Utah case indicates Somali family reunification is moving forward

Despite claims that the federal government has not re-opened the controversial and fraud ridden family reunification (P-3) program, obviously this family was reunited this week in Salt Lake City.   According to the Salt Lake Tribune (reprinted in a Somali publication) the family of Yusuf Shaali has been coming to the US “like links in a chain” since 2000.  This week, 6 of Shaali’s children arrived.  So it seems to me that the program is open.

We are told that one of Shaali’s daughters and her family came first in 2000, followed by Shaali five years later.

Five years after painfully leaving his children behind in Kenya, believing they would soon follow him to America, refugee Yusuf Shaali sat at the Salt Lake City International Airport and learned their plane was late. Six of his children were traveling more than 9,000 miles for a much-belated reunion that had required lawyers and DNA samples, patience and faith.

Not every family is so fortunate. In 2008, the United States froze its family reunification program for refugees amid allegations of fraud, particularly from Africa, the source of nearly all requests to join relatives in America.

Confusion over three wives initially stalled Shaali’s application. By the way, I’m guessing the confusion is that these were not 3 wives one after the other, but 3 at the same time.  Polygamy is common in some Muslim countries.

Hoping to start over in America, the family began to arrive like links in a chain [chain migration!].  In Utah they were joining hundreds of other Somali refugees, the state’s largest refugee resettlement group over the past decade. More than 1,400 Somalis have resettled here since 2000.

First in 2000 came Fatima’s husband, Said Mohamed. Three years later, Fatima arrived with her three boys and petitioned for her parents and siblings to follow. In 2005, Shaali interviewed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Confusion over his three marriages and an error in his children’s names led officials to offer only him and his current wife the chance to come to Utah.

They balked, but were persuaded the separation from the 10 living children from two marriages would be short.

Volags (10 major federal contractors) and their refugee agency subcontractors (like Catholic Charities) process the paperwork for additional family members once they have planted the original family seed.  The agency is paid by the head and in the case of reuniting families the cost is not as great for the agency as the so-called “free cases” where there is no family member already in the city to help with the cost burden of resettlement.

More than once, this day had seemed impossible. Staff at Catholic Community Services of Utah, which helps resettle refugees, helped the parents apply for the children a few months after they arrived in Salt Lake City. Federal officials asked for more evidence and the case inched forward. Nearly a year later, nine of the children were interviewed at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. One daughter had died of malaria while waiting.

More questions arose about inconsistencies in the children’s stories regarding mosques and madrasas, or schools. More than two years passed.

After DNA kits were sent to Kenya and tests confirmed that the 6 children ranging in age from 10 to 22 were the children of Shaali they were granted permission to join their father.  By the way, the article is not clear about how the number of children approved was whittled to six from an original ten.  It appears two died, but what happened to two others?

The fraud that closed the program mostly in Africa in 2008 was the shocking (LOL!) discovery that only about 20 % of the applicants for family reunification were really family!   Indeed the State Department admitted last year that as many as 36,000 Somali refugees may have arrived here illegally.

Thousands of families are lined up to bring relatives to the US once the program is re-opened.

Years ago, family reunifications made up 20 to 30 percent of the refugees who came to Utah each year through CCS, estimated Aden Batar, refugee resettlement director. That number has dropped to about 5 percent or less.

“We have thousands and thousands of families [in the U.S.] who are here and are waiting to hear when the family reunification program will reopen,” he said.

The program, which had been able to confirm a biological link to claimed relatives in fewer than 20 percent of cases, remains under review by federal officials.

Doesn’t the arrival of Shaali’s family indicate the program is open?  Is the US State Dept. just going to slip in “relatives” without a formal re-opening?

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