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NORTH AMERICA

Toward a History of Statelessness in America
American Quarterly, 2005, vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 727-749(22)
Kerber, Linda K.
Abstracted by: Ellie Azoff
Abstract:
When dealing with the issue of statelessness, many Americans tend to categorize the issue as something that happens to the "Other." A stateless person is a product of the fallen Soviet Union, certainly not someone born to the United States. In Kerber's article she refutes this notion by contextualizing modern-day examples of statelessness caused by U.S. laws and regulations within a thorough account of the history of statelessness in the United States. Her objective is to provide a modern-day analysis of statelessness in the context of current American fears of terrorism and the "Other," an analysis that she states is long overdue. Kerber begins by citing the fictional story of Phillip Nolan written by Edward Everett Hale and loosely based on the real life story of Aaron Burr. Published during the civil war, the story tells the tale of a man convicted of treason who subsequently has his U.S. citizenship revoked. Being a citizen of no other nation, Nolan is forced to sail the oceans for the rest of his life. This may be the first written account of statelessness in United States" history. Kerber continues to reach into the history of the United States by exploring the notion of citizenship as it has pertained to women and been effected by gender roles. She cites the infamous laws of the early 1900s that stated women who married foreign men automatically surrendered their citizenship. Interestingly, these laws were abolished during the women's rights movement but current laws reflecting constrained gender roles still exist. For example when an unwed couple conceives and gives birth to a child outside of the United States and only one parent is a U.S. citizen, that parent must be the mother in order for the child to receive U.S. citizenship. This may conflict with country laws in which the child was born and may ultimately render the child stateless. Kerber attests that these laws and determinations were made purposefully as military men often conceive children they would rather not care for after their stay in the country is over. Kerber nests all of her discussion within the historical writings of Hannah Arendt. She uses Arendt's descriptions of statelessness as these were conceived in the 1940s to bolster her argument that the United States is still condemning persons to statelessness but in different ways. Arendt was clear in her writings that once a person left their country for good they had no country to protect them; Arendt saw this take place through women marrying foreign men and the Jews being turned away from the United States during World War II. As Kerber explains, present day citizens see statelessness happening through the fear of terrorism and the economic disadvantage of foreigners coming to the United States. To bolster this argument Kerber uses the example of those held at Guatanamo Bay with no access to a fair trial or a lawyer. She states that these people, who once may have been U.S. citizens, are now deemed "enemies of the state" and are no longer eligible to obtain the same rights as they once were. Now these people have no country to protect their rights and no country to make an appeal to, fitting the definition of statelessness that Arendt had put forth in the 1940s. Furthermore, Kerber cites the undocumented workers of the United States and the women who are trafficked here. In this somewhat weaker example of statelessness Kerber argues that undocumented workers have left their countries for the United States and now have no government to protect them; what Kerber leaves out is that these workers can return to their countries of origin if need be. The stronger side of the argument involves those women who are trafficked, who fear return to their homeland but are treated as criminals here and often deported. These women cannot return home but they also cannot stay in the United States, they are thus, like so many others mentioned in Kerber's article, rendered stateless.

