Who Counts as a Refugee and Who Does Not
Here is an example of incompetence that may find a rival class in pre-nursery school. One could easily write pages on the difference between the existing laws for Refugees and those who seek Asylum. All we are going to say is that we have covered these topics when it was whistle blown that agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were caught paying for the hotel rooms for those they couldn’t find space for. And then we all lived through the drama of when we found out through active duty border agents that they were distributing hand cards with this verse:
The United States Refugee Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-212) was an amendment to the earlier Immigration and Nationality Act and the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, and was created to provide a permanent and systematic procedure for the admission to the United States of refugees of special humanitarian concern to the U.S., and to provide comprehensive and uniform provisions for the effective resettlement and absorption of those refugees who are admitted.
Giovani is 17, from El Salvador, and came to the United States alone in December, making him one of tens of thousands of Central American minors who have crossed the Rio Grande unaccompanied this year. He found himself alone in the Texas scrub, not knowing which way to go, and so he turned himself in to Border Patrol agents. After a brief detention in Texas, he took his first plane ride to Chicago. When the plane landed, he broke from the pack of children on the runway to touch the fresh snow on the ground, the first he had ever seen. (Ah…so almost unbearably sweet.)
Reading with me so far? Great, because here comes the awful, egregious side of some die hard liberal telling the story. But Giovani’s journey had its origins in 1998, when his mother, Maria, left El Salvador to escape her boyfriend, a violent man who regularly hit her and stopped her from working. Maria is a tired-looking woman in her early 40s. A server at a restaurant, she has spent endless hours on her feet in low-paying jobs. (Notice if possible, the terms of domestic violence that led Maria to leave the Giovani and his brother.)
After realizing that she could not make ends meet in El Salvador, Maria took Giovani, then 18 months, and his brother to their grandmother’s, mortgaged her home, and used the money to get to the United States, which she says was a difficult choice, especially as it meant leaving her children. She describes the fifteen-hour walk through the desert as difficult but bearable, especially compared to where she ended up: Kansas City in the middle of winter. There was snow everywhere, and the desert had only been one link from a hard life to another.
The spoils thus far: Giovani is on his second trip to the United States right now. Maria, his mother, has seemed to like the USA where she spends more time telling of her time in the desert and the unbearable coldness of winter in Kansas City.
Not wanting to be considered unkind or merciless in any way – the fact of the matter is that Maria left her children in El Salvador with nothing mind you, absconded the family’s money, and set out for a new life in the USA. Like it or not, the truth is that she illegally entered this nation.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, as right-wing governments battled leftist rebels in Guatemala and El Salvador, and a leftist government battled right-wing rebels in Nicaragua, hundreds of thousands were displaced. As many as 1 million Central Americans fled to the United States.
During the 1980s, asylum lawyers faced the challenge of convincing immigration judges that violence was actually taking place in Central America. The Reagan administration, fighting the last decade of the Cold War, was doing its best to keep the brutality of US-allied governments out of the news. The State Department, which weighed in on most asylum cases, would deny widely documented massacres.
In 1996, Congress passed the most significant immigration reform since 1965, and also the most punitive. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act cut off a host of public benefits, required that many immigrants be incarcerated during immigration proceedings, beefed up border enforcement, expanded the list of deportable crimes and closed the courts to many important legal challenges. (For further reading, click here.)