Call to Action: TPS for Haitians about to Expire

pic2The Department of Homeland Security’s current 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protective Status (TPS) is about to expire on July 27, 2017. Haiti was devastated by an earthquake on January 12, 2010 and within days Haitians who were in the U.S. were able to apply for TPS.  Haitian TPS has continued to be renewed for 18-month increments since the initial designation period because the country has suffered from the after effects of the earthquake and was then devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  To date, approximately 58,000 Haitians are currently residing in the U.S. with TPS which has granted them the status to live and work here without fear of deportation.

Haiti is our neighbor and it’s hard to witness how Haitians never seem to get a break. Not only do they have a new government in place that is struggling with the aftermath of such destructive natural catastrophes as those mentioned above, they are also dealing with severe outbreaks of cholera and wide-spread food insecurity.  For the Trump administration to expect Haiti to assimilate 58,000 potential deportees back into their country seems pretty inhumane. Rather, keeping them here is a humanitarian gesture DHS Secretary Kelly and President Trump should make.

Immigration advocacy groups across the country are releasing action alerts to pressure the Trump administration to extend TPS for Haitians.   The following one was adapted from one posted by Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami (Haitian Women of Miami), an organization I knew well from when I lived in South Florida and worked with Haitian refugees. According to their website, U.S. Senators Rubio and Nelson of Florida, Markey of Massachusetts, and Schumer and Gillibrand of NY have already signed letters to Secretary Kelly for extending TPS for Haitians.  However, even though Senators Gillibrand and Schumer have already signed on, we need to keep the pressure on for them to continue advocating for this.

To help the efforts in getting TPS for Haitians extended another 18 months, please take the following steps:  

Step 1: Call Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, 202-224-4451, Senator Charles Schumer, 202-224-6542, and Representative Tom Reed, 202-225-3161.

Step 2: Whether you get a recording or a person, say that you are a constituent and that you live in the Congressperson’s state or district.  Then say:

I’m calling about the need to extend TPS for Haiti, which expires July 22.  Please let the Senator [Representative] know that TPS is at grave risk of NOT being extended, and that we need him [her] to please call DHS Secretary Kelly today to URGE HIM TO EXTEND IT, because not extending it would be a travesty and disaster for families here and in Haiti and bad for U.S. national security.  Thank you.

*Please note….you can use your own words if you like but keep it brief. You don’t need to discuss the issue; the receptionist is trained just to take your message without asking for any details.

Sue Chaffee

Accredited Rep

Senator Gillibrand Sheds Much-Needed Light on Children of Deportees

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Gillibrand speaking at a rally in New York City

It’s a well-known fact that children of deportees suffer from trauma, economic and social instability, as well as other harmful effects that are devastating and long-lasting.  With the deportation net widening  under the Trump administration, it’s highly likely even more children will be emotionally scarred due to the deportation of their parent(s). Therefore, I was pleased to see a letter had been spearheaded by N.Y. State Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, and was directed to DHS Secretary, John Kelly, and DHHS Secretary, Tom Price addressing this topic.  Gillibrand, along with 15 of her Senate-colleagues have asked them for concrete data on what in fact does happen to those children who are left behind. Also, what policies are in place both before and after they are separated from their parents only to become part of the foster care system?

Families being split up due to deportation is nothing new – even in rural parts of the country such as upstate New York. For many years now, I have seen Cornell Farmworker Program’s Director, Mary Jo Dudley, make a concerted effort to get parents to sign a  Parental Consent for Alternative Childcare Form so they can have a plan in place for their children in case they are deported.  Having this type of document prepared could potentially keep children out of the welfare system and into the hands of someone the family knows and trusts.  But then what? The Senators’ letter inquires about what types of trauma-informed services are in place to assist those children who are placed with kin families.  It makes you wonder, do they even exist?  If not, then the guardians named in the Parental Consent forms like the one above might not have the trauma-informed services they will also need to assist the children left in their care.

The following letter asks many critical questions and they deserved to be answered.  It’s important to know whether or not the system can adequately handle children of deportees and whether or not the “continuity of care” for children being separated from their parent(s) is in place or even considered.  From what I know about Senator Gillibrand, she seems to carefully choose the issues she gets behind and stays on top of them.  Therefore, I’m cautiously hopeful the children of deportees will finally get some of the attention they deserve and the services they will need to address their trauma and emotional pain.  In the meantime, the letter is quite powerful and immigration advocates should follow what happens to make sure it isn’t dismissed or brushed aside.

