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  • Rights & Justice

    The Truth About Refugees

    WRC's Senior Advocacy Officer and UN Representative Stephanie Johanssen wrote a letter to the editor in The New York Times.

    To the Editor:

    Re “U.S. Cuts Refugee Program Again, Placing Cap at 18,000 People” (news article, Sept. 27):

    At a time when the number of refugees worldwide is at a record high, this administration continues its course of isolation and cruelty by cutting back on both access to asylum protections and refugee support.

    Read the full letter.

    Trump administration considering family separation policy for asylum seekers

    The policy could have devastating effects on children, immigrant groups say.

    Women’s Refugee Commission to Participate in Hearing on the Recognition of Refugees and Stateless Persons in the Americas

    Mexico City, Mexico – Next week, September 6, 2017 at 11:30am-12:30pm local time to Mexico City, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold a hearing on the “Legal and judicial process for the recognition of refugees and stateless persons in the Americas.” The Women’s Refugee Commission has been invited to participate along with Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Human Rights First (HRF).

    Trump Administration Ends Immigration Program for Central American Kids Fleeing Violence

    On August 16, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security cancelled the Central American Minors (CAM) program, a federal immigration option created in 2014 under the Obama Administration's guidance. This program offered U.S. entry to minors fleeing violence in Central America's "Northern Triangle," the tri-country region doused in rampant gang violence and corruption (in just the past two years, 33,000 people have been murdered in the region).

    ICE Has Arrested More Than 400 In Operation Targeting Parents Who Pay Smugglers

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested more than 400 people in an operation targeting undocumented parents and guardians who allegedly paid smugglers to bring their children to the U.S., putting them in grave danger. An ICE spokesman tells NPR the domestic phase of its Human Smuggling Disruption Initiative concluded on Friday. He said the "surge initiative" will now shift its focus to the transnational smuggling organizations that bring the children to the U.S.-Mexico border.

    The Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Target Women and Children

    Recent news stories have detailed how President Trump’s immigration policies continue to target women and children and rip families apart. He has instructed US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel to arrest, detain, and deport indiscriminately.

    Just this week, two brothers in Maryland – one a 19-year old rising soccer star who had just secured a college scholarship – were deported after one of them made a courtesy call to ICE to inform officials about his college plans. Earlier this year, a mother of three children – all U.S. citizens – who had fled the drug cartel violence in Mexico, was whisked away from her home and family in Ohio by ICE officials and deported. And, just last week, President Trump elevated John F. Kelly from secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to White House chief of staff, applauding him for his “tremendous results” in implementing the refugee ban and ramping up immigration enforcement.

    Women’s Refugee Commission Condemns ICE Enforcement Actions Against Women and Children, Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking

    Washington, DC - On July 10, 2017, Thomas Homan, the acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) responded to a letterfrom 563 organizations that support domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking victims explaining how the administration’s executive orders on immigration and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) February 20, 2017 implementation memos fail to protect immigrant victims of crime, reduce the likelihood of immigrant victims or witnesses reporting crimes, empower traffickers and abusers, contravene existing protections afforded by law, and create unprecedented fear for vulnerable women and children.

    Women’s Refugee Commission Responds to Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act

    Act would heighten standards for asylum, endangering women and children fleeing harm in home countries

    Washington, DC - Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 391, the “Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act,” a bill now sponsored by Rep. Johnson (R-LA). The bill includes countless harmful provisions that make it more difficult for asylum seekers, particularly women and children fleeing gender-based and gang violence, to access asylum or find protection in the United States. The bill severely limits access to the asylum process for those who seek protection at our borders, heightening the threshold for an initial interview that an individual would have to meet before they are even allowed to proceed with an asylum claim. Asylum seekers who do establish a possibility of a fear of return would be far less likely to be released from detention on parole and would instead face prolonged detention in remote detention centers with little access to legal counsel as they navigate their case. The bill includes numerous other provisions that would also dramatically limit access to protection and justice for those seeking protection in the United States.

    Women’s Refugee Commission Supports American Immigration Council’s Lawsuit Challenging CBP Turnbacks

    Washington, DC - This afternoon, the American Immigration Council (AIC), the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Lantham and Watkins, LLP filed a class action lawsuit against the Trump Administration, challenging Customs and Border Protection's(CBP) unlawful practice of turning back asylum seekers who present themselves at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border. The term “turnback” describes a situation in which CBP officials refuse to allow individuals, who present themselves at ports of entry along the U.S. southern border and assert their intention to apply for asylum or a fear of returning to their home countries, to seek protection in the United States. These asylum seekers are refused entry and access to our protection system and forced or left with no other option other than to exit the port area, returning to Mexico where their lives are in danger. These actions are illegal: under U.S. law and U.S. obligations under international law, arriving persons with protection needs must be provided access to a protection mechanism and may not be turned away at the border for any reason.

    Women’s Refugee Commission Responds to DHS Funding Bill

    Washington, DC - Today, the House Appropriations Committee Homeland Security Subcommittee approved its proposed fiscal year 2018 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill. Among other provisions, the bill includes $1.6 billion in funding for the Trump Administration’s proposed border wall and $4.4 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention and removal programs. This would fund 44,000 immigration detention beds, representing nearly 5,000 more than were funded for FY 2017 and a roughly 30 percent increase over the 34,000 detention beds that Congress has funded in recent years. The bill also includes funding to hire 1,000 new ICE officers as well as 500 new Border Patrol agents.

