Babies in detention centers and parents deported without them. How will reunification take place?

Lourdes y Leo

Lourdes de Leon and her son, Leo Jean Carlo De Leon Lopez, 6, in happier times. They were both detained by US authorities and separated. Lourdes signed a deportation order to Guatemala after being told it would speed up reunification. Leo remains detained in New York. Lourdes is desperate to reunite with him. She was told Leo could be detained for 7 more months; this is if he is authorized to return home at all. Lourdes is now having to defend her role as a mother and her ability to provide for him. She raised him as a single mother his whole life. Photo. El Nuevo Pais.

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Imagine having to fight the US government to reunite with your child who is detained in the US, while you have been deported to Guatemala. You only speak Spanish and have next to no information on the whereabouts of your child.  You can’t fly to the US to fight for him because you have been deported. All you have is your phone, an empty bedroom with your child’s toys, and a million agonizing thoughts. You are outpowered, and at the mercy of a government not invested in your family’s welfare. You brought your son to the US because you wanted him to grow up free and with opportunities. One month later, the country you thought would shelter you has detained your minor son and deported you. What do you do?

lourdes photo univision

Two days after Lourdes de Leon crossed the US border, she was separated from her son, Leo, who is 6 years old. Later, she was deported to Guatemala, but her son remained detained in the United States.

Guatemalan Press, El Nuevo Pais, reports that Lourdes de León and her son, Leo Jean Carlo de León, were so close that they did not separate even when she went to work. As a single mother, Lourdes found a job that allowed her to sell clothes by going from house to house so that she could take her 6-year-old son with her.

“When I was detained they sent me to Eloy, Arizona. I was held there for 19 days. Since the first day I arrived, I started asking, “Where is my son? because since they took him from me I was not told a thing. I sent letters to immigration, saying, please, I need to know about my son. His name is Leo Jean Carlo De Leon Lopez. I’m desperate. Please send me the number and name of the social worker, I beg of you, please.”

Noticiero Univision reports that Lourdes eventually learned that six-year-old, Leo, had been transferred to a center in New York.

El Nuevo Pais also published an interview with Lourdes:

“A U.S. agent approached me and told me I had the option of signing my deportation. I thought that by signing it, I would be deported with my child. I wanted to return with my son, so I gave them his name and information. After filling out those papers, they told me that my deportation was going to happen in eight days and I asked them if they were going to deport me with my son and they said, yes.”

The moment of deportation came four days ahead of the announcement.

“They told me that if I decided to wait in detention, reuniting with my son would take between four or five months, but if I returned to Guatemala right away we would see each other in less than two months.”

Lourdes then signed the papers and she was deported back to Guatemala, she told, El Nuevo Pais.

“When I returned to Guatemala I felt empty. I felt guilty because I had failed him. I had failed my son. I have sent many papers to prove that I am Leo’s mother and they have also asked me to prove that I can give my son a good life.”

It has been a month and six days since Lourdes was separated from her son and no one seems to give her a precise date by which this nightmare will end.

The story of Lourdes and Leo is no exception. El Nuevo Pais tells that many women held in detention at the border have reported being pressured into signing the deportation paperwork by being told it will speed reunification with their children. Since returning to Guatemala, Lourdes was told she and Leo could be separated for up to 7 months.

Lourdes is hoping that Leo will be home in time for Christmas.

The social worker told Lourdes that she could not promise that.

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Today we learned that President Trump is planning to issue an executive order to end the separation of families at the border. After the order is issued, parents and children will be indefinitely detained together.

How will the children held in US detention centers reunite with parents who were pressured into self-deporting?

And the babies? How will the babies get home?

 

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“You Cannot Separate me from My Children!”A Mother & Father Detail Separation from Their Children at the Border

Photo credit: Associated Press. A migrant father and child, who traveled with the annual caravan of Central American migrants, rest waiting for access to request asylum in the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico

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While the Trump administration stated that their policy is to only separate families when that enter the country illegally, the organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras claims that families seeking asylum at legal ports of entry are suffering the same fate, being forcibly separated from children, and kept in the dark regarding the whereabouts of their children.

Helpless, and hopeless, parents sit in detention centers worrying about the fate of their children with a recurring, horrible thought: where did they go, and why can’t we be told their whereabouts?

Human rights activists and politicians have demanded changes to these barbaric practices.

Below, are testimonials by Maria, mother of a 2 and 7-year-old, and Jose, a father of 1-year-old Mateo. Both parents detail the horrible experiences of having their children taken from them and being left in the dark.

