Americas

Americas

CMSOnAir | Jennifer Podkul on the Humanitarian Protection of Children

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.

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The Next Presidential Determination on Refugee Resettlement: The Time to Act is Now

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.

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CMSOnAir | Daniela Alulema on the Contributions of DACA Recipients

As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate the DACA program, CMS released a paper offering detailed estimates about DACA recipients, their economic contributions, and their deep ties to US communities. The paper, which also features testimonies of several DACA recipients, was subsequently published in the Journal on Migration and Human Security (JMHS). In this episode, Daniela Alulema — who is author of the JMHS paper, CMS’s Director of Programs, and herself a DACA recipient — describes the paper’s findings, shares the stories of the DACA recipients, and outlines potential policy directions for the DACA program.

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Charting a Course to Rebuild and Strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program

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.

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Migrant Detention and COVID-19: Pandemic Responses in Four New Jersey Detention Centers

On March 24, 2020, a 31-year-old Mexican national in Bergen County Jail, New Jersey, became the first federal immigration detainee to test positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). By April 10, 2020, New Jersey had more confirmed COVID-19 cases among immigration detainees than any other state in the nation. This article examines the relationship between COVID-19 and processes of migrant detention and deportation through a case study of New Jersey — an early epicenter of the pandemic and part of the broader New York City metro area. Drawing on publicly available reports and in-depth interviews with wardens, immigration lawyers, advocates, and former detainees, we describe the initial COVID-19 response in four detention facilities in New Jersey. Our findings suggest that migrant detention and deportation present distinct challenges that undermine attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19. We provide testimonies from migrant detainees who speak to these challenges in unsettling personal terms. Our interviews highlight the insufficient actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to contain the spread of the pandemic and a troubling lack of due process in immigration court proceedings. Based on these findings, we argue that reducing the number of migrants detained in the United States is needed not only in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic but also as a preventative measure for future health crises. Reductions can be achieved, in part, by reforming federal immigration laws on “mandatory detention.”

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Fear and Borders within the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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.

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CMSOnAir | Joan Rosenhauer on Sharing Refugee Stories

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.

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Real Needs, Not Fictitious Crises Account for the Situation at US-Mexico Border

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:

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Venezuelan Returnees Face Corruption and Abuse, and Leave their Country Again

Margarita E. de Lopez, 63, a former journalist, traveled for 38 hours to reach her home in Caracas, Venezuela. She walked along irregular pathways (trochas) in Colombia and then took a bus through Venezuela, which was stopped 22 times to allow Bolivarian security forces to collect bribes from each of its 45 passengers. Although the number of Venezuelan returnees has decreased since September 2020, returnees and those fleeing Venezuela share the same experience of crossing the irregular paths and risking their lives, their few belongings, and savings.

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The US Citizenship Act of 2021: What’s Inside and Who Could be Eligible for Immigration Relief

On January 20, 2021, President Biden announced the US Citizenship Act of 2021 memorializing his commitment to modernize the US immigration system. On February 18, 2021, Senator Bob Mendez and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez introduced the bill to the Senate and House (respectively). If passed, it would create the largest legalization program in US history. This page provides an overview of the act’s provisions.

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