Dear Secretary Kelly and Secretary Price:

We write regarding the recent uptick in immigration enforcement actions across the country pursuant to President Trump’s policy directives.  We are particularly concerned about the impact of such policies on vulnerable people, including the children of deported parents.  More than 5,100 children enter the child welfare system each year because of the deportation or detention of their parents. These children are United States citizens, and the deportation of their parents leaves them vulnerable in myriad ways.

As you know, separation from a parent can cause significant negative mental health effects in children. Studies have shown that children who experience these types of traumatic events can suffer from symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, have poorer behavioral and educational outcomes, and experience higher rates of poverty and food insecurity. Abruptly separating from parents is a highly destabilizing, traumatic experience for children, and one that carries long term consequences such as feelings of loss and grief, economic hardship, and increased risk of neglect and abuse. Additionally, as parents and children are separated, more youth are entering into the child welfare system – a system that is already straining to meet the needs of the many children it serves.

We therefore seek answers to the following questions, and would be grateful for your response within 30 days:

  1. How many children have entered the child welfare system and been removed from their parents’ care as a result of their parents being deported since January 2015?
  2. Of these children, please provide data on the type of placements, i.e. foster families, kinship care, or congregate care placement. For those children placed with kin families, what types of trauma-informed supportive services are in place to ensure that these placements are stable and children can thrive?
  3. What is the estimated financial cost to taxpayers to support U.S. citizen children of deported parents while they are in foster care? Please provide all available data since January 2015, to include an aggregate number and the average cost per child per day, and the average length of stay in foster care.
  4. What procedures are in place to screen individuals who are in the process of deportation to identify whether they are parents?
  5. What is your policy when making an arrest of a parent in terms of ensuring continuity of care for minor children?
  6. What is Department of Homeland Security’s policy regarding contacting local child welfare agencies and what is your protocol when the agency detains an individual and children are in the home without a caretaker?
  7. What policies are in place to protect the children’s interests in these proceedings?
  8. What are your agencies doing to ensure that parents in deportation proceedings can meaningfully participate in resultant child welfare cases, and visit with their children?
  9. Is there a plan to increase federal funding through DHS to support local departments of social services across the country as they experience an increase in their foster care responsibility as a result of new DHS policy?

If the data requested in this letter are not available, we would like to request that your agencies start maintaining them. This information is critical for identifying children in need of support and illuminating potential unintended consequences of immigration policies.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.  We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sue Chaffee

Accredited Rep

 

 

 

Event: Film Showing, Discussion for “After Spring” to Help Raise Awareness of the Plight of Syrian Refugees

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Zaatari Refugee Camp

Please join Catholic Charities and the Peace Pins Project on Tuesday, April 25 at 6:45 pm at Cinemapolis for a screening of  “After Spring.” This documentary film follows two Syrian families as they navigate their lives in Zaatari refugee camp.  Zaatari has been described as a three-square-mile piece of land located in the desolate Jordanian desert that has become a semi-permanent home for approximately 80,000 refugees, the majority originating from the Da’ara Governorate in Syria’s Southwest.

Ithaca’s Mayor, Svante Myrick, will be introducing the film  and Cornell Professor Chris Barrett and Catholic Charities’ Deputy Director, Laurie Konwinski, will be hosting a Q&A sessions to round out the event.  Tickets can still be pre-ordered online or will be available at Cinemapolis the night of the showing.

ISP would like to thank Kristy Colbert from Peace Pins 14850 for organizing this event and also thank fellow members Elizabeth Ryan and Melissa Dhundale for their ongoing efforts to support the work Catholic Charities does for immigrants and refugees in our community.  Peace Pins 14850 describes themselves as  “a private group of Ithacans who want to embrace the refugee families arriving in Ithaca this coming year.  We have been raising funds by selling red, white, and blue-beaded safety pins as a communal rejection of bigotry and discrimination.”   And “raising funds” is not an exaggeration.  So far, Catholic Charities has received almost $8,400 from the group which we think is pretty amazing!

Hope to see everyone at the film.