Testimonial: “Maria”-Separated from her 2 and 7-year-olds at the border

Maria, came to the United States from Central America seeking refuge and protection. On May 2nd, she appeared before an official in the Tijuana immigration booth where she was detained with her two children. Five days later, she was separated from her children and was told they would be transferred to a shelter. Maria told Univision she was living her worst nightmare.

“On Tuesday around 8 a.m., someone called out my two children’s names. I went out to follow them and they told me, “ma’am, only they are going.”

I asked, “to where?”

They told me, “where there are more children.”

I told them, “ you cannot separate me from my children. They are mine.”

“Maria” a pseudonym used by Univision to protect the mother, recorded the audio from the detention center of Otay Mesa in California.

She told Univision that being separated from her children had been heart-wrenching especially since they are only 2 and 7.

“They gave me 10 minutes to say goodbye to them. I told them, “but why are you taking them from me?” They only told me, “where you go, they cannot go.”

“The eldest, when he heard what was going to happen started to cry. He told me, “Mommy I don’t want to go. I don’t want them to separate us.”

“The youngest one, when he saw his older sibling cry, also started to cry.”

Maria said that she had repeatedly asked the agents of the whereabouts of her children, but they did not give her the information. She told Univision that her children are somewhere in New York but she does not know where.

“I am beyond desperate. I get depressed because  I don’t have my children with me. I have not experienced a second of peace. Every night, I cry.”

Univision stated yesterday that they could not find the whereabouts of the children because the department of health and human services told them the information was confidential.

Testimonial: Father and son separation

Jose y mateo

Jose Demar Fuentes, asylum seeker, and his 1-year old son, Mateo. Jose is a 30-year-old asylum seeker from El Salvador. His son, Mateo, is a 1-year-old. They were separated in San Diego. He has been sitting in detention for 6 months without any information of Mateo’s whereabouts. Pueblo Sin Fronteras started this petition to San Diego Field Office Director – Gregory J. Archambeault U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and 2 others

Jose, a Salvadoran asylum seeker who traveled with the Central American Caravan presented himself at the U.S. border to ask for asylum. He spent days detained at the CBP, Customs and Border Patrol. Jose expected to be released on parole with his 1-year-old son. Instead, he and the others were told they would be separated from their children. His wife, Neta, obtained audio of Jose’s frantic call from the detention center:

“When we got to San Diego they told us that they were going to separate us from our children. So we formed a group because we hoped that if we stood together we would have the strength to resist. We told them no, we don’t want to be separated from our children. The second time,  they told us in a more intimidating manner that they didn’t want to use force in front of the children, but they would have to if we refused to comply. We persisted with our children in arms, crying. It was no use. They came and they took them. And we couldn’t do anything about it. I asked for permission to call a lawyer or family members. They said, no, that we didn’t have any rights.”

Pueblos Sin Fronteras reports that 4 of the fathers are currently being held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. Officers have not provided them with information on the whereabouts of their children.

Image result for Geo group photo of bus for babies undocumented

At this moment, the health department has almost 11,000 children in government custody without their parents. This is 22% more than last month, reported Noticiero Telemundo on May 30th.

Current Children in Custody-source HHS for Noticiero Telemundo.

April 29, 2018

8,886

May 29, 2018

10,773

“The parents keep bringing them here for fear that in their countries they will become gang members or end up dead,” told Attorney Naimeh Salem to Noticias Telemundo.

The authorities report that the shelters are at 95% capacity. In Florida, shelters are preparing 1300 beds to accommodate children.

Jessica Rangel of the T.E.J.A.S group told Noticias Telemundo that Trump’s zero tolerance only benefits the owners of the hostels that charge $ 300 per child per day:

“It’s a business,” says Rangel, “as a result, they keep separating families.”

 

The Current Protocol on Family Separation at the Border is Cruel and in Urgent Need of Reform

lawyer and child

KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), attorney, Shanti Martin with Angela. Photo, Kids in Need of Defense. KIND’s network of attorneys represents unaccompanied children in their fight for reunification and safety.

KIND has trained more than 24,200 attorneys and partnered with over 522 corporations, law firms, law schools, and bar associations.

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The Women’s Refugee Commission and several other organizations filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) on behalf of family members who were forcibly separated at the Southern border of the United States. The complaint listed examples of toddlers, as young as two years old, who had been forcibly separated from their parents and labeled, “unaccompanied.”

