It’s called the I-730 visa “Follow to Join” program being run jointly between the US Citizenship and Immigration Service and the US State Department. A refugee or asylee gets into the US and can then file an application to bring spouse and minor unmarried children to the US. The spouse and children need not prove that they are being persecuted or in danger, just that they are related to the anchor person who got in earlier.
On Monday we reported here that the USCIS would hold a teleconference to bring “stakeholders” up-to-date on their new pilot program geared to make for a smoother process to get those family members in more quickly and presumably to add some security measures. Previously there were only a few places in the world where these applications were processed.
The pilot program was established in originally five locations and a sixth was added since the pilot was announced, here, in early 2011.
The pilot locations are Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Guatemala City, Guatemala; New Delhi, India; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Yaoundé, Cameroon. Since the original announcement a sixth location was added and that is Tashkent, Uzbekistan. We learned yesterday that in those locations 4550 cases have been processed since the pilot program began in early 2011. The largest number were processed in Addis (37%) with Port-au-Prince coming in as number 2 with 21% of the cases. Eighteen new locations will be added soon to better facilitate “customer service.”
At the beginning of the teleconference it was announced that if there were any members of the press on the phone they had to get off. I didn’t think that applied to me because bloggers are told all the time that we aren’t legitimate media especially when it comes to getting into press-only events at places like the US State Department. And, besides why should any media be excluded from hearing about how a program of the US government is going, especially one so intimately entwined with contractors.
And, I figured as a US taxpayer I was a “stakeholder!” However, it seems their idea of a stakeholder is someone who is being paid (by the taxpayer) to help more immigrants get into the US. Readers, you don’t actually think that the “charitable” organizations resettling refugees are doing so out of the goodness of their hearts—they are paid salaries to help file these forms.
As a matter of fact, I bet I was the only person on the phone not receiving any funds (either in salary or billable hours) for my hour of time.
Some of the “stakeholders” identifying themselves when they asked a question were the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania, World Relief Minnesota, Lutheran Family Services of CO, Heartland Alliance and Jewish Family and Children Services of Pittsburgh and others. New York US Senator Gillibrand had a staffer on the phone (guess they are stakeholders) and the UNHCR had a representative on the line.
Questions by the teleconference participants were mostly involving minutia of the application process. Oh, but one thing that really surprised me in the opening presentation was this: 81% of the cases were “follow to join asylees,” and 19% were “follow to join refugees.” Asylees, as you know, are immigrants who got into the US on their own steam, perhaps crossed the border illegally, and then asked for asylum and ultimately convinced authorities that they were legitimately persecuted somewhere in the world. At least in the case of refugees there is a presumption that much security screening has occurred in advance before they even touched American soil.
The one discussion I found most interesting involved DNA testing, clearly an aggravation for many “stakeholders” and their customers. Regular readers know that the Family Reunification portion of the refugee program (called P-3) has been closed for years and the hang-up appears to be this proposed requirement for DNA testing. As we learned back in 2008, turns out that tens of thousands of “family” members getting into the US from Africa were not legally related to the anchor refugee here. I’m guessing, but I do assume that this stepped-up interest in the I-730 process is a result of a lack of any resolution of P-3 program. Back in 2010, draft regulations for P-3 were calling for DNA testing and the contractors and human rights advocates went nuts.
It was reported that in Addis Ababa where many Somalis and Eritreans were seeking “follow to join” permission that some children were being DNA tested. The USCIS presenter on the phone was clearly uncomfortable with questioning about the number of such cases of DNA testing and insisted it was only for those people who did not have adequate documents to prove a relationship to the US anchor.
However, there is a mechanism for “adopted” children to get in with (or without?) an anchor’s spouse. Go back to the 2011 USCIS report on the pilot program and note this rule (they must have been having problems with teens being “adopted” by “families”).
There is a co-residency requirement for I-730 adopted child beneficiaries. To qualify as an adopted child for the purposes of family-based immigration, including refugee and asylee follow-to-join cases, a child must have been adopted before he or she turned 16 years of age and must have been in the legal and physical custody of the adoptive parent(s) for at least two years (see INA §101(b)(1)(E)). The two year legal custody and residence requirements may take place before or after the adoption is final.
Kind of loosey-goosey though, don’t you think? One could “adopt” a teenager at age 15 and how does one prove that the kid lived in your hut in Africa or somewhere for two years prior to that time? Heck, the teen could be another wife!
Also, I think it was the UNHCR representative who asked if the USCIS had figured out what to do about “derivatives.” Derivatives in this case are babies of the minor unmarried daughter. You can see why this is called chain migration.
Ready to work and get benefits!
I almost forgot! There was also mention of an I-765 form which will now be filled out in advance before the “beneficiary” gets off the plane. Why? That is explained, here, in that original report in 2011 on the “follow to join” pilot:
The beneficiary needs these forms to obtain work authorization, as well as state and federal benefits to which he or she may be entitled [which benefits?–ed]. By verifying the accuracy of these forms overseas, USCIS and DOS will facilitate the smooth processing of the beneficiary by CBP at port of entry and reduce the potential for problems that a beneficiary may have in attempting to access benefits once in the United States.
We gotta keep those “customers” happy! After all, we aim to please!