Fear-Based Immigration

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I recently met with a woman who accompanied her mother to my office to discuss the process of naturalization.  The mother, a longtime, elderly resident, immigrated to the U.S. over 40 years ago from Honduras and has never taken the steps to become a U.S. citizen for personal reasons.  Her plan early on was to raise her family in New York so her children could get a good education.   She had envisioned someday returning to her home country to retire and didn’t see how becoming a U.S. citizen was necessary.  Being a legal permanent resident suited her needs – it allowed her to work in the U.S. and her Honduran passport, along with her green card, was sufficient when she wanted to travel abroad.   Four decades later, she is taking the steps to naturalize.  When I asked why it was important for the mother to become naturalized now, I knew the answer.  The decision was being motivated by fear.

Since the 2016 presidential election, many immigrants seeking legal services across the country seem to have fear being the driving force as to why they are seeking out immigration benefits.  I think of it as fear-based (as opposed to family or employment-based) immigration.  Prior to the election, a sense of fear seemed to engulf immigrant communities across the country, including those in upstate New York.   Once the President’s Executive Orders were issued and it was revealed how the deportation net was widening, reality set in.  Those orders not only had a chilling effect on immigrants who are in the country undocumented, it has also placed fear into the hearts of many who have legal residence.

Both pre- and post-election, I have seen an uptick in clients who are applying for immigration benefits out of fear similar to the Honduran national above.  After spending many years of being unworried about their immigration statuses or documents, some clients are making appointments trying to naturalize as quickly as possible while others are seeking assistance to obtain citizenship certificates or replace green cards they misplaced years ago.  U.S. citizen spouses are stopping in to inquire about the fees associated for getting their undocumented spouses “papers” even though they could have completed applications to legalize them prior to the new administration.

What used to be routine appointments now have a sense of urgency like I have never seen before.  And the concerns I am addressing upon completing applications that have no red-flags makes it clear that a profound sense of fear has already settled in.  Even when I meet someone who has had no arrests, is gainfully employed, and pays their taxes, I know they leave my office with lingering questions as to whether or not their applications might be denied and they could be deported.

But to a certain degree, fear-based immigration has been around a long time (e.g., when immigrants used to wait for appointments with INS before it was abolished back in 2003).  I witnessed first-hand how Miami’s INS office had a take-no-prisoners approach when it came to serving the long line of Haitians and Cubans waiting to apply for immigration benefits back in the 90’s.   They, too, feared their applications might be denied and they could be deported.

Fear in the immigrant community can either be stoked or diminished by many factors such as changes in immigration law, changes in elected officials, and/or changes in the public discourse surrounding immigrants and national security.  Even though the deportation net is widening, it’s important to point out that for those who are seeking green cards or applying for naturalization, laws are in place that govern these processes.  With that said, it’s more important than ever for anyone seeking an immigration benefit to have their cases properly screened and vetted and to make sure the person assisting them is authorized to give legal advice.

Sue Chaffee

Accredited Rep

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Zaw

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Zaw who originally came to the U.S. as a refugee from Burma.  Zaw recently returned to the U.S. after living abroad in Thailand for several years where he produced songs using the name “Eazy Iam.” According to Zaw, artists in Thailand would hire him to create their music and from that point he would come up with the instrumentals, write the lyrics and record them.   We’ve been helping Zaw take the steps to bring his fiancée to the U.S.

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ISP: Why did you come to U.S.?

I came here with my family to start a new life.  I was a child then so I didn’t understand fully why I was coming here.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

At that time we came to any place we could – we needed to leave the refugee camp because the  living conditions were horrible there.  Ithaca was the first place that opened up and we decided to come here.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I liked the environment – especially the trees.  I came here during the fall so I had never seen red trees or yellow trees.  I remember seeing lots of kids playing –  there was a lot of things to take in when I first got here.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Cheese pizza.  I had never had pizza before so when I first got here it was amazing.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

About 10 years ago it was the mall.  They had a lot of shops back then.  They had a lot more stores – Champs, Game Stop, Radio Shack and the Arcade.  If they still had those stores I would be there all day.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

The living conditions.  We were living near the border in Burma and we lived in a bamboo type house – not really a house but a structure.  This was in the camp.  We didn’t have a road, it was very dusty and when rainy season came it was piled with mud everywhere. 

 

What is Sanctuary?

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In recent weeks, both  Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca passed Resolutions to protect undocumented immigrants from harassment and the threat of unjust deportation.  Both measures prohibit local police from enforcing immigration law, or asking someone’s immigration status unless it is relevant to an underlying crime.  They also limit collaboration between local officers and federal immigration agents.

