Awareness - September 6 2021 - We Welcome Refugees

Awareness - September 6 2021

U.S. District Judge ruled that “metering” at the border is unconstitutional 

Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled on Thursday that “metering” —creating limited queues at ports of entry for those seeking asylum, and turning back asylum seekers once that limit is reached— is unconstitutional. The practice began under President Obama in 2016 and was expanded under President Trump with the waiting list reaching a peak of 27,000 in August 2019. A May report from the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin found over 18,000 names still on waiting lists.

Judge Bashant found that the practice violates due process under the constitution as well as the federal law requiring officials to screen those making asylum claims. Included in her 45 page decision, she wrote, “The risks of waiting in Mexico, often for an extended period of time, are high. The evidence submitted shows that turnbacks resulted in asylum seekers’ deaths, assaults, and disappearances after they were returned to Mexico.”

It’s unclear what the immediate effects of the ruling will be, as President Biden has continued the use of Title 42 expulsions at the border, and a federal judge has ordered the reinstatement of MPP, both of which also require asylum seekers to return to Mexico. The judge has asked both sides for additional briefings by October 1, and she requested more information on how Title 42 affects the ruling.


Efforts to help Afghan allies continue following the U.S. withdrawal

Today as the Washington Post reports the fall of the last holdout of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan a week after U.S. withdrawal, the effort to aid Afghan allies continues.

On August 31, Representatives Crow and Meijer introduced the Show American Values by Evacuating (SAVE) Afghan Partners Act. This bipartisan bill seeks to raise the Special  Immigrant Visa (SIV) cap by an additional 10,000 and expands program eligibility. While this would not have an effect on getting allies out of Afghanistan, it could help expedite processing for evacuees waiting in other countries for approval to resettle in the United States. 

While reports indicate that around 50,000 Afghans in total are expected to be allowed to enter the U.S., the Association of Wartime Allies estimated on August 25 that around 118,000 SIV applicants and their family members still needed to be evacuated. Thomas Warrick, a former senior official of the State Department who helped to build the SIV program, published an op-ed in the Washington Post detailing why evacuation has been so slow and ideas on how to address some of the problems. He writes, “Neither security nor American values need to be compromised. Those in Congress who criticized the Biden administration for slowness to respond need to step up immediately to vote money for overtime and for bringing back retired homeland security, intelligence, and military personnel to clear this backlog.”

Once evacuees are successfully brought into the United States, there is still much work to be done. While many arrivals will qualify for SIV or refugee status, and the benefits those programs entail, those who arrive under humanitarian parole will have less access to government assistance. To help address this issue, the State Department is launching a new “Afghan Parolee Support Program” to provide refugee resettlement agencies with cash assistance of $2,275 per person to provide services for their first 90 days. This would help to cover expenses as the resettlement agencies aid Afghan parolees to secure housing, jobs, medical care, and other needs when they arrive. Congressmen Seth Moulton and Don Bacon are also planning to introduce a bill to provide parolees with the same benefits given to refugees.  

Reports of harsh treatment of migrants by both U.S. and Mexican immigration enforcement agents

The Kino Border Initiative and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice put out a joint report detailing 35 cases of abuse of migrants by CBP from October 2020 to July 2021. The report lays out 5 categories of abuse including: “1. Immigrant claims of credible fear dismissed; 2. Immigrants being forced to sign documentation and then expelled; 3. Theft of documentation; 4. Medical negligence; and 5. Physical abuse.”

While each of the cases was for individuals or families seeking asylum, none of them were referred to USCIS, and “of the thirty-five complaints in this report, none of them resulted in a response to KBI or the complainant about disciplinary action taken against the perpetrators of these abuses.”

Meanwhile, there have also been reports of harsh deterrence efforts by immigration officials at the southern border of Mexico. The increased arrivals that we have seen at the southern U.S. border is also occurring further south, and Mexico has received a record high of 77,559 asylum requests this year. Thousands of troops have been deployed in the southern region to control migration, and in recent weeks videos have surfaced showing agents treating migrants brutally. The UNHCR Office in Mexico issued a statement decrying the excessive use of force on the videos and calling for asylum seekers to be treated within the law and with respect for their rights.