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More Somalis coming to the US through the Latin American ?back door?
A tip of the chapeau to colleague Ann Corcoran at Refugee Resettlement Watch blog for this Los Angeles Times article, “Desperate Somalis pursue asylum via 'back-door' route to United States.” It tells the story of a Somali asylum seeker, Mohamed Ahmed Kheire, driven out of Somalia by clan wars and al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab who came to the US illegally via air, sea and land through Latin America. He ultimately crossed the border near San Diego only to be arrested and detained. This “back door route,” while arduous, is less expensive than going via Europe from Africa to enter the US. As we have written in a major NER article about the Somalis in America; the reason for the “back door route” is the suspension of the P-3 Visa family reunification program, fraught with fraud. It is alleged that our State Department will be re-open the P-3 visa program this year. This is despite evidence from US Immigration Control and Enforcement DNA field tests in Kenyan refugee centers that show more than four fifths of Somali applicants were not related to supposed family sponsors here in the US.
In the meantime, Somalis like Kheire profiled in this sympathetic L.A. Times story, takes the arduous “back door” route of asylum, which requires him to be placed in detention and grilled by a federal judge before being released as an asylee, eligible for US welfare program assistance.
Note what this L.A. Times article has to say:
Kheire is one of hundreds of desperate Somalis in the last two years to have staked everything on a wild asylum gamble by following immigration routes to the United States traditionally traveled by Latinos.
With the suspension of a U.S. refugee program and stepped-up security in the Gulf of Aden and along Mediterranean smuggling routes, more overseas migrants from Somalia are pursuing asylum through what one expert calls the "back door."
"The U.S. has closed most of the doors for Somalis to come in through the refugee program so they've found alternative ways to get in," said Mark Hetfield, senior vice president for policy and programs at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. "This is their new route."
About 1,500 people from around the world showed up in U.S. airports and on the borders seeking asylum during the 2009 fiscal year, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Somalis were the biggest group to make the journey, with most arriving in San Diego. More than 240 Somalis arrived during that period — more than twice the number from the year before.
Like Kheire, they have been shuttled to immigration detention centers in California while legal advocates have scurried to find lawyers and translators to help them navigate the country's immigration courts.
Many end up defending themselves. Those who lose may remain temporarily. Somalis may be deported, but immigrant advocates say authorities often do not send them back immediately because of difficulties making the trip.
Immigration experts say such circuitous paths are routes of last resort.
In Lancaster, Somalis and other asylum seekers wear light green jail jumpsuits. There, Somalis take vegetarian meals, since their Muslim faith prevents them from eating the lunch meat served to other detainees.
Several Somalis said they never expected to be detained — especially since they didn't try to sneak across the border.
"They're coming to the United States, which is a symbol of freedom and democracy around the world," said immigration attorney Lyall, who represented Kheire. "They're not expecting to go to jail and be fed bologna sandwiches."
On Jan. 4, the government plans to start releasing many asylum seekers while they wait for their immigration cases to be heard. It is unclear how many Somalis will be let out as they must prove their identity and many don't have documents. And still others say they have nowhere to go even if they were freed, their attorneys said.
Compared with asylum seekers from other countries, Somalis have been more likely to win their cases, according to immigration court statistics.
But in the courtroom in Lancaster, Kheire spent the last few moments of his asylum hearing in agony, worried the judge would send him back to Mogadishu to face the threat of death — even after he had survived such a harrowing journey.
The attorneys for Kheire and the government sat quietly in the courtroom, listening to the judge read the ruling as Kheire prayed.
A Somali interpreter whispered urgently into Kheire's ear. He broke into a hesitant smile. He would be allowed to stay.
"I always call it the back door," said Bob Montgomery, director of the San Diego office for the International Rescue Committee.
"When the refugee program is not robust, we see more people trying to come through the asylum system," he said.
Most Somalis have reached the United States — there are some 87,000 here — through U.S.-sponsored refugee resettlement programs. But the State Department in 2008 suspended a family reunification program for refugees over fraud concerns. The number of Somalis admitted by refugee programs dwindled to about 4,000 last year.
Those now traveling through Latin America are taking a path well-worn by asylum seekers from other countries. Immigration attorneys say they have worked with clients from Ethiopia and Iraq who also reached the United States via Mexico.
In 2010 look for more Somali cab drivers, meat packers, street gangs and, yes, some potential Jihadis after being granted entry to the US as asylum seekers. All brought to you by a very empathetic federal judiciary, government and voluntary agency resettlement bureaucracy and the ubiquitous aggressive immigration bar paid for by American taxpayers. These Somalis are fleeing war-torn Somalia with a few becoming Muslim extremists and even some radical youths going back to Somalia as fighters for Islamic terror groups. Is there something wrong with this picture? We think so.