Children

Canada's Treatment of Separated Refugee Children
European Journal of Migration and Law, 2001, vol. 3, no. 3/4, pp. 347-381(35)
Sadoway, G.
  Abstracted by: Natalie Huls
Abstract:
Canadians justly take pride in their long-standing humanitarian tradition and generosity with respect to refugees. Canada has one of the best non-government organizations for refugees. The country was also the first to publish guidelines on gender-related persecution and on procedural and evidentiary matters in determining child asylum claims. However, Sadoway explains that Canada's immigration department is inadequate when it comes to reunifying refugee families and dealing with separated refugee children. The focus of the article is the treatment of unaccompanied refugee children. Sadoway explains that the Canadian federal government provides funding to the provincial governments to pay for immigrant settlement services. However, services within each province vary greatly. The variance does not significantly affect adults, but does affect refugee children. The author compares the situations of separated refugee children in Quebec, British Colombia, and Ontario. Quebec has the most satisfactory services dealing with refugee children. Quebec has a special para-public organization, Service d'Aide aux Réfugies et Immigrants de Montréal Métropolitain (SARIMM), that deals with immigrants and refugees. Citizenship and Immigration Canada immediately refers unaccompanied children to this organization. SARIMM acts as the Designated Representative for children during their asylum cases, helps children contact relatives who may already reside in Canada, and places children with families from a similar ethnic background if they are without relatives. SARIMM also helps children apply for permanent resident status if their refugee claim was successful. The situation for separated refugee children is less satisfactory in British Colombia. In this province the Ministry of Children and Family Development decides to place children in care or to "remove" them to their home country. However, the Ministry does not stay involved in the lives of the children unless it acts as a child's Designated Representative. Ontario has the most numbers of refugee children but the least satisfactory system of dealing with these children. Child welfare agencies only deal with children under the age of 16. These agencies also need a formal wardship order from the Ontario Court to act as guardians of the children. No formal agreement exists to provide unaccompanied refugee children with a Designated Representative. Instead, the Immigration and Refugee Board developed a list of immigration lawyers who, when requested, act as Designated Representatives. Sadoway continues her article by describing the detention process of refugee children in Canada, and describing the process of determining refugee status for children. The guidelines on procedural and evidentiary matters for child refugee claimants recognize that children are likely to forget certain events due to the stress and trauma of fleeing their home countries. The author identifies a further problem with assessing refugee claims in the lack of emphasis placed on family unity. Parents may apply for asylum on behalf of their children, but children may not apply for asylum on behalf of their parents or siblings. This results in the separation of children from their parents. The author concludes her article by stressing the inconsistencies and gaps that exist in the protection and care system for refugees in different provinces. Sadoway states that separated refugee children are especially vulnerable because they constitute a small proportion of claims. She recommends specialized training for immigration officers, provincial child welfare authorities, the courts, the lawyers, and the refugee and immigrant settlement workers who come into direct contact with separated refugee children.

 

Refugee Children in Canada: Searching for Identity
Child Welfare, September/October 2001, vol. 80, no. 5, pp. 587-596(10)
Fantino, A. M. and A. Colak
  Abstracted by: Natalie Huls
Abstract:
Children have a difficult time developing a personal identity in society. Refugee children have the double difficulty of developing a personal identity in society and developing that identity in a new society. Fantino and Colak discuss the integration of refugee children into Canadian society. Canada has a consistent record of resettling refugees and other immigrants within its borders. The authors state that about 800,000 refugees resettled in Canada since the end of World War II. Between 1995 and 1999, more than 300,000 immigrant children resettled in Canada. Using these numbers, the authors compare the experiences of refugee and immigrant children. They explain that both groups face the challenge of achieving acceptance at school and acting as "cultural brokers" for their parents at home. The children face the stress of living in two cultures, but Fantino and Colak state that the main threat for refugee and immigrant children is the stress of belonging to no culture. However, there are obvious differences between refugee children and immigrant children. Refugee children often come from a tragic and traumatic background and are less likely to be able to return home. Refugee children need to grieve their losses, but the process goes unrecognized. The authors explain that social services are instrumental to helping children adapt to a new culture. Social service settlement assistance includes first language translation services, help in locating permanent housing and accessing English language classes, community orientation, referrals to health and social services, and other services. These services help families and children adjust to the new culture. A special Canadian program for children, the National Play Program for At-Risk Refugee Children serves to help heal traumatized children. The authors cite several examples where the Play Program and community connections helped refugee children and their families heal from their experiences and begin integration into Canadian society. To conclude, Fantino and Colak explain that integration of refugees requires efforts by the newcomers and by mainstream Canadians to accommodate each other. Refugee children need to learn to integrate their history with their present and future lives in Canada. To ensure successful integration, host countries must have the willingness, ability, and resources to provide refugees with culturally sensitive services.

