By EduardoMorales, Ph.D.
The news media is broadcasting the dramatic influx of persons migrating through our southern border in unprecedented numbers. Title 42 which was initiated in the previous presidential administration was to expedite immigrant cases with the goal of reducing the chances of COVID-19 spread throughout the U.S. On May 11, 2023, Title 42 implementation ends at midnight and Homeland Security plans to implement the standard Title 8 for processing asylum cases into the U.S. The processes for immigrating to the U.S. is complicated and confusing. The major crises are mostly on the southern borders of the U.S. with large numbers with persons mostly from Central and South America seeking asylum in the U.S. due to the dangers they face in their own countries. Among this group seeking asylum are LGBTQ+ persons. This article will attempt to simply what the processes are and highlight the challenges moving forward.
Phase one of this process is entering the U.S. through its borders legally and processed as seeking asylum to avoid being abused and killed in their own countries. Typically, in the past persons entering the U.S. for asylum would have a sponsor assigned to them by a sponsoring agency to ensure their process has a successful and desired outcome. Being a sponsor required one to make sure that housing and sustenance is available for at least 6 months while the new immigrant finds employment and can establish themselves. This partnership as a sponsor provided the mentoring and guidance needed for understanding the socialization expectations in the U.S. and to navigate the use of resources for being stable and established in the U.S. Given the large volume Homeland Security apparently changed its procedures by initiating other mechanisms for speeding up asylum cases. Unfortunately, the advantages of having a designed sponsor to provide guidance is not provided and is replaced with other processes that leaves the new immigrant left to their own devises and means for being socialized and integrated into the U.S. It is not understood why Homeland Security does not put out a call for citizens who were successful past sponsors to assist them in this time of crisis. Consequently, various cities throughout the U.S. have exhausted their resources to provide necessary supports that includes housing and medical attention forcing a declaration of a state of emergency to generate more attention and resources to assist the large numbers who are entering and settling in their locales. The lack of updating the processes by the federal government for asylum seekers has complicated and stressed local systems and resources.
Phase two in this process is to match newly arriving immigrants with stable housing and employment by employers who need their skills and services. The lack of having a designated sponsor for guidance makes this matching process difficult and may foster employers to take advantage of their vulnerable state and their lack of understanding employment laws in their locales. Although some service agencies can offer some assistance, their resources are limited given other contractual obligations. Meanwhile the newcomer faces challenges in obtaining stability while in the U.S. and attending to the reporting requirements of Homeland Security is critical whose processes appear complex and difficult to understand.
Phase three is the process of having their case properly processed by the courts for obtaining permanent residence and eventual citizenship in the U.S. Many find themselves sending financial support to their families in their home countries which reduces their own resources for their own needs in the U.S. Currently the court systems are overwhelmed with cases and persons may be in a state of limbo for numerous years. The process of adjudicating their status varies greatly. I for one know of various cases where cases have not been scheduled for 7 to 10 or more years. This causes much stress and anxiety for those seeking asylum because their status is uncertain. It is possible that the climate in their country changed which may provide an option to return to their country. However, many have now made ties, are accustomed and socialized to life in the U.S. and are able to navigate systems in the U.S. This makes the option to return to their country remote and not possible. Given the increasing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being implemented throughout the U.S., cities with large LGBTQ+ communities and supports are more attractive and reliable. In San Francisco we are lucky to have support systems for LGBTQ+ persons to provide a haven of safety until their final determination is completed.