In a report titled, “Betraying Family Values-How Immigration Policy at the United States Border is Separating Families, ” the commission outlined the risks of separation and detention on the family unit and child well-being, and identified a series of gaps in process, tracking, and communication that are currently hurting reunification attempts between the removed children and their detained parents.

The Women’s Refugee Commission Identified the Following Serious Risks:

  • Family separation through the deportation process is dangerous and impedes safe repatriation and reintegration.
  • Family unity matters. It is a fundamental human right enshrined in international and U.S. child welfare law.

The destruction of a family unit has serious consequences for all members:

  • Jeopardizes liberty, access to justice, and protection.
  • Negatively impacts the emotional, psychological development and well-being.
  • Creates security and economic difficulties.
  • Strips the dignity of an individual and their family as a whole.

The Women’s Refugee Commission argues that the federal government should prioritize liberty and family unity in its immigration policy and make fast improvements to the following:

Tracking Mechanisms and Processes are Needed; So is Accountability and Transparency.

Government agencies should have mechanisms to identify family members and track family separation in all cases.

Improved Professional Training:

  1. DHS agents should receive training and guidance on identification, documentation, processing, and placement decisions for families.

Develop a Series of Alternatives to Detention:

  1. A series of alternatives to detention should be prioritized to avoid separating families and causing trauma.

Hire Child Welfare Bilingual Professionals, Trauma Training:

  1. Trauma Training is Needed. Multi-lingual, Multi-Cultural Staff, Social Workers are Needed. DHS should require the hiring of child welfare professionals at the border to supervise the protection of children and families and oversee instances of family separation.

Document, Trace and Justify:

  1. DHS and its agencies should document and trace all family relationships. Family separation should be recorded and justified in writing.

Report to Congress:

  1. Such information should also be collected, analyzed, and reported regularly to Congress.

Provide Accessible Updates to Families and Attorneys for Reunification:

  1. Information should be accessible to family members and their attorneys. This should also permit families to trace other family members, file complaints about family separation, and seek family reunification.

Best Interest of the Child-First Consideration:

  1. DHS should consider the best interests of the child in all processing, custody, and removal and repatriation decisions.

Protect Children during Removal and Repatriation:

  1. During removal and repatriation, children should be protected from family separation to assist in a safe return without added undue trauma.

Improve Inter-Agency Communication:

  1. Inter-agency processes to improve communication and collaboration to help separated family members be released and/or reunited. This should include mechanisms to help detained family members locate and connect with separated loved ones.

Report to the Public

  1. DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) provide oversight and accountability and report findings to Congress and the public.
  2. Improve documentation, reporting, and policies on family separation.

 

Accurate reporting and checking in with the shelters and sponsors taking care of these children is critical to reunification with family, to welfare and protection, and to the speedy connection of the children with attorneys who can represent them in court. Given the current weak tracking system, it is not surprising that over a thousand children were found to be missing after separation and detention.

What measures are currently being taken so that this never happens again?

In the case of undocumented minors that are deported, urgent questions arise. First, why? Is it because they miss court dates? Are children really expected to keep track of court dates and figure out where to go and when? Is it because they don’t accurately represent themselves? How can a child be expected to do so? Is it because of language barriers? What are the determinations that send minors back to dangerous places?

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Congressional Hearings, and Legal Advocacy

Congressional hearings have illuminated many advocates for justice in this matter. Last week, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) questioned Donald Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen regarding the policy of separating children from their parents when they cross the border through unofficial entry points. In the video below, Nielsen is unable to provide details regarding the treatment of children. Senator Harris pressed for answers that she asked Nielsen to provide within one week time.

Legal advocates are also rising to defend these children’s battles in court. KIND, (Kids in Need of Defense), provides lawyers to represent children who arrive in the U.S. alone. The nonprofit was started by a collaboration between Microsoft and Angelina Jolie.

KIND believes that “No Child Should Appear in Immigration Court Alone.” According to their findings:

  • 50% Of Children Arriving in the U.S. have No One To Represent Them in Immigration Court.
  • Children without Representation are 5 times more likely to be Deported back to Danger.
  • Unaccompanied children are eligible for protection under the U.S. immigration system but need an attorney to represent them.
  • At least 60 percent of children who have attorneys are granted U.S. protection

With the help of KIND and her pro bono attorneys at Microsoft, Nayeli was able to obtain legal relief in the US:

What Forms of Legal Protection Are Available?

KIND describes various legal avenues:

  • Asylum (for those persecuted)
  • Special immigrant juvenile status (if abused, abandoned, or neglected)
  • Trafficking T visa for those who have been coerced into forced labor
  • U Visa for crime victims

Access to legal representation is critical for these children. Without an attorney, most children will not gain the protection for which they are eligible.

