(KMAland) — Nebraska hosted more than 10,000 refugees between 2002 and 2016, and some still hope to bring family members to the United States
Under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security proposed changes to the refugee claim process, it could become more difficult.
They are designed to prevent a surge of migrants at the southern border once the federal health emergency ends in May, ending Title 42. They would deny entry to anyone who does not have the proper documentation and cannot meet certain expectations. Those entering at the southern border would also need proof that they have applied for and been refused asylum in a third country through which they passed.
Joe Lord, senior asylum attorney at the Immigrant Legal Center in Omaha, said it was an often unbearable wait.
“Many of these countries do not have an asylum system in place, nor an effective or safe asylum system,” Lord pointed out. “It’s a complication that’s not very fair to people fleeing danger and trying to get to a safe place.”
Lord thinks the changes could lead to more family separations. He noted that no consideration is given to the common case of someone coming to the United States alone and later asking family members to join them. He added that the backlog of immigration court cases in the Nebraska-Iowa region is currently at 28,000 and believes the changes would make the wait even longer.
Another aspect of the changes that Lord considers unrealistic is the expectation that migrants will use a smartphone app to book an appointment with a border agent.
“A lot of people crossing the southern border have nothing when they get here, and that includes access to a smartphone,” Lord pointed out. “That would be a major hurdle for many people applying.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s proposal provides exceptions for people with a medical emergency, facing an imminent threat or at risk of being trafficked.
Lord pointed to the far greater effect expectations will have on low-income people entering through the southern border than on those who can afford to apply for a visa and fly to the United States. He also believes the changes violate U.S. laws and treaties designed to protect asylum seekers.
“Laws in the United States explicitly protect an asylum seeker’s right to seek protection regardless of how they arrive here,” Lord said.
The proposed changes are open for public comment until March 27. Lord added that he fully expects them to be challenged in court.