Immigrants seeking asylum in the US face years of legal maze in an overwhelmed system

New York — Beberlyn and her family boarded the subway to downtown Manhattan just before 4 a.m. in mid-October. Their appointment with a federal immigration officer wasn’t until 9:00, but she wanted to make sure her family was seen.

When the family arrived at 4:40, dozens of immigrants were already waiting outside the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in Federal Plaza. By eight o’clock, a line of hundreds of immigrants had formed. It’s a scene that repeats every weekday in New York City, one of the most important destinations for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants released from custody at the US federal border over the past year.

Beberlyn, 33, is a Venezuelan immigrant who illegally crossed the southern United States border in late August with her husband, 15-year-old nephew, 12-year-old son, and 4-year-old daughter. She hoped ICE would give them an immigration court date so they could begin the asylum and work permit application process.

In fiscal year 2022, approximately 380,000 immigrants like Beverin will be released by U.S. border agents under humanitarian authority known as parole and will be checked into ICE offices across the U.S. to receive court dates. instructed. government data show.This is the policy of the Biden administration. I started Last year to process immigrants from Border Patrol detention facilities more quickly, as issuance of court notices is a longer process.

However, after being held in Manhattan for hours, Beverin’s family was not given a court date. The United States allowed them to stay in the country until their case was resolved. However, their parole expired on his October 26th, and they have not taken formal deportation proceedings in court, so they cannot seek asylum or request work permits from a judge. .

“We came here with the illusion that we were in the business and working,” said Beberlyn, whose last name was withheld due to pending immigration lawsuits. “I want to work. My husband wants to work too. It’s not as easy as we thought. It’s a little frustrating and difficult.”

Beberlyn and her family’s plight has become increasingly common for asylum-seeking immigrants in the United States. severe strain The past few years have seen record numbers of migrants seeking protection along the southern border and Congress’ failure to update the system for more than two decades.

less than 600 judgement The U.S. immigration court system currently oversees nearly 2 million unsolved cases, including 750,000 asylum applications, according to the U.S. Immigration Court System. government data Compiled by the TRAC program at Syracuse University. Those figures don’t include immigrants like Beberlyn, who never had a court hearing in the first place.

Due to the huge and growing backlog of cases, immigrants wait an average of 4.2 years before a trial before an immigration judge where they can appeal.because US law Asylum seekers can only receive a work permit 180 days after the asylum application is submitted. Also, they usually wait years until they get the chance to work legally in the country, or they are forced to work illegally and get paid under the table.

The problems facing the U.S. asylum system have intensified under the Biden administration, with record levels of migrant encounters reported along the U.S.-Mexico border. Tens of thousands of migrants came from countries such as Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, but the United States expels border crossers under pandemic-era rules used to quickly turn back migrants from Mexico and Central America. Can not do it.

Immigrants from Venezuela crossing the Rio Grande
Border Patrol agents on duty as migrants from Venezuela attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in September 2022.

Christian Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In fiscal 2022, U.S. border officials will: Recorded Over 2.3 million migrant encounters were the highest ever, but a significant proportion involved repeated crossings by the same individual. While more than 1 million of these encounters have led to deportation under the pandemic restrictions known as Title 42, U.S. border officials have ruled out 1.3 million immigrants under U.S. immigration laws who can claim asylum. has been processed.

Teresa Cardinal Brown, an immigration adviser in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, said the current state of the asylum system is hurting immigrants by trapping them in years of legal mazes. said. It also prevents the United States from immediately deciding whether someone is eligible for asylum, she added.

“The backlog of the system continues to grow,” said Cardinal Brown, managing director of the Center for Bipartisan Policy. ‘The refugee system has collapsed’

The borders of the Biden administration policy The program, designed to screen out vulnerable asylum claims, is showing signs of success, rejecting 50% of asylum seekers at the initial screening stage and giving eligible immigrants months instead of years. grants asylum withinBut the program very limited scale Since its release in June.

‘Very long process’

Beberlyn says her family’s migration journey began in 2016. After her sister was killed by a militia in Tachira province. Her family, including her sister’s son, immigrated to Colombia and became part of a large exodus of Venezuelans. recently exceeded Seven million refugees, the largest displacement crisis recorded in the Western Hemisphere.

After living in Colombia for several years, Beberlyn said her family was forced out of their home again earlier this year after she filed a police complaint against a man who said she had sexually abused her son and nephew. rice field. Ms Beberlyn said she was told that her family would be harmed if she didn’t flee.

Like the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have traveled north over the past year, the Beberlyn family crossed seven Latin American countries and walked through Panama’s notorious unmanaged jungle known as the Darien Gap. and headed for the southern border of the United States.

“Our bodies were exhausted. Our feet were swollen. Four of my husband’s toenails fell off and two of mine fell off.”

But Beberlyn said the arduous journey “was worth it”.

“I’m calm now. I’m relieved,” she added. “You don’t have to worry about your children’s safety.”

The tight-knit Venezuelan family is now one of dozens of hotels that New York City officials have converted into makeshift shelters for immigrants bused to Manhattan by Texas Republican officials and El Paso’s Democratic government. I live The family also received donations of winter clothing.

Beberlyn’s daughter, Laidy, enrolled in kindergarten at the Upper West Side public school where her son, Emmanuel, attended middle school. Her nephew Diarce, whom she treats like her own child, also attends public high school in Manhattan.

Still, the family faces some challenges in New York. Beberlyn’s husband, Melkin, said the construction project took her over two weeks, but she was only paid for three days. Melkin doesn’t have legal status, so there’s not much he can do about it, he said.

While some Democrats and supporters say allowing asylum seekers to work legally early in the immigration process will curb labor theft and benefit the U.S. economy. , opponents say it encourages more illegal immigration.

On the way home from ICE check-in in October, Daiberth helped Laidy carry the stroller and introduced him to the English words he learned at school. He said he wanted to be “big” to play basketball at school.Emmanuel, meanwhile, said he was looking forward to seeing snow for the first time this winter.

Beberlyn poses for a photo with her husband, children, and nephew after her check-in appointment at New York City’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Camilo Montoya Galvez

Beberlyn said her children pick up English much faster than she does. But she worries about their immigration lawsuit. They don’t know when they will receive a court date. She and her husband are legally unable to work. Also, the family does not have a lawyer. data show You can increase your chances of winning asylum.

An immigration judge determines that a family member has not been persecuted or has a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, national origin, religion, political views, or social group membership If so, they may be ordered as a requirement under US law. deported.

“I have a good chance,” Beberlyn said, citing threats against her family. “But I’ve heard that it can take a long time, possibly years. It’s a very long process, so we have to wait.” Immigrants seeking asylum in the US face years of legal maze in an overwhelmed system

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