Organizations Representing Minors-Their view on Family Separation

The organization, Raices, Refugee, and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, in San Antonio, represents minors who have been separated from their parents.

Attorney Justin Tullius, who works for Raices, told Univision that he believes family separation by U.S. immigration officials,

“is a threat to immigrant families at the border meant to intimidate them.” Tullis fears that if children are sent to military installations, “they could be exposed to risks and violations of their rights.”

Tullius  added that the risks go beyond treatment at the military shelters, but also after,

“Sometimes when a child is separated from his father, the father is lost.”

Univision reports that the refugee program under the Department of Health and Human Services works with 100 shelters in 14 states.

The growing number of children arrivals at the border,  have impacted the capacity at these shelters and has led the Department of Health and Human Services to consider the opening of temporary shelters for the undocumented minors in four military bases in the country.

Under Consideration in Texas:

Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. 

 

Photo. Salem News.

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Dyess Air Base, Texas 

Texas 1

Photo. Defense Studies. Dyess AFB is located about 7 miles
southwest of Abilene, Texas.

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Abilene and Goodfellow Air Base, San Angelo.

texas3

Photo. Defense Studies. Goodfellow AFB is located near
San Angelo, Texas.

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In Arkansas:

Base Air of Little Rock, Arkansas:

ak1

Photo. Defense Studies. Little Rock AFB is located in Jacksonville, Arkansas
(about 10 miles northeast of Little Rock).

 

While we wait for Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen to provide answers regarding the welfare of unaccompanied children through the separation, detention and court process,  more questions emerge:

What happens to the children waiting in military shelters in the following cases?

A parent is deported while the child sits in a shelter.

No relative or guardian can be found.

A child arrived at the border without identification or records.

A child is unable to communicate due to trauma or language barriers.

How long will they sit in the military shelters? What types of activities-recreational, educational, health, and psychological care will be available to them? What will they eat? Who will comfort them?

As Congress asks tough questions of DHS’s plans to provide for the children, there are valid reasons for the tough questions and many concerns.

The photos below were released by Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-Texas) office and depict the cramped living conditions that undocumented immigrants, and unaccompanied children, experienced in a detention center near the U.S.-Mexico border. Photos were published in the Huffington Post. The photos were first published by the Houston Chronicle.

sleeping on foil

detention 1

detention 4

 

Why? How is this okay?

As a citizen, as an immigrant, and as a mother, I can’t ignore this issue. These are children, alone, as young as two years old. If we don’t care; if we leave the questions for someone else to raise; if we look the other way, or switch the channel, who will be there for them? Who will demand accountability and human rights? They are vulnerable and don’t have a voice or direct channel to justice. That’s why they need us.

Seeking Asylum in Canada-What the U.S. Can Learn about the Canadian Process

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.  Welcome to Canada.” Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau

Trudeau

Justin Trudeau Offers Support to Refugees With “Welcome to Canada” Tweet

Over the past year, Canada has experienced an unprecedented wave of petitions for asylum. The surge has put a strain on Quebec’s capacity to accommodate new arrivals. More than 25,000 asylum seekers were intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police during the period of January 2017 through March 2018.

They crossed from the United States.

During the first trimester of 2018, asylum petitions more than doubled those filed during the same time period last year. Since the Trump administration has ended the temporary protected status-TPS, for immigrants from 4 counties, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan,  asylum petitions to Canada are expected to rise to unprecedented numbers, stressing resources and Canada’s ability to maintain its welcoming policies.

What is TPS? How does it Affect Immigrant beneficiary groups in the US, and What is its Impact on Canada?

The U.S. Immigration Act of 1990 extended temporary protected status (TPS) to immigrants from certain countries affected by armed conflict, environmental disasters, and other extraordinary conditions. TPS has allowed recipients to live and work legally in the US until the Department of Homeland Security deems it safe to return to their countries of origin.

In some cases, people with temporary protected status  have been in the United States since the 1990s.

tps

Skye Gould/Business Insider

Protected status for the following countries is also set to end:

Sudan: November 2, 2018 About 1,050 people benefit from TPS. Protection is set to end citing improved conditions in the country.

Nicaragua: January 5, 2019 TPS for roughly 5,300 Nicaraguans expired on January 5, but the program won’t officially end until early 2019. TPS protection followed the Hurricane Mitch devastation.

Haiti: July 22, 2019 In November, the DHS announced it would end TPS for nearly 59,000 Haitian immigrants. TPS protection followed a catastrophic earthquake in 2010.

