Our country has long been known as a nation of immigrants, reflecting not only our diversity, but a shared belief in liberty, justice, opportunity, and in providing refuge to those fleeing persecution. The current administration is doing everything it can to radically change our immigration laws and policies. It began with three Executive Orders aimed at keeping migrants from entering our country.
In September, 2017, the President
terminated DACA, a program that helped tens of thousands young people brought
to the US as children gain temporary status. KIAC helped many young people in
our community get DACA and has continued to help those with DACA to renew their
status since a federal court put the administration’s order on hold.
In April 2018 the Attorney General
announced a “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in the criminal prosecution
of immigrants trying to enter our country to seek asylum and in the separation
of children from their parents. The Attorney General said this was to deter and punish people who crossed our
border seeking refuge.
The outcry from people all over our
country forced the president to stop the policy but not before thousands of
families were torn apart. Some have still not been reunited. KIAC represented
several of these separated families, helping to secure their release from
detention and reuniting them.
In June of 2018 the Attorney General
issued a decision that attempted to make refugees who were victims of domestic
or gang violence ineligible for asylum. KIAC is defending dozens of asylum clients,
many of them children, who are affected by the Attorney General’s decision.
In the meantime every few weeks another
rule or regulation that makes applying for immigration benefits harder is being
issued by immigration agencies.
With an administration that is obviously anti-immigrant,
immigration courts and judges are put under pressure to adjudicate based on the
administration’s politics. They have been given quotas requiring them to
complete 700 cases a year. Immigration judges have been asking Congress for
years to make the immigration court independent, similar to the Tax Court. “Immigration judges say a shift is urgently
needed now because Trump administration officials — some of whom are vocal
critics of illegal immigration — are undermining judicial independence and
immigrants’ rights to a fair hearing.” Immigration
judges’ union calls for immigration court independent from Justice Department Maria Sacchetti Washington
Post September 21, 2018
In January the Department of Homeland
Security started a new policy called the Migrant Protection Protocols. The
policy requires migrants seeking asylum to wait for months in Mexico before
their asylum interview. What this policy really does is threaten
meaningful access to asylum and other humanitarian protections under U.S.
immigration laws. Asylum seekers caught in this inhumane situation will find it
difficult, if not impossible, to find legal help to prepare their asylum
interviews. Statistics show that people who are unrepresented have a very low
chance of succeeding in gaining asylum. On April 8th a federal judge
ordered a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking this policy. It is
certain the administration will appeal this ruling.
Most of these asylum seekers experienced violence and
corruption that caused them to flee their countries. Now they are stuck in a
limbo of waiting, in many cases in unsafe circumstances. In a recent report in
Alert, Alberto Macin, a psychologist working with Doctors Without Borders said
“Due to the violence that these people
have experienced in the country of origin and during their transit through
Mexico, once they reach these places [near the destination] where conditions
are still not suitable for them, we find symptoms such as anxiety, acute
stress, and some cases of post-traumatic stress [disorder].”
Not only are we denying refugees the ability to enter our country while seeking
asylum, we are also contributing to their trauma.
Now, as more and more people from the
Northern Triangle countries leave their homes because of the violence and
corruption that threatens their lives, the president is attempting to stop aid
to those countries. At least 75% of this aid was going to non-government
organizations that were working to reduce poverty and violence, the two most
prevalent causes for people fleeing. Eliminating this funding will only make
the situation in these countries worse.
On Tuesday, April 16th, the Attorney General added another ruling aimed at punishing and deterring asylum seekers. With this ruling immigration judges will not be allowed to grant a bond to people who have been found to have a credible fear of persecution. This means they will remain in immigration jail for months or even years until they have their asylum hearing. We expect that ICE will use this ruling to justify expanding its detention system, further enriching for-profit prison corporations.
Violence and corruption are driving
people from their homes in these countries. They come to us because they
believe they will receive help here. Our country, which was once seen as a place
of hope for those fleeing violence, corruption, and poverty, is now putting
fear into the hearts of those seeking help.
KIAC is doing all it can to ensure
justice and due process rights for immigrants and asylum seekers in our
community. We anticipate the demand for
help for additional asylum seekers will increase. We get pleas for help every
day that we are not able to respond to. Representing asylum seekers is a
long-term commitment. Many times the final hearing is set for two or three
years out. Even though we have added a paralegal to help increase our capacity,
the demands for help far exceed our capacity. We need your help to expand our
capacity so that we are able to serve those who desperately need our help.
Please stand with us
in ensuring that our country continues to be a place of safety, where those
seeking refuge can be assured that they will receive fair treatment, due
process and the help they deserve.