prepare complicated cases in a short amount of time. Although most of the minors requesting asylum report fleeing gang-related violence, immigration courts historically have been reluctant to offer protection on those grounds. An article at Minnesota Public Radio News explains the situation:

Lawyers across the nation are scrambling to piece together how President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration will affect their clients.

But so far, not much has changed for Central American minors who fled their home countries for the United States, said Laura Wilson, a Minneapolis attorney who represents four children.
Wilson’s clients were placed by immigration officials with family members in Minnesota. She is trying to gather their stories about the violence that drove them across the border, bolster them with expert opinions and bring them to a federal immigration hearing.

And she has just a few weeks to do it.

Although the president’s order could defer the deportation of millions of immigrants, it won’t help more than 200 children in Minnesota on a “fast-track” docket federal authorities established for immigrant children. That gives attorneys little time to prepare a case.

For Wilson, who works for Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and dozens of other lawyers in the state, that means the frantic pace of interviews, affidavits and legal research will continue.

Tight deadlines complicate work

The number of children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has surged from about 4,000 in fiscal year 2011 to more than five times that number in fiscal year 2013, according to a report from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

That influx has swamped immigration courts across the country. The Obama administration this summer declared the children a priority for deportation, and courts established accelerated dockets to speed up the process… Read more here

Posted in asylees, children, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, honduran, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. to grant refugee status to Central American minors abroad

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 19, 2014

BorderGuardThe federal government will launch a program in December to grant refugee status to Central American minor children back home of parents who live legally in the US. The program does not apply to minors who have arrived in the U.S. illegally. The program is part of a plan to stem illegal child migration from their countries which culminated in “the surge” of the past two years. The quota for the plan is 4000 children per year. An article at Bismarck, North Dakota’s CBC KXNews has the details:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. government will launch a program in December to grant refugee status to some people under the age of 21 who live in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and whose parents legally reside in the United States.

U.S. officials say parents can ask authorities free of charge for refugee status for their children in the Central American countries, which are plagued by poverty and vicious gang violence. The program does not apply to minors who have arrived in the U.S. illegally.

Vice President Joe Biden announced the program Friday at the Inter-American Development Bank, where the presidents of the three Central American countries will present a plan to stem child migration from their countries.

U.S. officials said that children deemed refugees will be able to work immediately upon arrival in the U.S., opt for permanent residency the following year and for naturalization five years later. They did not say how long the process of receiving refugee status will take.

Central American children who meet the requirements will be part of a quota of 4,000 people from Latin America receiving refugee status each fiscal year, officials said. The U.S. quota of Latin America refugees currently consists of Cubans and Colombians.

Applicants who don’t meet the requirements will be evaluated to see if they can be admitted conditionally under a non-permanent migratory status that allows them to work temporarily in the U.S…

The program aims to be a legal and safe alternative to the long and dangerous journey some Central American children take north to reach the U.S. and to reunite with their parents in the U.S. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied child and teenage migrants showed up at the U.S. border earlier this year… Read more here

Posted in asylees, children, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, honduran, Obama administration, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Political Right’s baseless criticism of San Diego facility for unaccompanied minors

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 12, 2014

southwest key san diego shelterThe political Right has been trying to attack the federal government’s costs for caring for the unprecedented surge of unaccompanied alien minors (and here, here and here) that have illegally crossed the Mexican border over the past two years. These minors are cared for by the federal Dept. of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). A so-called prime example of wasteful spending (the real motivation for criticisms being anti-immigrant sentiments rather than government spending) is the nonprofit Southwest Key’s facility in San Diego. Criticisms, now spearheaded by Iowan senator Chuck Grassley, include amenities for the minors including organic orchard and garden supplying the facility’s kitchen as well as a small petting farm with ducks, chickens, and miniature ponies and an Acuaponics system cultivating over 1000 Tilapia fish. Yet, as Southwest Key points out the amenities mostly came with the property when it was leased by the non-profit and have added little costs. The animals on the farm were all donated or born there with the exception of $40 used to buy the stock for the Tilapia fish pond. Veterinary care is donated and feed costs are a negligible $60/month. An article in the San Diego Reader covers the story:

How is life for so-called unaccompanied alien children at a federally sponsored youth shelter in El Cajon? Perhaps too sweet, in the opinion of Iowa Republican senator Charles Grassley, as expressed by him in an October 30 letter to U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell…

But Grassley questioned the government’s “stewardship of taxpayer dollars” already spent by Southwest Key, the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit that runs the facility here, as well as others in Texas, Arizona, and California…

“On April 23, 2014, Southwest Key proposed to charge the government a ‘daily rate’ of $316 to house unaccompanied alien children in a facility in El Cajon, California,” according to Grassley’s letter, which cited Southwest Key’s description of the operation’s amenities on an application for federal funds.

“We have an organic orchard of orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees, as well as an Organic garden that supplements our kitchen with a wide variety of organic vegetables throughout the year,” the nonprofit said.