El Salvador: September 9, 2019 Salvadorans were first granted temporary residency protections in 1990 amid El Salvador’s brutal civil war. Today, they total 260,000 approximate beneficiaries.The program was extended by Presidents Bush and Obama. The Trump administration announced its end.

In the case of Salvadorans, 88 percent are part of the US workforce and they are parents to 192,700 U.S. citizen children, according to the Center for Migration Studies, cited in the American Jesuit Review.

Other TPS  upcoming deadlines:

Nepal: June 24, 2018
Honduras: July 5, 2018
Somalia Sept. 17, 2018
Yemen September 3, 2018
South Sudan May 2, 2019

“It’s really important that Congress works to fix this situation, especially for long-term recipients that have been here for many years,” Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy and public affairs said at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “They have made so many contributions, own homes, run businesses and are leaders in our churches. These are people who we want to ensure continue to be part of our society.”

Ending TPS will cause an economic, social and familial crisis to over 400,000 beneficiaries. The effect of this massive displacement will also have serious repercussions on the beneficiaries’ home countries, and on our next door neighbor, Canada.

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What has been the Effect of the Trump  Administration’s immigration policies on Canada?

Unprecedented Petition Claims & Visa Abuses

 In addition to the unprecedented numbers of asylum petition claims, Canadian officials have reported visa abuses by travelers who come to the US on a travel visa with the intention of seeking asylum in Canada.

A rise in Unofficial Border Crossings

Most of the illegal border crossings to Canada are occurring in Quebec.

Half of Canada’s 49,775 asylum claims in 2017 were made in that province.

Misinformation Campaigns

Misinformation campaigns and social media rumors that asylum seekers get a free pass in Canada have presented a challenge: “It is unfortunate that these very vulnerable people were convinced that admission as a refugee in Canada and here in Quebec would be simple, even automatic. That’s not the case at all. There is no guarantee that asylum applications will be accepted, given the strict rules that govern them,” stated Quebec’s premier, Philippe Couillard.

Fear of Deportation and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in the US

Anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. is driving many to seek asylum in Canada. However, fear of deportation from the United States isn’t enough to make an asylum case in Canada.

End of TPS protection to vulnerable populations

TPS recipients from the U.S. are fleeing to Canada to avoid deportation.

Pact between the US and Canada

The pact known as the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States requires people to apply for refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in — under which, the US is considered a safe country.

Because of this, people who seek refugee status in Canada from the US will be turned away at official border crossings. As a result, people are bypassing official entry points and entering the country throughout remote and freezing locations, risking their lives on foot, without going through immigration.

Canada refugee

Haitian asylum seekers are about to test Canada’s refugee system in a big way. An RCMP officer announces to a group of asylum seekers that identified themselves as from Haiti that they will be crossing illegally into Canada as they wait in line to to enter at the U.S.-Canada border in Champlain, N.Y., Aug. 7, 2017. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Asylum Petitions and Refugee Claims in Canada

Before the massive influx of asylum seekers, refugee claims to determine eligibility could be made within 1 day, and cases were heard by the IRB within 60 days. Looking at Quebec, specifically, the process has been greatly impacted.

While waiting for a Hearing, Asylum Seekers Can Access Multiple Services

  • Healthcare
  • Social Assistance
  • Education-Parents can enroll their children in schools. French-language pre-school, elementary and secondary school is free for children between the ages of 5 and 18, but in order to enroll, claimants need to present their Refugee Protection Claimant document issued by the federal immigration ministry.
  • They are encouraged to find a more permanent place to live since parents wanting to send their children to school face the additional barrier of needing a home address to enroll their children.
  • A permanent address also facilitates the receipt of social assistance checks, which are provided to the asylum seekers until they find jobs.

At the Border

Individuals can make an asylum claim in Canada at a port of entry, at a Canada Border Services Agency, or at an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) inland office.

When asylum seekers arrive at the border with Canada, their identification is verified and they are taken to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) where they undergo a health and security check and complete a Basis of Claim Form.

If the claim is determined eligible, they are referred to the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) for a hearing. During the hearing, the IRB considers each case according to the United Nations definition of a Convention refugee-which was adopted into Canadian law-and within the consideration of a person’s need for protection.

No enforcement actions are taken against people seeking asylum.

At the start of the process, asylum seekers also declare how much money they bring. Based on their financial circumstance, they are placed in one of the temporary housing centers until permanent housing can be located.

