Science

Immigrants hoping to seek US asylum face years of legal bondage in overwhelmed system

New York – Beberlin and his family boarded the subway in downtown Manhattan just before 4 a.m. in mid-October. Her appointment with federal immigration officials didn’t happen until 9 a.m., but she wanted to make sure her family was seen.

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

Beberlin, 33, is a Venezuelan immigrant who illegally crossed the US southern border in late August with her husband, 15-year-old nephew, 12-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. She was hoping that ICE would give them an immigration court date so they could begin the process of applying for asylum and work permits.

In fiscal year 2022, about 380,000 migrants such as Beberlin were released by US border officials under a humanitarian authorization known as parole and were required to check in to ICE offices across the US to obtain a court date, government data shows. was instructed. It’s a policy the Biden administration introduced last year to process migrants more quickly from Border Patrol holding facilities, because issuing court notices is a lengthy process.

But after their hours-long wait in Manhattan, the Beberlin’s family was not given a court date. Instead, he was instructed to check-in with ICE again on April 1, 2024. The family is now in limbo. The US allowed them to remain in the country until their cases were resolved. But his parole expired on October 26 and because he is not in formal deportation proceedings in court, he cannot request asylum or a work permit from a judge.

“We’ve come here with the illusion of moving on, working,” said Beberlin, whose surname is being withheld because of her pending immigration case. “I want to work. My husband wants to work. It’s not as easy as we thought. It’s a little frustrating and difficult.”

The plight of Beberlin and her family has become increasingly common for migrants seeking asylum in the US, formally established in 1980 to provide asylum to those fleeing persecution, under the US asylum program severe stress Between a record number of migrants seeking security at the southern border in the past few years and the failure of Congress to update the system over two decades.

According to government data compiled by Syracuse University’s TRAC program, nearly 600 judges are currently overseeing nearly 2 million unresolved cases in the U.S. immigration court system, including 750,000 asylum applications. These numbers do not include expatriates such as the B├ęberlins, who have yet to be heard in court.

Due to the massive and growing case backlog, migrants wait an average of 4.2 years to be heard before an immigration judge, whose decisions can be appealed. Because US law allows asylum seekers to obtain work permits only 180 days after filing an asylum petition, they typically wait years, or illegally, to have the chance to work in the country legally. forced to work and get paid under the table.

The crisis facing the US asylum system has intensified under the Biden administration, which has reported a record level of encounters with migrants at the US-Mexico border. Thousands of migrants have arrived from countries such as Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, where the US cannot expel border-crossers under a pandemic-era rule that is used to quickly return Mexican and Central American migrants. to be done.

Venezuelan migrants cross the Rio Grande
Border Patrol agents on duty as Venezuelan migrants attempt to cross the US-Mexico border in September 2022.

Christian Torres / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


In fiscal year 2022, US border officials recorded more than 2.3 million encounters with migrants, a record high, although a significant percentage involved repeated crossings by the same individuals. While more than 1 million of those encounters resulted in evictions under pandemic restrictions, known as Title 42, US border officials processed 1.3 million migrants under US immigration law, which allows them to request asylum. allows for.

Theresa Cardinal Brown, a former immigration adviser to George W. Bush and the Obama administration, said the current state of the asylum system hurts migrants by putting them in a one-year legal bond. It also prevents the US, she said, from determining whether someone is immediately eligible for asylum, a dynamic that could encourage migrants with vulnerable or non-existent claims to use the system to stay in the country. Is.

“It’s processing people into an ever-increasing backlog of a system,” said Cardinal Brown, who now works as managing director at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “The asylum system has collapsed.”

a Biden administration limit Policy Designed to eliminate vulnerable asylum claims, has shown signs of success, rejecting 50% of asylum seekers in the initial screening phase and granting asylum to eligible migrants within months rather than years. But the program has been implemented on a very limited scale since its launch in June.

“A Very Long Process”

Beberlin said her family’s migration journey began in 2016, when her sister was killed by paramilitary forces in Tachira state. Her family, including her sister’s son, moved to Colombia, becoming part of the Venezuelan mass exodus that recently surpassed 7 million refugees, the largest displacement crisis ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.

After living in Colombia for several years, Beberlin said earlier this year her family was uprooted again when she filed a police complaint against a man she said had killed her son and nephew. was sexually abused. Beberlin said he was told his family would be at a loss if they didn’t run: “We only had 24 hours to leave Colombia.”

Like thousands of Venezuelans who have traveled north over the past year, B├ęberlin’s family has traveled to seven Latin American countries and traversed the notoriously uncharted wilderness in Panama known as the Darien Gap, which is the southernmost point of the Americas. On the way to the border.

“Our bodies were tired. Our feet were swollen. Four of my husband’s toe nails had fallen off, two of my toe nails had also fallen off,” she said, recalling the trek through the forest.

But Beberlin said the difficult trek was “worth it.”

“Now I feel calm. I feel safe,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about the safety of my kids.”

The tight-knit Venezuelan family is now staying in one of dozens of hotels that have been converted by New York City officials into temporary shelters for immigrants settled in Manhattan by Republican officials in Texas and the Democratic government of El Paso. The family has also received donated winter clothes.

Beberlin’s daughter, Lady, was enrolled in kindergarten at a public school on the Upper West Side, where her son, Emmanuel, is attending middle school. Her nephew, Diebirth, whom she considers as her own child, is also attending a public high school in Manhattan.

Still, the family has faced some challenges in New York. Beberlin’s husband, Melkin, said he worked on a construction project for more than two weeks, but was only paid for three days. Because Melkin doesn’t have legal status, he said, there’s not much he can do about it.

While some Democrats and advocates say that allowing asylum seekers to work legally earlier in the immigration process would curb labor evasion and benefit the US economy, opponents argue that it would encourage more illegal immigration. Will do

On her way back from her ICE check-in in October, Daiberth helped carry Laidy’s stroller and displayed some of the English words she learned at school. He said he wanted to be “big” to play basketball in school. Meanwhile, Emmanuel said he is looking forward to seeing snow for the first time this winter.

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

Camillo Montoya-Galvazo


Beberlin said that her children would learn English much faster than her. But he is worried about his immigration issue. They don’t know when they will get the court date. She and her husband cannot legally work. The family also doesn’t have a lawyer, which data shows may increase their chances of winning asylum.

If an immigration judge determines that the family has not suffered persecution or has a well-established fear of persecution based on their race, nationality, religion, political views, or membership in a social group – under US law Requirements under – they can be ordered deported.

“I have a good chance,” Beberlin said, citing threats against his family. “But I hear it can take a long time, even years. It’s a very long process, so we have to wait.”

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