Biden Announces Modification of Refugee Program
The U.S. will offer refugee status to some undocumented youths from three Central American countries, Vice President Joe Biden said, as the administration weighs a broader revamp of federal immigration policy.
The move modifies a program that now lets as many as 4,000 people a year from Cuba and Colombia seek refugee status when coming to the U.S. The change would allow people under age 21 from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to be eligible, Biden said today. It would apply only to people not already in the U.S. who have a parent in the U.S. legally, he said.
“It provides those seeking asylum a ‘right way’ to come to our country, as opposed to crossing the border illegally.” Biden said at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington.
The change, which immigration groups said wouldn’t help most Central American children, was sparked by about 68,000 unaccompanied minors — mostly from those three Central American countries — who arrived in the U.S. without documentation earlier this year. The influx drew attention to how the U.S. was handling the young people arriving without their parents and to the root troubles in their homelands that were driving them out.
“It’s a small gesture,” said Daniel Kowalski, an immigration attorney in Austin, Texas, and a member of the board of the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles. The president is “making it seem as if he’s a little bit compassionate but if he really wanted to show them compassion he wouldn’t lock them up the first place” and would grant many more children refugee status without strict conditions.
Because the offer applies only to people with parents living lawfully in the U.S., it won’t help most kids who need it, said Jennifer Podkul, senior program officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission in Washington.
The vice president held a lunch today in Washington with Guatemala President Otto Perez Molina, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez and El Salvador President Salvador Sanchez Ceren. President Barack Obama is in Australia to attend the Group of 20 summit.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said in an e-mailed statement that today’s announcement is “simply a government-sanctioned border surge.”
Obama, who postponed executive action on immigration reform earlier this year until after last week’s elections, plans to announce changes to allow more undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S., according to people familiar with the administration’s plans. He has said he will act even if Congress doesn’t because anything he does through executive action could later be rolled back if Congress passes a bill.
The program announced today will begin in December with Obama not allocating any additional funding for it. Applications will be processed in the countries where prospective refugees live rather than the U.S. finding ways to house undocumented immigrants once they arrive at the border.
The three presidents met with Obama in Washington in July, asking the U.S. president for help with economic development and security. Obama told them they shared responsibility for stopping the wave of children fleeing to the U.S.
The State Department said it expects “a relatively small number of children from Central America” will enter the U.S. as refugees in the 2015 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 as the program begins. If there’s a deluge of applications, “there is some flexibility” in the program “to accommodate a higher than anticipated number from Latin America” in the 2015 fiscal year, the State Department said without saying how high that number could go. The number of refugees from Cuba have been declining, leaving space in the program to add three more countries.
What Defines Refugee Status?
In view of the fact that the Obama Administration thinks we need to be lied to in order to get unpopular ideas enacted, there may be more here than meets the eye. If parents are legally living in the United States, their minor children are already allowed to live with them. “The State Department said” does not mean much when we know the State Department has lied to us in the past. If a child claims to the be child of someone living here, how is that going to be verified? “… the administration weighs a broader revamp of federal immigration policy” just what broader revamp of federal immigration policy would that be Mr. Vice President?
The Honduran first lady, Ana Garcia de Hernandez said: “I want to be very clear about something: Violence and poverty have existed in our region for a long time. But what created this problem also has a lot to do with the lack of clarity in U.S. immigration policy.”
Ultimately, Vice President Joe Biden had to dismiss the “violence argument” as well: “Nothing’s changed in six months or a year. The neighborhoods are no more violent or no less violent.” He, on the other hand, blamed the incoming flows of unaccompanied minors on criminals guilty of smuggling kids for financial gains.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the “refugee” classification has now been given the stamp of approval of the White House and President Obama is setting up a refugee program in Central America.
The Obama administration, as mentioned earlier, is in favor of calling these children “refugees” and helping them accordingly. As much as we agree that humanitarian concerns are at hand, we do not support such “discretional” use of international laws. First, these children are not YET refugees, they need to ask for asylum, become “asylum seekers”, and PROVE a “well-founded fear of being persecuted” before being granted this status. Moreover, there are serious doubts that the majority of these kids are in real danger forcing them out of their homes.
Even UNHCR could not find grounds for refugee statuses when, as early as 2006, it voiced concerns about unaccompanied or separated (a person under the age of 18, who is not under the care and protection of his/her parents, or previous legal or customary primary care-giver, but may be accompanied by other persons) children alongside the Southern border of Mexico. In a study carried out by their regional office for Mexico, Cuba and Central America with the collaboration of Save the Children Sweden, the children’s situation, levels of vulnerability and need for international protection were assessed. Their study’s main findings were as such:
“Although the vast majority of the 75 children interviewed in this study did not meet the criteria to be considered refugees, some of the children interviewed reported having been subjected to abuse, aggressions or assaults during their travels.”
Minors in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras will receive refugee status in the United States as of December, according to a plan announced yesterday by the country’s vice president, Joe Biden, in the US capital plan.
WASHINGTON DC -The presidents Otto Perez Molina, of Guatemala; Salvador Sánchez Cerén, de El Salvador, y Juan Orlando Hernández, de Honduras, recibieron con beneplácito la noticia que Biden dio durante el foro “Invirtiendo en Centroamérica: abriendo oportunidades para el crecimiento”, organizado por el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID). Salvador Sanchez Ceren, in El Salvador, and Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, welcomed the news that Biden gave at the forum “Investing in Central America: creating opportunities for growth”, organized by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).