Refugees

Perceived Racial Discrimination, Depression, and Coping: A Study of Southeast Asian Refugees in Canada
Journal of Health and Science Behavior , Sep. 1999, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 193-207.
Noh, Samuel; Beiser, Morton; Kaspar, Violet; Hou, Feng; Rummers, Joanna.
  Abstracted by: Leah Persky
Abstract:
This article explains results from research and interviews with 647 Southeast Asian refugees in Canada . The authors explore the effects of perceived racial discrimination, access to resources, and social status on personal identity, health and well-being. This area of study was taken up because many past studies on the effects of discrimination on diverse populations have demonstrated that the experience of discrimination was associated with high levels of stress and psychological distress.
The authors focus on individual experiences of refugees and how they cope with racial discrimination. They believe the coping mechanisms that individuals exhibit allow them a degree of power over stressful situations. The interviews found confrontation and forbearance to be the most common responses to discrimination. Direct confrontational responses reduce the sense of helplessness and victimization, but this type of response may also cause distress through the escalation of the conflict and hostility.
The authors explain how direct confrontation may be difficult for Southeast Asian refugees and other powerless groups because of lack of social networks, cultural and social barriers, and direct confrontation may cause fear. The authors have found that forbearance is one of the most viable coping mechanisms for S.E. Asian refugees because it allows individual to passively accept and disassociate from the discrimination and to avoid distress and hostilities, and possible salvage a degree of their self-esteem. Forbearance is the preferred coping mechanism of Southeast Asian refugees in this study because it reflects the cultural norms and values of this population and the collective nature of their community which gives high value to the preservation relationships. This research has also given legitimacy to the idea that cultural differences in values and norms lead individuals to prefer a certain type of coping mechanism.
The evidence of this research study supports the authors original hypothesis that "perceived discrimination constitutes a significant stressor which can jeopardize the physical and mental health of ethno-racial minority group members." (p. 195) The authors also researched the relationship between ethnic identity and the level of depression associated with perceived racial discrimination. Their original hypothesis was that the strength of ethnic identity would directly affect the amount of depression associated with discrimination. But, they found no direct relationship exists between levels of ethnic identity and the level of depression. The explanation to this lack of correlation was explained by the authors as stemming from the stress-moderating effect of forbearance on refugees who held a stronger attachment to traditional cultural and ethnic values. Overall, this paper provides the empirical evidence for the relationship between perceived discrimination and the occurrence of symptoms of depression.

 

Bosnian Refugees and Socio-economic Realities: Changes in Refugee and Resettlement Policies in Austria and the United States
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, January 2003, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 5-26 (21)
Franz B.
  Abstracted by: Carol Vernon
Abstract:
When refugee and asylum applications accelerated in post-1989 Western Europe, states responded by lowering admission ceilings. A shift occurred from prior emphasis on resettlement and political asylum to temporary protection and repatriation as the most desirable “durable solutions.” This article addresses some of the legal and political changes and their effects on the refugee population by comparing two vastly different resettlement schemes: that of the US and Austria. This study was based on in-depth interviews in 1999 with 26 Bosnian refugees resettled in Vienna and 20 in New York City, plus interviews with key personnel in both governmental and non-governmental organizations. In spring and summer of 1992, more than 30,000 Bosnians entered Austria. Due to its geographic location, it was the first Western European state inundated with a large influx of Bosnian refugees. Fearing that foreigners would swamp their country, the Austrian government set the precedent in Europe by giving temporary protected status (TPS) to refugees from the Balkans area, instead of classifying them as refugees under Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Federal Asylum Office made the criteria for applying for asylum so difficult that most Bosnians were prohibited from applying. Of those that did apply, over two-thirds were rejected. Since Austria denied Bosnian refugees the Convention asylum status, they held an uncertain residence status for a number of years and most could not seek legal employment or travel freely throughout the country. A majority found work, however, through the black market. Those Bosnians who came to the US prior to August 10, 1992 were also given TPS status, which allowed them to seek employment and travel freely throughout the country. TPS status ended on February 10, 2001. Most Bosnians who came to the US, however, came under the refugee resettlement program and, as such, were treated as Convention refugees. With a US policy that provided a wide array of services through public-private partnerships, it could be surmised that the Bosnian refugees would fare much better in terms of economic success and upward mobility. Conversely, the two groups showed similar patterns of upward mobility. Both groups took similar types of jobs initially; Bosnian women in Austria, however, disproportionately shouldered the initial socio-economic adjustment due to the particular demands of the black labor market. Through their individual determination, many were eventually able to convert these jobs to permanent guestworker positions. As guestworkers, they gained social service benefits for themselves and their families. In the US, settlement agencies encouraged early employment for the heads of household in mostly entry-level jobs. An analysis showed that the two groups adapted socio-economically quite similarly, leading to the conclusion that this was due more to individual initiative and persistence than to state policy.

