Migrants, Refugees, Asylum Seekers

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Migrants, Refugees, Asylum Seekers

Immigrating to the

United States


What is a refugee

• Definition: Refugees are people fleeing armed conflicts or persecution. Their situation is so perilous that they cross national borders to seek safety in nearby countries and become recognized as refugees with access to assistance from states and aid organizations.

• A vital part of being recognized as a refugee is Refugee Status Determination (RSD), a legal process that

governments or UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees) use to determine whether a person seeking international protection is considered a refugee under international, national or regional law.


What is an asylum seeker

• Definition: An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose claim hasn’t been

evaluated. This person would have applied for

asylum on the grounds that returning to his or her country would lead to persecution on account of race, religion, nationality or political beliefs.

• Someone is an asylum seeker for so long as their application is pending. So not every asylum seeker will be recognized as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.


What is a migrant

• Definition: Migrants choose to move not because of a direct threat or persecution but mainly to improve their lives:

• Finding work

• Seeking better education

• Reuniting with family

• Unlike refugees who cannot safely return home, migrants can return home if they wish. This distinction is important for governments, since countries handle migrants under their own immigration laws and processes.


Let’s Practice- Refugee, Asylum Seeker or Migrant?

• Osmin Martinez is a 9 year old boy from El Salvador who fled with his family when his home was attacked and his brother disappeared. They travelled with other migrants

through Mexico to the US southern border where they have applied for protection and are awaiting the

processing of their paperwork.

Asylum seeker


Doaa is a 19 year old Syrian, she was forced from her home by the war in Syria. After a temporary stay in

Egypt she decided to cross the

Mediterranean with her Fiancé to get to Europe. Her boat sank in the Mediterranean. Of the 300

passengers Doaa was the only adult survivor but she miraculously was able to save two infants. She has been given aid and assistance and now works in Greece.



Beatrice, 19 fled war in South Sudan with her

husband & baby after her mother was attacked and killed. She is one of 1

million South Sudanese that is hosted in nearby Uganda in the Imvepi Settlement.



Jose Bustillo, was sent by his parents to the US at

age 19 to live with his aunt and seek a better life. He started working at a

McDonald’s and sent more than half of his earnings back to Honduras. After

having several jobs, getting into college, and helping other families move to the US, Jose is now a business owner and a US citizen.



Yasmin fled her home in Iran after being targeted by local government authorities for

participating in a student rally demanding greater freedoms.

She came to Australia by sea.

For 5 years she has been held in limbo while Australian

determines whether she warrants protection.

Asylum seeker


In the News: Family Separation

• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFxkzeo



In the News: “Chain Migration”

• A term used by mostly anti-immigration people

• Typical term for family sponsorship is family reunification

• Trump at 2018 SOTU: "A single immigrant can bring in unlimited numbers of distant relatives.“

• Statement gives impression that your recent

foreign neighbor, maybe even undocumented?, might sponsor his or her whole clan


A “chain” for a first cousin? Reality?

• True: one could build a “chain” to bring more distant relatives over time

• “You” as a new LPR immigrant want to petition for a cousin

– You become a citizen: 5 years to file + one year wait = 6 years – You petition for a parent: +1 year (total = 7 years)

– Your parent becomes a citizen: 5+1 = 6 (total = 13 years)

– Your parent petitions for your aunt/uncle: 15 years+ (total = 28 years)

– Aunt/uncle sponsors child(ren): 3-20 years, dep. on age and marital status

• Minimum of 31 years, and up to 48 years (for an adult married cousin)

• For a second cousin, 57 years minimum!


