Awareness - June 28 2021 - We Welcome Refugees

Awareness - June 28 2021

Asylum seekers whose cases were closed under MPP will have a chance to reapply

DHS announced that they will allow asylum seekers who were subject to Migrant Protection Protocols, and whose cases were closed or dismissed due to missed court dates, to register for their cases to be reopened. The Washington Post reported that this change could affect about 34,500 asylum seekers. Being forced to wait in Mexico for their asylum proceedings made it far more difficult for applicants to make it to court, and there are even reports of people missing their hearings because they had been kidnapped by cartels. 

News reports revealed poor conditions in Emergency Intake Sites housing unaccompanied children

Multiple news stories broke last week with details of disturbing conditions in HHS shelters for unaccompanied children, especially focusing on the Fort Bliss shelter near El Paso, Texas. A court filing from Carlos Holguín of the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law contained statements from attorneys and children, alleging failure to follow the standards of care required under the Flores Settlement. 

Children in the shelters offered testimony that they were served raw or expired food, were denied medical care, were restricted from bathroom access, and were denied access to lawyers or case managers. These shelters are unlicensed and are meant to be temporary, and the Flores Settlement requires that children should be moved “as expeditiously as possible” to licensed shelters. However, there have been thousands of children held for over 20 days and hundreds held for over 60 days. A report from BBC News makes additional serious allegations including sexual abuse, outbreaks of lice and COVID, and children waiting hours for urgently needed medical care. Reports from news outlets and testimonies from the court filing both attest to children suffering from severe depression and anxiety due to long stays in these conditions. There are currently about 8,000 children housed in these Emergency Intake Sites, down from a high of 14,500 in April.

On Friday, the White House announced that HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is conducting an investigation into allegations of the Fort Bliss shelter, and he visited the shelter on Monday the 28th. Following that visit, Secretary Becerra stated to reporters that the number of children in the Fort Bliss shelter has dropped to 790 -- down from a high of around 4,400 -- and asserted that HHS immediately handles any allegations of abuse that arise. He also stated that there are now more unaccompanied children in licensed facilities than in the unlicensed facilities such as Fort Bliss, and signaled that HHS is weighing options for closing some of these Emergency Intake Sites.

The Biden administration announced plans to evacuate thousands of Afghan allies to safe locations outside Afghanistan as U.S. troops withdraw

After weeks of urging from advocates, veterans, and lawmakers, the Biden administration announced last week that they would evacuate Afghan allies to safe locations outside of Afghanistan in the coming months. As U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, these allies have faced increasing threats from the Taliban and would be left vulnerable once our military presence is gone. Around 18,000 applicants for the Special Immigrant Visa are in a backlog that could take years to clear, and an evacuation would provide a safe place for applicants to live while waiting for that process to be completed.

The administration has not indicated exactly how many will be evacuated or where they will be sent, but there has been a large push to use Guam as an evacuation site as has been done in the past.