Within 21 and 35 days, they receive their first social assistance check. The wait can be longer, depending on demand, according to Paul Clarke, the executive director of Action Réfugiés Montreal.

Canadian man hugs child

Family members from Somalia are helped into Canada by RCMP officers along the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Quebec. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Waiting for the Interview

Asylum seekers in Quebec wait for their eligibility interview in either temporary housing or by staying with family. In the meantime, they apply for social assistance— $649 per month, per person, or $1189 for a family of four —states CBC news, from Montreal, Canada.

Eligibility Interviews

The interviews are conducted by an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency or by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship agency in Canada. The officer verifies whether the asylum seeker meets the criteria.

Once the claimants are marked as eligible for asylum, they are referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) for a hearing.

Typically, cases are heard within 60 days.

What Happens During a Hearing?

During their hearing, they must demonstrate that they face a risk of torture, a risk to their life, cruel and unusual punishment or treatment, or persecution because of:

  • Race.
  • Religion.
  • Nationality.
  • Political opinion.
  • Membership in a particular social group, which can include sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status or domestic violence.

Following the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) Hearing:

If the IRB accepts the claim, the asylum seeker gets “protected person” status. This means they can stay in Canada and apply to become a permanent resident. If the refugee claim is accepted, the person may start the process of obtaining permanent residency. If refugee claim is rejected, there is an opportunity to appeal to the IRB or the Federal Court, or the claimant may be deported.

If the IRB rejects the claim, they must leave Canada.

If the law allows, they may ask for the decision to be reviewed.

Refugee claims may be ineligible if:

  • They have been recognized as a Convention refugee by another country that they can return to.
  • Have already been granted protected person status in Canada.
  • Have arrived via the Canada-US border
  • Are not admissible to Canada on security grounds, due to criminal activities or human rights violations.
  • Made a prior claim that was rejected or found ineligible.
  • Abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim.

 

please we need a home

‘Please, we need a home’: Nigerian asylum seekers follow a well-trodden migrant route to Canada. Taxis wait at the bus station in Plattsburgh, N.Y., to take people to an unofficial border crossing into Quebec. Susan Ormiston · CBC News ·

First Forms of Assistance-Temporary Housing

After requesting asylum, they are immediately referred to PRAIDA, (Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers in Quebec) an organization that provides assistance to asylum seekers during their first months in Canada. PRAIDA assesses each case and determines whether to send them to one of the 12 centers set up to temporarily house refugees.

olympic stadium

Canada Turns Olympic Stadium Into Welcome Center For ‘Refugees’ From U.S. IMAGE CREDITS: WIKI.

 

no one is

‘Thank you, God’: Asylum seekers find a warm welcome at Olympic Stadium. CBC News. A man holds up a baby during a rally in support of asylum seekers outside the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The stadium is being used as a temporary shelter for some of the hundreds of asylum claimants pouring across the New York-Quebec border every day. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Several temporary housing centers were set up in Montreal including one in the Olympic Stadium. Canadian Forces staff also built a camp for 1,200 people at Quebec’s Lacolle border crossing, south of Montreal, to accommodate the ongoing wave of asylum seekers.

As migrants wait to be processed. Many sleep in heated trailers and tents installed by Canadian Forces.

tent

Asylum Seekers at the Border Getting heated trailers. Toronto Sun. Canadian Press. Tents to house asylum seekers are shown at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Que., Wednesday, August 9, 2017Graham Hughes / Canadian Press

Social Assistance

PRAIDA  helps newcomers find a place to live, apply for social assistance or language courses and, look for employment.

The top requests for services come from: Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Colombia, Congo and Romania.

If the asylum seeker arrives during regular business hours, they first connect with PRAIDA. If they arrive after business hours, they are referred to the YMCA residence in Westmount.

The Y houses and feeds refugees and asylum seekers until they receive social assistance in the form of a check.

The stay is covered by a contract between the YMCA and PRAIDA.

In addition to temporary housing, a group of 140 social services organizations in Quebec also help refugees and immigrants, says Andrea Bellemare, CBC news, Canada.

ymca

The YMCA residence in Westmount where many asylum seekers stay. Photo (Benjamin Shingler/CBC). “For many asylum seekers in Montreal, the long journey includes stop at YMCA”

Community Services and Activities for Asylum Seekers

The YMCA Residence program partners with PRAIDA to provide a variety of community services and activities for the newly arrived asylum seekers:

  • French and English conversation workshops
  • Housing, immigration, job search, financial assistance and health workshops
  • Information sessions with the Sécurité publique de Montréaland discussions with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • A woman’s group, which helps participants break out of their isolation and empowers them through weekly meetings and activities such as arts and crafts and communal cooking.
  • Activities for families
  • Psychosocial support services

y residence

The YMCA residence in Westmount has a playroom for children. (PRAIDA)

Through the Short-Term Housing program, the Y operates a Day Centre where asylum seekers receive information and assistance throughout their immigration and integration process.

