One hundred years ago, it seemed that immigration to the United States would be a thing of the past. Congress had already forbidden most migration from Asia. In 1921 it began restricting migration from Europe. However, in 1921, the United States Catholic hierarchy organized within the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) its Bureau of Immigration. Since 2001, that organization has been known as Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), which is now a division of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The earliest records of the NCWC Bureau of Immigration’s main office in Washington, DC, and its busy port office in New York City, are located at the Center for Migration Studies of New York. What do these records of a century of action on behalf of immigrants have to tell us today?
In this interview, Jennifer Podkul, the Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), describes the United States’ recent history with respect to the humanitarian protection of children and offers an overview of the current situation at the US-Mexico border for child migrants. An international human rights lawyer and expert on child migration to the United States, Podkul recently testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security on the best practices for the care and protection of child migrants.
Podkul’s 2016 JMHS paper, “The Impact of Externalization of the Migration Controls on the Rights of Asylum Seekers and Other Migrants,” examined how the United States, Australia, and the European Union sought to prevent migrants and refugees from arriving at their borders to seek protection. One example presented in the paper is the Obama administration’s response to the increase in unaccompanied children in 2014. Podkul describes what has changed since the Obama administration with respect to the deterrence of child migrants and offers policy recommendations for the care and reception of child migrants.
On Friday, April 16, President Joseph Biden issued a long-awaited “Memorandum for the Secretary of State on the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021.” The Emergency Presidential Determination (PD) failed to deliver on the president’s promise to raise the ceiling on refugee admissions from the historically low level of 15,000 set by President Trump to 62,500 during this fiscal year, and it caused more obfuscation than illumination of the president’s goals. The White House’s attempt to correct itself hours later led to still more confusion.
This report analyzes the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), leveraging data from a national survey of resettlement stakeholders conducted in 2020. The survey examined USRAP from the time that refugees arrive in the United States. Its design and questionnaire were informed by three community gatherings organized by Refugee Council USA in the fall and winter of 2019, extensive input from an expert advisory group, and a literature review.
This study finds that USRAP serves important purposes, enjoys extensive community support, and offers a variety of effective services. Overall, the survey finds a high degree of consensus on the US resettlement program’s strengths and objectives, and close alignment between its services and the needs of refugees at different stages of their settlement and integration. Because its infrastructure and community-based resettlement networks have been decimated in recent years, the main challenges of subsequent administrations, Congresses, and USRAP stakeholders will be to rebuild, revitalize, and regain broad and bipartisan support for the program. This article also recommends specific ways that USRAP’s programs and services can be strengthened.
The northern border of Mexico is a space of reception and containment for migrant families and individuals, who find themselves in conditions of great precariousness and practically null resources. Few migrants have material resources or social connections in Tijuana. The Casa del Migrante offers support to those waiting to cross the border. This wait can be prolonged indefinitely due to asylum and border control policies, a reality exacerbated by COVID-19 and related policies.
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organization with a mission to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, that they may heal, learn, and determine their own future. In this episode of CMSOnAir, Joan Rosenhauer, the Executive Director of JRS-USA, shares how JRS is adapting its advocacy for a new administration and transforming its programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also shares stories about the “proactive, resilient, hopeful” refugees she has met through her work with JRS.
The number of unaccompanied children and asylum-seekers crossing the US-Mexico border in search of protection has increased in recent weeks. The former president, his acolytes, and both extremist and mainstream media have characterized this situation as a “border crisis,” a self-inflicted wound by the Biden administration, and even a failure of US asylum policy. It is none of these things. Rather, it is a response to compounding pressures, most prominently the previous administration’s evisceration of US asylum and anti-trafficking policies and procedures, and the failure to address the conditions that are displacing residents of the Northern Triangle states of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), as well as Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and other countries. In Central America, these conditions include:
On March 8, US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorkas announced that he is designating Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an 18-month period, until September 2022. CMS estimates that there are 275,000 undocumented Venezuelan nationals living in the United States as of March 8, 2021 who could benefit from this status
One of the most pernicious aspects of the changes to the asylum processes promulgated under the Trump administration is substituting the first-in, first-out (FIFO) policy for the last-in, first-out (LIFO) one. Individuals who had already been waiting for years for an asylum interview have to wait even longer. Until they obtain asylum, individuals cannot petition for visas for their immediate relatives who are often still facing danger. In many ways, this is the “other family separation” crisis, but it remains unseen by most policy makers and the general public.
In an Executive Order signed on February 3, 2021, President Joe Biden promised a thorough review of the US refugee admissions program as well as the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) under which Afghans and Iraqis endangered by their association with the US government are admitted. He also announced that the United States will resettle 125,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2022 and consult with Congress to increase this year’s admissions quota as a down payment. These promises offer hope to thousands of refugees who have been awaiting resettlement, often for years and still more often in precarious settings. Fulfilling this promise will not come easily, however. The new administration has scant time to rebuild a program that the Trump administration sought to destroy.