“We have a small petting farm with ducks, chickens, and miniature ponies. We have also established an Acuaponics system where we are cultivating over 1000 Tilapia.”…

Southwest Key responded to Grassley’s letter with a statement saying “the cost per child in our California facilities is higher than other locations because they are small facilities with fewer beds. As the amount of beds goes up, the cost per child goes down. Unfortunately, Southwest Key has not been able to secure a larger facility in that region in order to expand to more beds.”

As for the alleged amenities, the nonprofit said, “The orchard and organic farm were pre-existing on the property when we leased it, so we have not purchased any trees or plants.

“We did pay a one-time fee of $40 to buy forty fish as stock. Since then they have reproduced at no cost to us. The cost to keep the orchard and garden is only the electricity used to run the well pump for watering. The crops they produce, however, supplement to our food supply and actually lower our expenditures there.

“The poultry on the farm also supplements our food supply. The water in the tilapia farm is constantly recycled and only requires minimal watering to compensate for evaporation and the waste from the fish is used to fertilize the organic garden….

“The animals at the farm in our El Cajon facility were all donated with the exception of one pony that was born at El Cajon. The veterinary care provided to the animals is also donated. The total cost of feed for all the animals — ponies, chickens, ducks and tilapia is a negligible part of the overall budget (approximately $60/month for feeding all animals)…. Read more here

Posted in asylees, children, funding, ORR, right-wing, San Diego, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Border Patrol youth detention centers – freezing, dank & dirty clothes, little food or exercise

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 7, 2014

detentionA social worker who couldn’t take any more explains in a new article the conditions in the Border Patrol detention centers where the wave of Central American youth known as “the surge” are kept before being sent on to ORR shelters. Conditions include bright lights, constant blasting AC, little food and rare exercise. Youth are processed in without showers or clean clothes and remain for long periods in the dank and dirty clothes they trekked hundreds of miles in. An article in the Washington Post by a social worker describes these detention centers:

About 70,000 immigrant kids will show up alone at the U.S. border this year. According to Mother Jones, that’s a 59 percent increase from 2013, a 142 percent jump from 2011.

These children are fleeing instability, unrest and danger in their home countries (according to one study, 58 percent of the young people “had suffered, been threatened, or feared serious harm”). As Wendy Young, executive director of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), told Mother Jones:

“This is becoming less like an immigration issue and much more like a refugee issue. … Because this really is a forced migration. This is not kids choosing voluntarily to leave…”

[in detention centers in Texas] Kids were crammed into rooms under bright lights and were forced to wait.

Kids…called the detention center “la hielera,” or “the icebox,” because of the blasting air conditioning in the arctic-chilled cells. Some children were left there for weeks; they described the smell of their own festering feet and urine that filled the spaces.

In Texas, an officer had told [one boy] to put his face against the cold wall and to empty his pockets. Sometimes kids bring money with them. He pocketed the kid’s $10.

They were processed into jail with the dank clothes they traveled in, were not always showered, were provided with little food and little nutrition, and not always permitted physical exercise… Read more here

Posted in asylees, Border Patrol, children, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, honduran, ORR, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Feverous speculation of enterovirus in unaccompanied illegal alien children unfounded

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 3, 2014

respiratory_virusNone of the unaccompanied illegal alien children who entered the U.S. last year were reported to have enterovirus according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. An article at CNSNews explains:

(CNSNews.com) – Of the 68,541 unaccompanied illegal alien children who entered the U.S. in fiscal year 2014, none were reported to have the enterovirus, according to the Department of Health and Human Services…

The virus causes respiratory illness, is found in the infected person’s respiratory secretions and is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches a surface that is then touched by others. There are no anti-viral medications currently available to treat the disease. In 2014, eight patients who were diagnosed with the enterovirus have died, the CDC reported.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported that 68,541 unaccompanied children were apprehended along the southwest U.S. border in Fiscal Year 2014, which is from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014.

As CNSNews.com previously reported, [Kenneth Wolfe, spokesman for the Administration of Children and Families for the Department of Health and Human Services] said that between January and September 2014, 10 minors in the unaccompanied alien children were diagnosed with active tuberculosis.

When CNSNews.com asked what strains of TB the illegal minors had, Wolfe responded, “sensitive to first line TB drugs.”

According to Wolfe, none of the minors had multi-drug resistant TB or extensively drug resistant TB… Read more here

Posted in asylees, children, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, health, honduran, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Central Americans who crossed border categorized as refugees, right?

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 2, 2014

formsNo, a new program under the Obama administration will give refugee status only to those who apply before they enter the US and are approved by the screening process. The program will create only 4,000 slots for refugees from Central America and the Caribbean for next year, a fraction of the 66,000 who entered last year. In addition, application will have to be through legal immigrant relatives already in the US. (Children already in the US may be able to apply for refugee status via the courts).  An article in The Gainesville Times discusses the issue:

…According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an average of 7,000 to 8,000 children enter the Unaccompanied Alien Children program each year, and 93 percent of them from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras. The children often come to the United States to escape violence, abuse or persecution, to seek family members or to find work. They sometimes are brought into the country by human trafficking rings, according to the department.

The United Nations has pushed the U.S. to treat children from those three countries as refugees displaced by armed conflict, as drug traffickers and street gangs have made the three-country region one of the world’s most violent.

