The United States will soon allow up to 250 migrants who are deemed “particularly vulnerable” to enter the country each day. This is a shift from the current policy that blocks most families and single adults from crossing the border. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently rolling out the new system, which will identify and formally admit the most vulnerable migrants at various ports of entry along the Mexico-United States border.
The new system started at the port of entry in El Paso, Texas in mid-May and is expected to soon roll out at other ports in Texas and Arizona. Approximately 2,000 vulnerable migrants have previously entered the country and are awaiting their immigration hearings.
What are Vulnerable Migrants?
Migrants considered particularly vulnerable include:
- Ill individuals.
- Families with very young children.
- Migrants who have been threatened or attacked while they wait in Mexico.
- Migrants with long periods of displacement, and victims of crime, human trafficking, and sexual violence will also be considered for the program.
These groups are in addition to all unaccompanied children and some families already allowed into the United States. Vulnerable migrants are identified to U.S. Customs and Border Protection by various international and non-government humanitarian organizations working along the border. The actual number of vulnerable migrants admitted to the United States each day will depend on how quickly these humanitarian organizations can identify and screen them.
Why Admit Vulnerable Migrants Now?
The admittance of vulnerable migrants into the country results from negotiations in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This lawsuit challenges Title 42, which is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that blocked migrants from entering the United States in an effort to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Admitting vulnerable migrants for humanitarian reasons is an exception to Title 42.
Migrants considered for entry all undergo COVID-19 testing. They are then given a date and time to arrive at a designated port, where they will be admitted into the United States and issued a notice to appear in immigration court for an asylum hearing.
What is Asylum?
Asylum is protection granted to foreign nationals currently in the United States or at a border port of entry. These foreigners must meet the United Nations definition of a refugee, which is a person who cannot return to their country and does not have any protections there. The person must also have a legitimate fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a specific social group, or political opinion.
A person who is granted asylum into the United States:
- Is protected from being returned to their home country.
- Can work in the United States.
- Can apply for a Social Security card.
- May request permission to travel overseas.
- Can petition to bring family members to the United States.
- May be eligible to apply for government aid programs, such as Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance.
- After one year can apply for lawful permanent resident status.
- After four years as a legal resident can apply for citizenship.
Immigrants who do not apply for asylum within one year of entering the United States or who pose a danger are barred from receiving asylum. An asylum seeker must prove they are a refugee as defined above. An immigration lawyer can help in this process.
Are Vulnerable Migrants Considered Asylum Seekers?
Those who are deemed vulnerable migrants under the new DHS system may not have to meet the definition of a refugee, but they are subject to specific other qualifications. These criteria have not been made public at this time.
The U.S. government and DHS work closely with international and non-governmental humanitarian groups to identify, screen, and process these vulnerable individuals in accordance with the new program.
What if a Family Member is a Vulnerable Migrant?
Anyone who has a family member considered a vulnerable migrant should contact an immigration lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer will keep a close watch on the rules and criteria for the new system as it is being rolled out.
In addition, if a vulnerable migrant is admitted into the United States under the new program, they will still need to appear in immigration court and have one or more hearings. As they move through the process after admittance, an immigration lawyer can help them apply for lawful permanent residency and receive certain other benefits.
The immigration process can be complex. An experienced immigration lawyer can be beneficial in helping a vulnerable migrant present a strong case for their vulnerable status. Even though humanitarian organizations will have identified vulnerable migrants, they will still need to prove their status to United States authorities.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Fight for the Rights of Migrants and Asylum Seekers
Immigration policies change frequently. Old and new presidential administrations and COVID-19 have made the process complex and challenging to navigate. Let the knowledgeable Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. address your concerns. We have many years of experience helping people with all aspects of immigration, including asylum, deportation, visas, and appeals. While the details and criteria are not currently widely shared, we are keeping close tabs on the program. Call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online for an initial consultation today. We are based in Philadelphia, and we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.