Immigrants & Refugees in Crisis

Posted on March 17, 2017

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In accordance with our mission of promoting access and integration for immigrants and refugees in North Carolina, CNNC wants to highlight current research and real facts related to immigrant and refugee integration into our society. This is especially relevant given current issues in North Carolina, the US, and the world.

Current Situation (as of March 17):

The United States makes claims of exceptionalism in the world arena, and this exceptionalism resides in being a uniquely immigrant nation. Immigrants make our nation stronger in terms of economic innovation, cultural richness, and enhanced awareness and understanding of global contexts.  We are stronger as a nation because of our diverse backgrounds, and our commitment to democratic values and human rights. Historically our nation and state have striven to build communities where everyone—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or immigration status—has the security, resources, and support to reach their full potential.

Our society is now experiencing dramatic conflict and upheaval regarding the place of immigrants and refugees. The CNNC firmly believes that migration is a natural process and necessary for all developed societies.  This has been a pattern of human behavior since the evolution of human society. Current political tensions and war have created a crisis situation on the local, national, and global level.

Federal policies regarding refugee resettlement and international travel:

The Executive Order (EO) issued in late January was blocked by the federal courts as appearing to be unconstitutional. This judiciary decision was based on religious discrimination, lack of documentation regarding terrorism allegations, lack of clarity regarding different classifications of immigrants, and unauthorized federal authority. The revised Executive Order, issued March 6, expresses similar intent but with removal of religious references. It also removes the Iraqi ban from the list of banned countries because of objections from the Department of Defense, which noted that US military personnel are serving in Iraq in cooperation with Iraqi forces. Many Iraqi personnel have put themselves at risk by associating with the US military, and were promised the opportunity of migrating to the US if their families were in danger. The second EO continued for the other six Muslim dominant countries, and challenges were made by several states. Federal judges in two different states blocked the nationwide ban as of March 15, alleging that the EO continued to allow for religious discrimination. This also lifted the temporary refugee halt. The federal administration says that it will appeal the court decisions.

Both the initial and revised Executive Orders place a 120 day halt and waiting period for  the US refugee resettlement program, reportedly to review the vetting process, and then authorizes a 50,000 person cap on number of refugees allowed to come this fiscal year. (110,000 refugees had been authorized under the previous administration.)  The Constitutional challenges to this part of the EO are not as clear. However, the impact is dramatic. Most refugees are in or close to war zones, without adequate food or shelter, and most who were vetted to come to the US have relatives already here. The vetting process for refugees from the Middle East usually takes between 18 months to 2 years. Several steps are time sensitive, meaning that the previous steps will expire, and refugee families will need to start over in the process.

Refugee resettlement agencies, funded by the US State Department to initially resettle refugees, are having their budgets cut dramatically, meaning they will not be available for follow up assistance to the families they have recently resettled. Some follow up services are provided by a different funding source, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. Fortunately, in North Carolina, this ORR funding operates a year in advance, meaning that some services will continue for eligible refugees. For local impact regarding cuts to refugee funding, see

State policies regarding undocumented residents:

Legislative bills have been submitted in the NC state legislature severely limiting local resources for immigrants who might not have documentation, seeking incarceration and expedited deportation prior to an orderly court review. Cities and municipalities who are deemed “sanctuary cities” by assisting undocumented residents without turning them over to federal authorities are threatened with withholding of state tax funds. Individuals providing assistance are at risk of felony penalties. It is not yet clear whether these proposed actions will muster court review. No cities in North Carolina have self-identified as sanctuary cities though state legislators claim some are, including Greensboro. As of mid-March, these bills are pending.

North Carolina is one of the five largest farm labor states in the nation, with between 100,000 to 150,000 farmworkers, with a history going back to the mid 1950’s when corporate agriculture took over family farms. Abuse of farmworkers is well documented. Farmworkers are primarily from Mexico and Central America, and “The federal government estimates that 60 percent of farmworkers are undocumented immigrants; farmworker advocates say the percentage is far higher.” (Southern Poverty Law Center). If it were possible to deport these agricultural workers, our state and nation would experience major food shortages and economic catastrophe. Notably, current legislative proposals targeting undocumented workers seem to exempt undocumented farmworkers by exempting agricultural businesses from using the e-verify system to verify farmworker status.

Many undocumented residents have migrated to urban life where there has been a major need for construction workers and other specialized trades for jobs that have not been filled by documented residents. These families have mixed status, meaning that there are documented and undocumented members of the same family. These mixed status families typically have undocumented parents and US citizen children. As undocumented parents are deported, North Carolina will need thousands of new foster families to care for the children.

Muslims and other populations at risk:

Muslims, and other nonwhite people who are perceived as Muslim, appear to be at special risk as public anti-Muslim sentiment is growing. It is also spilling over into other non-Christian religions, including Judaism and Sikhism. Homophobia is also on the rise along with a generalized nativism. These trends are threatening our basic US institutions and constitutional principles.

Families we serve:

Whether these families are US citizens who don’t conform to mainstream stereotypes, legal permanent residents, residents with temporary visas, refugees, or undocumented persons, they report similar fears and confusion. There is fear about safety and community violence directed toward them. There is confusion about the government’s intentions and policy directives. Children are afraid to go to school, undocumented parents make emergency arrangements for care of their US citizen children if parents are deported, and some people are afraid to go out in public for fear of harassment.

Related research and real facts: click link for more

This special post will be updated regularly as the situation changes.
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