The Community Initiatives team also provides asylum seekers with:

  • an emergency locker room
  • a family room with many fun activities for children and parents
  • social and cultural outings that foster the social integration of residents and help them become more familiar with Montréal.

If they first stay with the YMCA residence program, they meet with a PRAIDA specialist the next business day. The representative assesses the asylum seeker’s psychosocial and medical needs and makes referrals accordingly.

Asylum Seekers in Canada have access to health care and social services

An asylum seeker can gain access to health care and social services free of charge. Medical coverage is handled by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP).

Once an asylum seeker has received refugee status, he or she submits a request to receive services from the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion (MIDI) and from the Quebec Health Insurance Board (RAMQ).

If refugee status is denied, PRAIDA helps clients:

  • Prepare a request for permanent residence for humanitarian reasons
  • Prepare for the judiciary review process of the federal court
  • Request a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) before being removed to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Assist with steps for their voluntary departure or removal from Canada

Obtaining Work  Permits-Who can work and how long does it take?

To obtain a work permit, asylum seekers must first meet eligibility requirements for a refugee claim. This usually happens within the first few days of arrival, but PRAIDA says the unprecedented influx has created delays of more than three months. Claimants can apply for a federal work permit, but the timeframe for obtaining a work permit is about four months and could take longer.

Delays mean claimants could face months on social assistance without an ability to get a job. The Quebec government stops providing financial assistance once a refugee claimant finds a job.

Comparing the Asylum Process in Canada and the United States

Speaking with La Opinion, renowned immigration specialist in Canada, Douglass Cannon put it this way:

“Compared to the asylum processes in the United States, the Canadian system seems more willing to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. Our provincial governments fund lawyers for those who can not afford one. Since President Trump took office, we have seen more arrivals of people seeking asylum and many coming from the United States,” Cannon said.

“But I want it to be clear that it is not so easy and there are international agreements that forbid us to accept the majority of the refugees who come from the US by land,” affirmed Cannon.

“If you go by land through a gate, with few exceptions, they will send you back,” Cannon said.

“There are exceptions, including having family members who are already residents or protected in Canada.”

“However,  if one arrives by air or by sea, or if one enters the country in another way – illegal – then it is possible to ask for asylum.”

Compared to the United States, the Canadian system looks increasingly better to refugees.

In Canada, time limits are imposed to consider cases in a timely manner, and another difference is that “the benefit of the doubt is given to the immigrant,” said the expert.

“Here in Canada you can be recognized as a refugee even if you do not prove you are at immediate risk,” Cannon said. “The reason is that our law considers it very risky to play with people’s lives. We check that there is a reasonable chance of persecution if a refugee were to return.”

However, the Canadian government is concerned about a possible influx of more refugees and people who are losing their TPS in the United States.

“The government is worried,” Cannon said. “It does not help the international community in any way when a neighboring country changes the rules radically…it forces people to look for the most suitable countries.”

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“We will continue to defend the integrity of our immigration system and remain careful stewards of an extraordinarily precious asset in this 21st-century world, which is to have a population positively inclined toward immigrants, toward refugees, understanding that being welcoming and open is a source of strength.” Justin Trudeau

 

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When asked why they met refugees outside temporary homes with welcoming signs, Canadian activists and supporters expressed empathy and support:

“We know that in a few years there will be a net benefit because of the arrival of the folks who are here,” said local activist Jaggi Singh.

“That will be a net benefit to our society through a variety of means, through culture, through their contributions, through work, through a lot of things — we know that. We know that previous immigrant populations have done the same thing.” CBC News.

twoleaders

The two leaders have very different views on immigration. Getty. Canadian Prime Minister hinted that his country would continue to welcome refugees without compromising national security.

11,800 Military have Family at Risk of Deportation


Lawmakers urge approval of a law to protect military family members from deportation. Photo: María Peña/Impremedia

On February 28th, the Military Times published a story about a military veteran whose wife was facing deportation. The testimonial triggered confessions across the military community of military families facing separation due to an impending deportation.

