Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘countries’ Category

Time running out for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Applications

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 20, 2014

Racing Against Deadline Clock Time CountdownDecember 31, 2014 is the deadline for Afghan SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas). That date is also the deadline by which the visa may be issued according to current law. Processing time can vary, with the US State Department claiming the current average processing time for an SIV in Afghanistan is about 13 months, but with most taking up to five years according to Ron Black, director of the resettlement agency College of Southern Idaho’s refugee program. An article in the Twin Falls Times-News has the details of the issue:

TWIN FALLS | Time might be running out for thousands of Afghans who risked their lives in the U.S.-led War on Terror.
As American forces continue to pull out of Afghanistan, some 5,000 Afghan translators under Taliban threat are competing for a few thousand Special Immigration Visas (SIVs), the New York Times reported in March.

On Aug. 8, President Barack Obama signed the Emergency Afghan Allies Extension Act of 2014, which authorized another 1,000 visas for Afghan principal applicants.

If the special visa program expires at the end of December, it will be nearly impossible for them to come to America through other visas, a State Department official told the Times-News.

“Although the deadline to apply… is December 31, 2014, the current law provides that no SIVs may be issued under this program after that date,” says a State Department online fact sheet. “We welcome action by Congress to extend this program.”

According to the fact sheet, processing time can vary depending on a number of factors. “The current average processing time for an SIV in Afghanistan is approximately 13 months.”

But most have taken much longer, said Ron Black, outgoing director of the College of Southern Idaho’s refugee program. “Up to five years.”…

The biggest difficulty in issuing a visa is establishing the applicant’s identity, Black said. “These SIV applicants use assumed names for their own safety.”

Many use the name “FNU” — which stands for “first name unknown,” he said. The refugees “need identification, and nothing matches.

“Once they get a visa, they must leave immediately,” Black said. “But they still need an exit permit, and that can be cancelled at the last minute. So the process can drag on and on.”… Read more here

Posted in Afghan, College of Southern Idaho, SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) immigrants, State Department | 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 »

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 »

Communities outside Manchester, NH question financial impact of resettlement

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 30, 2014

financial impactThis post is based on an article from the summer about the reaction of the mayors of Dover, Somersworth and Rochester outside Manchester on the impact of impending refugee resettlement in their communities. A group of around 100 Congolese refugees was set to be resettled via the resettlement agency Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS). The mayors asked how the refugees would be supported after eight months when refugee cash assistance ends. For those refugees who do not find jobs an obvious answer is the usual set of welfare for low-income residents – cash assistance, food stamps, section-8, etc. These are state and federally funded programs. Much is made about the lack of power of local governments to accept or deny new residents when in fact local governments do not get to decide that. The public and US permanent residents have always been free to come and go as they wish, i.e. the constitutionally granted freedom of movement. Everyday communities experience any number of people, including low-income people, moving to them. Where I do see a point is the issue of educational impacts (locally funded) on local communities, which the federal government could do more better help. This does need to be looked at in terms of the larger picture as families with adults needing ESL classes or children needing English language learners (ELL) education have adults eager to work, who then not only support local communities with their labor but also pay taxes and buy goods and services. An article in Foster’s Daily Democrat has more:

DOVER — Misinformation has surfaced this week regarding the relocation and settlement of Congolese refugees to Tri-City communities; however, one aspect of the program through the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success is true — the communities of Dover, Somersworth and Rochester will have no say in the matter….

What is known is that no more than 100 Congolese families would be resettled throughout Tri-City communities and as a community, Weston said, there is no authority on whether to accept or not…

She also said this is not a program, federally operated through the state, that Dover is embracing…

Very little is known at this time as far as details into who would pick up financial and educational responsibility after the eight-month commitment of support ends from the program…

“We have not endorsed these folks and we do have major concerns of the financial and educational impact on each of our cities,” Weston said.