    Trump Administration Targets Parents in New Immigration Crackdown

    The Trump administration has begun a new tactic to crack down on illegal immigration, this time arresting undocumented parents suspected of having paid to have their children ushered into the country by smugglers.
    When unaccompanied children are apprehended at the border — often afterhaving been taken there by smugglers — immigration officials initiate cases for their deportation, a process that can take months or years. In the meantime, many of those children are placed with parents or relatives who crossed earlier to establish a foothold in the United States and earn money to send back home.

    ICE targeting relatives who pay to illegally bring children into U.S.

    President Donald Trump's administration has begun detaining parents and relatives who they suspect paid to have children brought illegally into the United States, officials said Friday.

    Criminally prosecuting adults who ask smugglers to bring minor relatives here was first floated in a memorandum signed by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in February, but enforcement thus far has been rumored, not confirmed.

    In a statement Friday, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said the enforcement action was part of a broader "surge initiative" to identify and arrest people involved in human smuggling operations. She declined to elaborate on how many relatives have been arrested, what they are being charged with or when the operation began, how long it will last, and how many people it will target.

    New Strategies to Address GBV in Urban Humanitarian Settings

    Displacement is increasing dramatically and it is increasingly urban. Today 65.6 million people around the world are displaced by conflict and 60% of those who are refugees have found refuge in urban areas. This necessitates a re-think of humanitarian service delivery including for the prevention of and response to gender-based violence (GBV). Specifically, it is imperative that we all dig deep to better understand, prevent, and respond to GBV in urban settings.

    Piden que cumbre centroamericana ofrezca respuestas a “crisis de refugiados”

    En vísperas de la cumbre regional sobre Centroamérica en Miami (Florida), líderes cívicos y religiosos afirmaron este martes que el encuentro debe incluir respuestas a la “crisis de refugiados” en el “Triángulo del Norte”, y las causas que obligan a su éxodo masivo hacia EEUU.

    Durante una conferencia telefónica, los activistas y expertos en materia migratoria coincidieron en que la reunión en Miami, entre el jueves y viernes  próximos, bautizada como la “Conferencia sobre la Prosperidad y Seguridad en Centroamérica”, debe abordar políticas que garanticen los derechos de los solicitantes de asilo, muchos de los cuales terminan encerrados en centros de detención y de forma prolongada.

    ICE Shuts Down Program for Asylum-Seekers

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will soon close a family case management program for asylum-seekers that, as of April 19, housed more than 630 families. According to Sarah Rodriguez, an ICE spokesperson, the program caters to “special populations, such as pregnant women, nursing mothers, [and] families with very young children.” It is currently considered the least-restrictive alternative for asylum-seekers who come to the U.S. illegally. The more common scenario is for immigrants and refugees to be held in prison-like detention centers as they wait for their cases to be heard in the immigration court system.

    Trump administration shutters a program geared to protect immigrant mothers and children

    HOUSTON (AP) — The Trump administration is shutting down the least restrictive alternative to detention available to asylum-seekers who have entered the U.S. illegally, The Associated Press has learned.

    Immigration activists consider the move a callous insult to migrants fleeing traumatic violence and poverty — nearly all the program's participants are Central American mothers and children — by a White House that has prioritized deportations that break up families over assimilating refugees.

    11 Experts to Watch on Refugee Health

    Refugee health has been called “a public health crisis of this century,” needing as much attention and collaboration over resources as global epidemics such as polio and HIV/AIDS.

    From war trauma to women’s health, refugees have a complex spectrum of medical needs, bringing challenges for displaced populations, their host countries and aid organizations.

    Many refugees who have fled war or ethnic and political violence are exposed to exploitation and abuse along their migration route, leaving them vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some children born in conflict zones may have to deal with toxic stress for their entire lives.

    Letter to Congress to Oppose President Trump's $4.5 Billion Request for Mass Deportation Agenda

    Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairman Frelinghuysen and Ranking Member Lowey:

    We, the undersigned, immigrant rights, civil and human rights, faith-based, environmental, labor and women’s organizations write to ask you to oppose President Trump’s request for $4.5 billion to fund his executive orders that would fund the construction of a divisive border wall, expand his deportation force and immigration detention and lower accountability for immigration and border agents. We therefore urge you to significantly reduce funding for immigration enforcement and detention in the FY2018 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) appropriations bills until the Administration can demonstrate that there is prioritization and accountability at the agencies.

    Budgets are Moral Documents and this One Fails

    Budgets are moral documents and the President’s budget request released this week is a moral and practical failure for displaced women, children, and youth around the world.

    As the White House delivered President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request to Congress this week, Ambassador Nikki Haley – who is on her first international trip as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations – visited the Za’atari camp in Jordan to see how refugees there are coping. Clearly moved by the bleak setting, Haley told reporters "We're the number one donor here through this crisis. That's not going to stop. We're not going to stop funding this." Referencing a convoy of trucks carrying food aid, Haley said "This is all in the name of our Syrian brothers and sisters… We want you to feel like the U.S. is behind you.”


    NEW YORK – The White House delivered to Congress today President Donald J. Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget request. Titled, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the president’s budget request includes drastic cuts to U.S. foreign assistance including a 31 percent cut to the U.S. Department of State and USAID, and significant increases in funding for immigration enforcement, detention, and the militarization of the border in the United States.