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    Understanding the Current Immigration Process

    By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.–

    The news media is broadcasting the dramatic influx of people migrating in unprecedented numbers across our southern border. Title 42, which was initiated in the previous presidential administration, was supposed 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 ended at midnight and Homeland Security is implementing the standard Title 8 for processing asylum cases.

    Immigrating to the U.S. is complicated and confusing. The major crises are mostly on the southern border of the U.S., with large numbers of people mostly from Central and South America seeking asylum here due to the dangers they face in their own countries. Among this group seeking asylum are LGBTQ+ individuals. This article will attempt to clarify the immigration process for such individuals and highlight the challenges concerning it moving forward.

    Phase one of this process is entering the U.S. through its borders legally and documented as seeking asylum to avoid being abused and killed in their own countries. Typically, in the past, people 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 making sure that housing and sustenance are 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 this country. Given the large volume of immigrants, however, Homeland Security apparently changed its procedures by initiating other mechanisms to speed up asylum cases. Now unfortunately, new immigrants are left to their own devices and means to become socialized and integrated into the U.S.

    It is unclear why Homeland Security does not put out a call for citizens, who were successful past sponsors, to assist the department during this time of crisis. Various cities throughout the U.S. have exhausted their resources to provide necessary help that includes housing and medical attention. The situation has then forced some to declare a state of emergency to generate more attention and resources to assist the large numbers who are entering and settling in their locales. By not appropriately updating the process, the federal government has complicated and stressed local systems and resources.

    Phase two of the endeavor is to match newly arriving immigrants with stable housing and employment by employers who need their skills and services. Not having a designated sponsor for guidance makes this matching process difficult and may encourage employers to take advantage of the immigrants’ vulnerability and lack of understanding employment laws in certain areas. Although some service agencies can offer assistance, their resources are limited, given other contractual obligations. Meanwhile, newcomers face challenges in gaining stability while in the U.S. What’s more, attending to the reporting requirements of Homeland Security is critical for those whose cases appear complex and difficult to understand.

    Phase three requires immigrants to have their case properly processed by the courts so that they may obtain a permanent residence in the U.S. and eventual U.S. citizenship. Many newcomers send financial support to their families in their home countries, which reduces their own resources for their needs in the U.S.

    At present, the court systems are overwhelmed with cases and people 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 that have not been scheduled until 7 to 10 or more years have passed. This causes much stress and anxiety for those seeking asylum because their status is uncertain. It is possible that the climate in their original homeland has changed, which may provide an option to return to their country. However, many have now made ties here, are accustomed and socialized to life in the U.S., and are able to navigate systems in this country, making the option to return less desirable and feasible.

    Given the increasing amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being implemented throughout the U.S., cities with large LGBTQ+ communities and support systems are more attractive and reliable. In San Francisco, we are lucky to have such systems in place for LGBTQ+ people to provide them with a safe haven until their final determination is made.

    Eduardo Morales, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus, retired Distinguished Professor, and current adjunct professor at Alliant International University. He is also a licensed psychologist and a founder and current Executive Director of AGUILAS, an award-winning program for Latinx LGBTQ+. Of Puerto Rican decent, he has received numerous distinguished awards and citations, including being named a Fellow of 12 divisions of the American Psychological Association.

    Nuestra Voz
    Published on May 18, 2023