The city of Ithaca formally declared itself a “sanctuary city” on February 1.  Tompkins County, however, doesn’t call itself a “sanctuary” jurisdiction.  Its Resolution is entitled “Public Safety for All,” and aims to “maintain a safe, inclusive government, and [the] protection, order, conduct, safety, health and well-being” of all residents.

Why the difference?  Both measures were passed in response to an Executive Order that greatly expanded the categories of people targeted for deportation.  Except for minor distinctions, both provide law enforcement officers with the same operational guidance.  Each adopted a “legal roadmap” provided by the New York Attorney General’s Office describing just how far jurisdictions could go to protect undocumented people without violating federal or state law.

While I cannot speak to the Common Council’s decision to adopt a “sanctuary” specific resolution in Ithaca, I can explain why the County avoids the word “sanctuary” because I assisted lawmaker Anna Kellis in drafting its Resolution.

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“Sanctuary” means different things to different people.  Proponents are often motivated by the historical idea of sanctuary as a way to protect people from government persecution.  Opponents say that sanctuary jurisdictions cherry-pick which laws to apply, and selectively protect certain groups of people from the consequences of committing crime.  In reality, both of these interpretations miss the mark when it comes to understanding what a “sanctuary” jurisdiction does, and does not, do.

The word “sanctuary” has no legal definition, so the protection sanctuary jurisdictions provide varies from place to place.  Some jurisdictions prohibit local law enforcement officers from collaborating with federal agents to the extent permitted by law.  Other jurisdictions provide free legal services to undocumented people in deportation proceedings.  Yet others simply affirm general human rights principles or a commitment to non-discrimination, without further explaining what “sanctuary” really means.

When it came to drafting the Resolution in Tompkins County, we didn’t want the word “sanctuary” to be manipulated, or misunderstood.  We especially did not want undocumented individuals to think they would be safe from deportation proceedings initiated by federal agents.  The Resolution, for example, limits the kind of assistance that local officers will provide federal agents, but neither State nor local officials have the authority to interfere when federal agents conduct their own investigations.

It was also important to highlight how the Resolution promotes public safety for everyone.  For example, because the Resolution prohibits local officers from investigating someone’s immigration status, it encourages immigrants to call the police when they need help or have information about a crime without triggering a chain of events that could ultimately lead to deportation.  The resulting separation between local law enforcement on the one hand, and immigration enforcement on the other, protects undocumented people from harassment, but it also makes for safer communities overall because it builds trust and opens the lines of communications between immigrants and the police.

Also, “law and order” voters in Tompkins County might have opposed a “sanctuary” resolution, not knowing how our proposal actually supports local officers and economic interests.  The Tompkins County Sheriff had in fact publicly endorsed the Resolution because it made sense both legally and pragmatically, and because it was consistent with the Department’s own practice.

Local enforcement of federal immigration law is also expensive, because the federal government does not reimburse the County for time its officers spend on immigration, or the resources they use.  Moreover, because federal immigration agents operate under a more flexible set of enforcement guidelines, a County that cooperates with federal agents can be sued for violating the constitutional rights of an undocumented people.

There are plenty of good reasons for a municipality to embrace the word “sanctuary.”  A resolution adopted by the City of Ithaca in 1985 to protect refugees gave the Common Council historical support for protecting undocumented people against federal aggression this time around.  Voters in Ithaca also supported the principle of protecting undocumented people, separate and apart from any broader local interests served by the Resolution.  Tompkins County has a different history, and its residents as a whole are more politically divided.  The decision to avoid the word “sanctuary” reflected that context, in hopes that the merits of the County Resolution would carry the day, regardless of the name we gave it.

-Kathy Bergin

 

 

 

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Rosa

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We interviewed Rosa, a national from the Dominican Republic, for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant.  Rosa came to the US through marriage and is currently pursuing her BA at SUNY Cortland.  She recently came to Catholic Charities to get help in applying for citizenship.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came here because I had married a citizen from the US.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My husband’s uncle married a local Ithaca girl so he was the first one who lived here.  In 2008, my husband moved from Texas because there were more jobs and it was a quieter life.  He was living here when we got married.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

It was beautiful – I came in the summer and it was like paradise.  There were lots of flowers, lots of colors and lots of green.  During my first spring I said wow to how beautiful the flowers were.  In my first winter I said – wow, I love the snow.  Now after many winters, I say okay, it’s winter.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

McDonald’s.  I like French fries and the grilled chicken sandwich.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

My favorite is Target.  When it’s the end of the season they put everything on sale and then you can find everything.  I like Kohl’s and Bon Ton for the clearance sales.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

The difference is the beach, the weather, and the food. There, you are more free to go outside and play. I worked right on the beach and I could be outside all of the time.  The food is also different; we eat plantains, rice and the fruits are more tasty.

