Waiting for Refugee Status, Thousands Live in Limbo
The first batch of refugees and their children and grandchildren have been accepted into the United States under a new Obama administration plan that would put 500,000 to 600,000 people onto U.S. soil this year. It would be the largest number in a single year in the history of the program.
But the fate of these people — who are called “Dangerous & Special Immigrants” — is uncertain, with more than 2,800 people in limbo in the coming months.
To get to the United States, many people have to live through weeks of bureaucratic limbo, waiting for their first interview with U.S. authorities. They arrive with nothing more than promises from the United States.
Here in El Paso, about 250 people lived in limbo during the last week of June. The Obama administration is about to decide whether they can enter the country and if they can enter, whether it will be a temporary or permanent entry to the country, said El Paso Regional Director Jaime Perales.
“We’ve been working with them and the government to find out what they’re looking for in terms of what we can offer them and the type of security they want and what are the security concerns for them,” he said.
Perales said he hasn’t heard any specific comments out of Washington, D.C., but that he’s been told that President Obama is looking at what the refugees are looking for in terms of immigration officials. He said he’s been told that many are looking for a temporary status, since they will need to provide proof of U.S. residency.
The first batch of refugees had been approved for a waiver of their visa waiting period, allowing them to apply for their permanent U.S. resident status after the first interview process.
The refugee program began when President Bush put the “Dangerous & Special Immigrants” into the country. Under the program, the U.S. government has admitted more than 1 million “Dangerous & Special Immigrants” with a goal of admitting 2 million by 2013. For the first eight months of the program, all the immigrants were taken into custody and held in detention. The Obama administration had