Diversity Visa Lottery

• Concept/goal: make the immigrants coming in a more diverse group

– 50,000 immigrant visas provided – About 20mil apply annually

• 0.25% chance of winning (1 in 400 chance)

– Countries that have sent at least 50,000 people to the United States in the past five years can not participate

• This includes Brazil, Canada, China, India, and Mexico

– Background checks, medical exams, and minimum education or work experience requirements exist


In the News: Temporary Protective Status (TPS)

• Law provides that President can declare that people here from certain countries do not have to go back, usually because of war or natural disaster

– Applies whether you are here lawfully or not, but had to be here on a certain date

– Allows work authorization ($495 fee)

– Allows for travel with “advance parole” ($575 fee)

– No deportation, but no path to green card/citizenship from TPS

• Although people can get in a different path through other means (marriage, family sponsorship)

– Usually applies for 18 months at a time; government often renews

• TPS may be discontinued in 2019 in El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan and probably Honduras. (TPS Extension Act being debated)

• Countries with TPS: Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen


In the News: The Migrant Caravan

• https://


• https://



In the News: DACA

• Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

• Obama established DACA by executive order in 2012

• A policy of deportation/enforcement priority

– There are 15m LPRs (legal permanent residents) and 12m undocumented people in the U.S., but only resources for a few hundred thousand deportations per year

– Idea was to go after criminals first – with or without lawful status

• DACA applies to undocumented people; requirements for consideration:

– Under age of 31 as of June 15, 2012

– Entered the United States prior to 16th birthday – Resided in the United States since June 15, 2007 – Education and/or military requirements

– No serious criminal convictions

– Some people do not register for DACA for fear that the program will be canceled and they will be on record as being undocumented.


DACA (cont.)

• What’s the idea behind DACA? People who are brought to the US as children are innocent

–Parents are the wrongdoers (entered illegally, or overstayed visas) –Many children have lived here for years, and are fully assimilated

•Some do not even know they are not documented until they are much older

• DACA allows work authorization, SS card, and drivers license

• No guarantees of extension

• Similar in effect to TPS, but DACA not expressly authorized by law

• Est. 1.8m theoretical beneficiaries; about 700,000 have applied for DACA status –80% of DACA recipients are from Mexico; rest from about 14 countries


In the News: “Path to Citizenship”

• Why don’t undocumented people just “get in line like everyone else”?

– Statement of Republican congressman on Fox & Friends, January 2018

• For most there is no line to get in

– Need to get LPR (legal permanent resident) status first (green card), which requires:

• Family connection

• Employment path (limited)

• Win visa lottery (long shot) and most countries with DACA kids can not participate

– You can’t just sponsor your friend, or nanny, or aunt/uncle


Scenario One

• You are sponsoring your sister to come to the U.S.

on a family-based petition from Mexico. Because she is not your daughter, parent or spouse, hers is a low-priority application, and she is told the wait will be 17 years before her visa becomes available. Drug- related violence in her village continues to escalate, and soon the factory that had been the major

employer in the town leaves for a more stable

environment, causing widespread unemployment.

What do you advise your sister to do?


Scenario Two

• You left Honduras for the U.S. when it became too difficult to provide for your young family. For over 10 years, you have been working any job you can find and sending 50 percent of your

earnings back to your wife and two children. When the boys are ages 14 and 12, your wife is murdered by a gang member. Your boys attempt the treacherous journey through Mexico to reunite with you in the U.S., and you agree to pay $10,000 each to a

“coyote” to help them get across the border safely. They are

apprehended when they cross the border and put into custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. You travel to Chicago to sign for them as their “sponsor” and are so happy to see them alive and safe at last. You move to a new town to start a new life together, not realizing that their immigration paperwork was sent to your old address and that they have now missed their first court date and been ordered deported. How do you keep them safe?


Scenario Three

• The gangs in your village in El Salvador are now the ultimate

authority. You need to pay them “renta” to be able to walk your daughter to school each day. Your sister and her children are brutally murdered when they miss one “renta” payment. You decide to attempt the dangerous journey with your 9-year-old daughter to avoid the same fate. After successfully starting a new life with your daughter in the U.S., you consult a lawyer and decide to apply for asylum. You are granted a “credible fear interview,” but the officers determine that your level of fear

doesn’t meet the standard for asylum. You are put into

deportation proceedings and asked to appear in court in three weeks with your passport and a plane ticket. What do you do?


To Discuss:

• What is your feeling towards those who wish to immigrate to the United States either to escape persecution or better their life?

• Has your feeling changed?

• Do you think that the policy of the United

States towards immigrants should change? In

what way(s)?



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