 

Thank you, Ithaca Welcomes Refugees!

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We wanted to say thanks to Ithaca Welcomes Refugees (IWR) for their part in ensuring the first family we are resettling through our refugee resettlement program had furnishings, personal items and groceries available to them as soon as they landed in Ithaca.  We had tapped into IWR’s resources and asked them to take on the tasks of collecting donations, moving and arranging furniture, setting up beds, and creating a welcoming atmosphere. We also asked them to prepare a meal that could be heated up upon arrival.  All of these things are required of the resettlement agency to provide and we were fortunate to have a local group of volunteers to call on for assistance.

IWR has been collecting goods and wares for almost a year anticipating assisting refugee families that CCTT resettles once they arrive in Ithaca.  Their basic needs committee was asked to collect household items and furnishings that are required by the State Department in setting up a new household and they certainly delivered on that commitment.  The volunteers who took on providing a welcoming meal went above and beyond the “required hot meal” (that is also a State requirement) and not only cooked a meal that could be reheated once the family arrived, but also donated culturally appropriate foods to feed the family of six for a week.  IWR volunteers stocked the cupboards with coffee, lentils, rice and yogurt, and filled the freezer and refrigerator with several homemade entries and desserts such as dal, Sabzi Challow (spinach and rice), Qorma-e-Lubia (bean stew), sweet rice pudding and Kulche Badami (Afghan almond cookies).

When speaking to the father the following day after the family arrived, he said…

“as long as I live here, having those foods waiting for my family is something I will remember.”

Thank you, IWR, for creating such a welcoming memory.

 

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Alice

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Alice, a Kenyan national, who is currently taking the steps to become a US citizen.  Before immigrating to the U.S., she was a professional bee keeper in her former country.  Alice is currently studying to become a entrepreneur at TC3.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came because of marriage – my husband was from here.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My husband’s family was in Ithaca so we moved here.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I loved the people in Ithaca.  They are always smiling at you and are kind.  They’re very nice people.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Five Guys Burgers  – I really like their combo burger.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Wegmans – they have everything under one roof that you need.  And it’s fresh.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

I have to say the change in seasons.  Here I have to deal with winter.  Also the time change is a big deal for me.  In Kenya the sun rises at 6:00 in the morning at sets at 6:00 at night.  I don’t like the time change here.  I get depressed when it starts to get dark here at 4:00 in the afternoon.

Refugee Resettlement Primer

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Recently, local journalist Josh Brokaw interviewed William Canny, director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Program regarding refugee resettlement.   This article followed a press announcement Catholic Charities released on Valentine’s Day letting the community know the first family we had accepted to bring to the U.S. through our refugee resettlement program was due to arrive in Ithaca soon.

The following excerpt from Josh’s article  includes William Canny’s thoughts on how  disastrous President Trump’s Executive Order has been refugee resettlement as a whole and the extra burden it has placed on the refugees themselves.  The entire article, “Refugee Resettlement Primer: From Over There to the United States” can be read here on Josh’s website, Truthsayers.

“The agencies who are out there doing resettling are reimbursed per refugee arrival,” Canny said. “When you stop the flow of refugees into those agencies you also stop reimbursements upon which those agencies made their annual budgets and planned to pay staff.”

With the implementation of Trump’s executive order uncertain, Canny’s agency and others are unsure how the flow of refugees will continue in the near future.

“The State Department does this in chunks,” Canny said. “You’ll remember there were 872 people who did come forward after the executive order: they had sold their belongings and left their house. They’re lining up some hundreds of people to come this week, ever since the injunction was brought in on the order. We hope, but can’t verify for those people in a similar situation that once they left their house, sold their goods, left the refugee camp and are making their way to their airport to get on a flight that, whenever the injunction is lifted, for humane purposes those people would come forward.”