Responding to the story, Alejandra Juarez, wife of former Marine Sgt. Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez’s  wrote:

“My name is Alejandra Juarez and I just read your article. Today is not a good day for me, as my deportation date approaches.”

Former Marine Sgt. Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez and his wife Alejandra have two daughters, ages 16 and 8. The Marine served the country from 1995 to 1999 and was later deployed to Iraq as a member of the Florida National Guard.

Alejandra, who entered the U.S. illegally at the age of 18 in 1998,  has no criminal record and has received orders to report to immigration for deportation to Mexico on June 21.

Two days ago, she traveled with her two youngest daughters to Washington to ask Congress to approve a bill that would protect her and the spouses and relatives of about 12,000 soldiers from deportation.

Meeting her in Washington, and talking with the press, Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., told reporters he and others are working on legislative changes intent on helping families like, Alejandra’s, who are in similar dire situations. H.R. 5593, the “Protect Patriot Spouses Act,” would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act since under the current law, military spouses who entered the country illegally may not pursue citizenship without first departing the country.

“This legislation will give priority for residency for military spouses,” Soto said.

“My husband sacrificed so much for this beautiful country and for all Americans, is that the message he wants to send, that he does not care about military families?” asked Alejandra Juarez as she faced the cameras.

Alejandra Juarez and her family. “More Military Families Come Forth with Deportation Fears.” Tara Kopp for Military Times.

Alejandra Juarez’ youngest daughter also had an urgent message for President Trump:

 

“I know that what my mom did is wrong but everyone deserves a second chance. And she is my mom. She’s been there throughout my entire life and I want to ask that you please let her stay.”

The Juarez’ case is not unique. The Military Times published an article by Tara Copp where the writer posted summaries of many painful testimonials:

“…an undocumented husband of an active-duty female soldier wrote: “We’ve been waiting for [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to come pick me up,” he wrote from Texas, where he manages the family when his wife deploys.”

“…a Maryland Army national guardsman and a full-time police officer was worried about his wife: “I’ve spent thousands and I am still in the process,” of protecting my wife, the guardsman said. The couple filed immigration paperwork in 2015. They didn’t get their hearing until January 2018; the case is still unresolved, he said.”

“I was deployed and worried that my wife and child would be deported by the same country I was fighting for,” the guardsman told Military Time.”


The Military Times has been a front-runner in collecting the stories and photos, and bringing them to light:



Navy Petty Officer First Class Justin Sullivan and his wife, Loretto, who are now based in Pensacola, Fla., have decided to speak out about the challenges they have faced obtaining citizenship for her. (Glenn Sircy/Navy). Justin Sullivan, the Navy Times’ 2017 Sailor of the Year, was honored for his service as a radio operator during two combat tours in Afghanistan and hundreds of hours of volunteer work at home.

According to Tara Kopp of the Military Times, Sullivan’s wife, Loretto, had qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, protection back in 2014. Her parents brought her to the US from Ecuador at the age of 14, but the paperwork took seven years to process, which made Loretto, 21, disqualifying her from gaining residence through her parents. Since then, the family has faced multiple challenges and fears Loretto’s deportation.

In the article Sullivan poured his heart out:

“You can’t help who you fall in love with…Loretto was the whole reason I got Navy Times’ Sailor of the Year. She’s the one who nominated me. She took all my evals and wrote it up for me. She’s always been my rock. She’s the person I come home to. Without that, I’d be lost.”


The series of testimonies also included stories of the children of military families who were at risk of deportation. The photo above is of retired Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber and his wife, Soo Jin. Here, the couple poses with their legally adopted daughter, Hyebin. Despite the state of Kansas issuing a birth certificate recognizing the Schreibers as her parents, the Department of Homeland Security has said there’s no legal route to citizenship for Hyebin. Once her student visa expires she will have to leave the U.S, states Tara Kopp for the Military Times.


Rep. Darren Soto (D) Florida is fighting to protect military spouses at risk of deportation. Will he have the necessary votes just in time to help Alejandra’s case? Congress has to act on it, for he told Univision, without change, for these families, there is no plan B.

Under Soto’s amended act, spouses married to active duty or veteran service members with an honorable service record would be eligible to waive the inadmissibility charge.

“My dad did sacrifice a lot for this country, so we were already separated for that time when he was gone,” said 16-year-old Pamela Juarez, supporting her mother’s case and fighting for her family to stay together.

Alejandra’s family desperately waits for a miracle. They have a strong advocate in Rep. Darren Soto: “No military spouse should be deported. It sends the wrong message to our troops who have sacrificed everything, and military spouses are essential to our national defense.”