Hilliard said the idea that the community would legally have to support the refugees through both social services and education once the assistance from the state runs out is totally unacceptable for the Hilltop City. And while he said he could not speak on behalf of Dover and Rochester, he knows each community shares the same concerns…

“I really see this as really taxing the resources of the Tri-City communities for years to come if it’s not very clear up front how many refugees will be coming and where it’s capped, if at all,” he said… Read more here

Posted in Congolese, ELL, New Hampshire, ORIS, schools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Congolese women feel socially isolated in US – have unmet trauma-related needs

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 26, 2014

unmet needsA report partly funded by a grant from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says the US refugee program is not doing enough to meet Congolese refugee women’s needs. Many of these women have experienced significant trauma, including sexual violence and losing loved ones before coming to the US and have unmet needs for trauma-related services, social support and longer-time financial support . Many of the women are socially isolated here, including those who were not resettled near their adult relatives. An article at the University of Texas at Austin News explains the issue:

AUSTIN, Texas — The U.S. government must do more to address the needs of Congolese refugee “women at risk” through trauma-related services and social support, according to a report by the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at The University of Texas at Austin and the Department of Sociology & Social Work at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

The report issued recommendations for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which is responsible for resettling 50,000 Congolese refugees in the United States by 2019…
Although the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program emphasizes economic integration through job placement, the report finds that many refugee women had unmet needs for trauma-related services, social support and longer-time financial support, said IDVSA researcher and project director Karin Wachter…

All interviewees had been resettled as “women at risk,” a UNHCR resettlement category originally created to prioritize the processing of particularly vulnerable female refugees who could not return to their home country. Overall, 75 percent of the interviewed refugees were employed or full-time students. Nearly all had children, and the great majority were single heads of household. They all reported having experienced significant trauma, including sexual violence and losing loved ones before coming to the United States.

“Access to long-term services to address trauma and loss is essential for this population,” said Maura B. Nsonwu, the lead researcher from North Carolina A&T. “The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program could leverage local resources for these services, such as domestic violence and sexual assault centers in cities who receive Congolese refugees.”

The study also found that the women felt an overall sense of physical safety and food security in the United States. Nonetheless, they felt socially isolated and expressed the need for companionship and assistance with parenting and child care. The report recommends that the UNHCR and the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program prioritize reunification of “women at risk” with adult relatives who could provide the needed companionship and support… Read more here

Posted in Congolese, Lexington, mental health, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Many unaccompanied Central American youth traumatized

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 19, 2014

human_dignity

Many of the 30,000 (some articles say 60,000) Central American unaccompanied minors who have entered the U.S illegally since last January have come with histories of trauma. Many of the children and teens have been physically or sexually abused. For example, the USCRI refugee contractor says more than 90 percent of the girls they’re dealing with have been raped. An article at NPR explores this troubling issue:

Many of the Central American children who have entered the U.S illegally in recent months have come with a heavy burden — a history of hardship and violence. And many of the children now face difficult and uncertain futures.

This has social service agencies around the country scrambling to figure out how to help the more than 30,000 unaccompanied minors who have been placed with family and friends since January, as they await their immigration hearings.

One of those nonprofits is Mary’s Center, which has been helping immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area for years. Until recently, workers at the agency saw about five to seven newly arrived children each month. Now they’re seeing that many every day, according to Maria Gomez, the group’s president and CEO.

She says many of the children have had horrific experiences, which will require serious counseling…

“So far almost every single one of the kids that we’ve gotten has been through some horrendous trauma,” she says. She adds that many of the children have been physically or sexually abused, at home or on the way to the U.S. Gomez says one 11-year-old girl they’re seeing was raped by the men her family paid to bring her to the United States. She’s now pregnant…

Other agencies say they’re seeing similar cases — children with layer upon layer of problems that will need to be dealt with soon. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a nonprofit that is helping the federal government settle about 1,000 unaccompanied minors, says more than 90 percent of the girls they’re dealing with have been raped… Read more here

An article in The Buffalo News also explores this issue with refugees resettled to the US.