Last month, the Obama administration began a program to give refugee status to some children from those countries in response to the influx of unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally. Under the program, legal immigrants from those countries can request that children related to them be resettled in the U.S. as refugees.

The program will allow children to gain refugee status through a screening process in their native countries rather than cross the border illegally and face screening afterward. There were 4,000 slots allocated for refugees from Central America and the Caribbean for next year, a fraction of the more than 66,0000 unaccompanied children apprehended crossing the border in the last year…. Read here

Posted in asylees, children, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, honduran, Obama administration, ORR, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

German security guards caught abusing refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 7, 2014

oppressionContracted security guards at an asylee detention center in Germany have been caught abusing a refugee. A picture shows a guard standing over a handcuffed refugee and pressing his boot into the man’s neck. Other refugees at the center have made allegations of related abuse. An article at the BBC has more:

The German media have expressed outrage over one alleged incident
Police in Germany are investigating reports refugees were repeatedly abused by security guards at an asylum centre.

According to the AP news agency, police raided the centre in the western town of Burbach after a local journalist received a DVD allegedly showing guards abusing an asylum seeker.

Detectives have released a photo which they say came from one security officer’s mobile phone.
The image is said to show a guard assaulting a refugee.

In the picture, the handcuffed refugee lies on the floor while the guard stands over him pressing his boot into his neck.

Another guard stands nearby as both appear to pose for the picture, which has been widely circulated in the German press.

“It’s a photo one would associate with Guantanamo Bay,” one police officer was quoted as saying. “Both security guards are grinning.”…

Police say other people living at the centre have made complaints about abuse… Read more here

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Central American minors may be able to acquire refugee status

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 4, 2014

teensHealth and Human Services via its ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) office is releasing $9 million in leftover funds for use in legal representation of 1222 (2600 as part of a larger program) of the about 60,000 unaccompanied Central American minors who crossed the southern border since last January. The law does not need that these foreign nationals, here illegally, have legal representation. Almost half of minors with attorneys have been allowed to stay in the country, while only 10 percent of those without representation were allowed to stay, according to an analysis of cases through June by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Of the cases heard from July 18 to September 2 more than 90 percent were marked as instances where the child had no legal representation. The court cases which will decide whether the minors are to be deported or be given refugee or other legal status to stay here. A U.S. District Court Judge has put off on ruling on the core issue of whether these minor plaintiffs are entitled, under the Fifth Amendment, to counsel at government expense. An article at CBS Los Angeles explains:

SANTA ANA (AP) — The Obama administration is spending $4 million on lawyers for unaccompanied immigrant children in deportation proceedings…

Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, said on Tuesday that it is the first time the office that oversees programs for unaccompanied immigrant children will provide money for direct legal representation.

The grants to two organizations are part of a bigger $9 million project that aims to provide lawyers to 2,600 children. The move comes after the number of Central American children arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border more than doubled this past year, many of them fleeing violence… Read more here

An article at Politico also explains the case and the legal issues:

The battle over legal counsel for child migrants moved on two fronts as a federal judge first weighed-in Monday and the Department of Health and Human Services next announced its own initiative Tuesday to try to assure more representation for the minors.

With the 2014 fiscal year literally hours away from ending, HHS said Tuesday it has committed $4.2 million in leftover funds to support the efforts to secure counsel for the children. Republicans in the House have blocked prior efforts by the Justice Department to use its own funds for this purpose. But HHS said it has sufficient authority to make the awards to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

HHS estimated that the funds are sufficient to provide legal representation for about 1222 children, with an initial focus on eight cities including Los Angeles, Houston, and Phoenix. That’s a fraction of the total number of minors in the immigration court system after the record border crossings earlier this year. But the step is significant and comes as migrant rights attorneys are trying to elevate the same issue in federal court in Seattle… Read more here

Some argue that refugee status may apply if the minors face violence back home due to their membership in a particular social group, e.g. those who will not join drug gangs. The 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as any person who:

“owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

The United States Refugee Act of 1980 defines a refugee as any person who is:

…outside their country of residence or nationality, or without nationality, and is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

In fact, a new White House plan would allow some Central American children to come to the United States legally with refugee status, according to an AP article. The plan would allow Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran immigrants who are legally present in the U.S. to ask for refugee status for child relatives still back at home. Also, the White House is calling for the admission of 70,000 refugees in fiscal year 2015, and lists people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as eligible for admission to the U.S. as refugees “if otherwise qualified.”

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is initiating a program to give refugee status to some young people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in response to the influx of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Under the program, immigrants from those countries who are lawfully in the United States will be able to request that child relatives still in those three countries be resettled in the United States as refugees. The program would establish in-country processing to screen the young people to determine if they qualify to join relatives in the U.S…

The program would not provide a path for minors to join relatives illegally in the United States, and would not apply to minors who have entered the country illegally.

Instead, it aims to set up an orderly alternative for dealing with young people who otherwise might embark on a dangerous journey to join their families in the United States… Read more here

Posted in asylees, court, Dept. of Justice, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, honduran, Obama administration, ORR, teenagers, unaccompanied minors, USCCB, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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