Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

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 »

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 »

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 »

Ebola concerns inflated

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 1, 2014

gloves2There have been rumors due to fear of deadly contagious diseases that refugees may be bringing the deadly Ebola fever into the US. Yet, as the national refugee contractor USCRI indicates, only 25 of the 70,000 refugees who came into the US last fiscal year (through the end of September) were from effected countries. In addition, these people traveled well before the threat of Ebola began in West Africa so they were not at risk. Refugees arriving this fiscal year should closely match the originating countries make-up of refugees resettled last year. What could be of concern, however, according to the medical director at the University of Arizona Health Network, are those refugees resettled in earlier years (refugees cannot easily travel abroad without green cards for they are eligible only after being in the US one year) who could have recently traveled to West Africa, the epicenter of Ebola. Nevertheless, a variety of people have traveled back and forth between the US and effected countries and trying to avoid people based on country of origin will not keep anyone safe. Using universal precautions is the best way to avoid exposure – washing hands, avoiding touching your mouth, nose and eyes, avoiding blood and bodily fluids of sick people, not touching used medical materials, etc. Furthermore, the disease is not airborne and one cannot be infected through water or food. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has announced that “Ebola poses no significant risk to the United States.”  An article at Burlington’s WCAX-TV discusses the issue:

BURLINGTON, Vt. – While there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in the state of Vermont, a heightened awareness of the disease has prompted many questions, specifically around what constitutes “voluntary quarantine,” and how it’s enforced… We…spoke with the director of government and community relations for U.S. committee for refugees and immigrants. They say there have been no refugees traveling from the countries currently experiencing Ebola outbreaks. Last fiscal year, 70,000 refugees came to the U.S., but only 25 were from effected countries. Again, these individuals traveled well before the threat of Ebola began in West Africa so they were not at risk. There are strict protocols in place for screening all refugees. If Ebola is detected, the state refugee health coordinator would be contacted within the Vermont Department of Health… Read more here

…and from the Green Valley News and Sun in Tucson, AZ:

A medical director at the University of Arizona Health Network said Tucson’s relatively high population of African nationals increases the likelihood of an Ebola patient arriving at a UAMC hospital. More than 250 refugees from West African countries have resettled in Pima County since 1998, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Dr. Sean Elliott, medical director for infection prevention for the University of Arizona Health Network, said members of those families could have recently traveled to West Africa, the epicenter of the deadly fever. “Just because of the cultural mix of Tucson’s population, it is likely we will have a case [of Ebola],” he said… Read more here

Posted in health, Tucson, USCRI, Vermont | 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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