Posted in Guatemalan, mental health, teenagers, unaccompanied minors, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Of 3 million Syrian refugees the US has accepted just 36

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 18, 2014

refugee figuresOf the 36 million Syrian refugees fleeing the country the US has so far accepted only 36. Half of these refugees are children. Although the US has pledges to accept thousands more, sweeping counter terrorism laws along with the usual long wait of the resettlement process means the refugees wait will be protracted. With US-led airstrikes in Syria pushing more refugees over the border, there is now a heightened sense of urgency in processing Syrian refugees for resettlement here. An article in The Guardian examines the issue:

Since the start of the war in Syria in early 2011, the number of people fleeing the country has swelled to more than 3 million – half of them children. The US has accepted only a staggering few – just 36 in 2013.

Though the US has recently pledged to accept thousands more over the next few years, the resettlement process is complex and protracted. In some cases, refugees are left waiting in camps for up to three years before they are cleared to board a plane to America. This is in part due to sweeping US counter-terrorism laws that have, until recently, been ensnaring Syrians who pose no threat.

With no end in sight to the country’s brutal war, which has claimed upwards of 190,000 lives, according to the UN’s latest figures, refugee advocacy groups are calling on the US to fast-track the process for Syria’s most vulnerable and absorb a greater number of its refugees. Since the US-led coalition against Isis began conducting air strikes within Syria two weeks ago, likely pushing more refugees across borders, there is a heightened sense of urgency… Read more here

Posted in security/terrorism, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bhutanese immigrants in U.S. killing themselves at alarming rate

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 16, 2014

yellow_ribbonThe suicide rate among Nepali-Bhutanese refugees continues as a subject of concern. The suicide rate among Bhutanese here is 20.3 per 100,000 people, nearly double the rate of 12.4 per 100,000 for U.S. residents overall, and higher than the global suicide rate of 16 per 100,000. In six years, up to 55 Bhutanese immigrants have hanged themselves, using ropes or traditional scarves, with the last one occurring in Ohio in April. A former Bhutanese refugee in Portland, OR has made it his goal to support refugees from his country and reduce the number of suicides. An article in the Los Angeles Times tells more:

…In six years, up to 55 Bhutanese immigrants have hanged themselves, using ropes or traditional scarves, and [Som Subeti of Portland’s Lutheran Community Services] suspects the rate might be even higher. He has hounded federal agencies such as the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to investigate the trend. He sent emails, made telephone calls, even traveled to Washington to address officials…. Due in part to Subedi’s pressure, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study that found the problem to be endemic: The suicide rate among Bhutanese here is 20.3 per 100,000 people, nearly double the rate of 12.4 per 100,000 for U.S. residents overall and higher than the global suicide rate of 16 per 100,000… He wrote a column for the Oregonian newspaper, questioning the American dream. “I am a refugee from Bhutan,” he began, describing how he once encouraged friends in the camps in Nepal to hurry to the U.S., a place he called “close to heaven.” He wrote: “Now I see those newly arrived struggling; they question me about my ‘heaven.’ Some say they would return, if possible, to their dark refugee camps rather than face their desperate situations in Oregon. I have come to feel that ‘the American dream’ is dangerous, because people come here with great expectations. I have stopped calling the camps in Nepal.” Benefits for Bhutanese stop after a few months, often before the recipients have assimilated. Subedi disagrees with the CDC conclusion that a Bhutanese predisposition to suicide was brought to the U.S. from the refugee camps. “It’s like saying, ‘It isn’t our problem,'” he said. “America is all about immigrants. The U.S. has resources other nations don’t. But there isn’t the will to help refugees here.”… His compatriots continue to take their own lives, the last one in Ohio in April… Read more here

Posted in Lutheran Community Service, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, Oregon, ORR, suicide | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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