The United States Refugee Program: Reforms for a New Era of Refugee Resettlement
A Commissioned Study by the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, 5 July 2004
Martin D.A.
  Abstracted by Carol Vernon
Abstract:
The US Refugee Program has been at a crossroads since FY 2002. At that time, the steady and predictable programs of resettlement for the Indochinese, the Soviets, and those fleeing former Yugoslavia had largely come to an end. The September 11 terrorist attacks led to enhanced security measures and a decrease in refugee flows. As the US enters a new era of refugee admissions, it is predicted that these admissions will involve smaller-scale programs in difficult locations that will shift from year-to-year. This commissioned report draws on the experiences of US government agencies, NGOs, IGOs, and refugees, whose suggestions and observations will help shape the future of the US Refugee Program through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). This new era will require quicker, more flexible decision-making on resettling specific groups. One recommendation is the formation of a Refugee Admissions Committee that meets biweekly to develop common standards and procedures for group designations. This committee would consider potential groups, select candidate groups to further investigate, and eventually designate groups for whom resettlement processing would be initiated. The report also details suggested improvements in refugee adjudications by including better training for officers on country conditions, the commitment of a developing expert Refugee Officer Corps to be deployed as circuit riders, enhanced interview-site security, and technological innovations such as video hookups to permit interviewing in remote locations. Fraud has become a larger problem in recent years with modern technologies and communications, as well as the growth of organized fraud scheme enterprises. Enhanced UNHCR registration can minimize fraud with the use of biometric identifiers, mobile fingerprint labs, and DNA testing. Other recommendations for the US Refugee Program include viewing the presidential proposed annual refugee admissions as a goal, not a ceiling, repealing the ceiling on annual asylee adjustments, and admitting overseas refugees as lawful permanent residents, rather than having them wait a year to adjust their status. Proponents of a wider view of refugee resettlement argue the US program should consider resettlement as a durable solution to a wider set of dangers, not just imminent harm. This view includes the “rescuing” of those languishing in protracted refugee camp situations. As the US seeks to clarify its aims and thrust in this new refugee era, clear channels of feedback from participating NGOs, oversees processing entities, the UNHCR, and governmental agencies, will enhance responsive changes to a newly-developing vision of refugee resettlement.

The Measure of Society: The Treatment of Unaccompanied Refugee and Immigrant Children in the United States
Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Volume 45, Number 1, pp. 247-260, winter 2010
Young, Wendy and Megan McKenna
  Abstracted by: Kim Bell [2010]
Abstract:
  Migration is a topic that has become increasingly important in a globalized world, especially in the United States. While many recognize the need to improve the United States" immigration policy, more attention is given to adults than to the number of unaccompanied children that also need to be addressed through reforms. The article points out that this is a serious issue because thousands of unaccompanied children are placed into federal care every year. Unaccompanied children are arguably the most vulnerable group of immigrants at all stages of migration because they are minors, under eighteen, and are put through an immigration system primarily structured for adults. This means that they are rarely given counsel in court, and are detained for long periods of time and susceptible to abuse at holding facilities due to inadequate services tailored to children.   The article is broken into six sections: I. Often Overlooked: Unaccompanied Children in the United States, II. A Work in Progress: Care, Custody, and Placement of Children, III. Juvenile Incongruence: Improperly Tailored Forms of Immigration Relief Available to Unaccompanied Children, IV. The Biggest Gap: Lack of Legal Representation, V. Procedural Recommendations for U.S. Immigration Law, and VI. Going Forward. Its purpose is to shed light on an overlooked topic, highlight areas that need work, and provide advice for positive changes. Most importantly, this article positions itself within the context of the current immigration reform debate in the United States. By doing so, the article has the ability to be used by the current administration, under President Obama, to make needed and positive change in an area of immigration that has been overlooked, with increasing numbers over recent years.

Positioning Women's Rights within Asylum Policy
Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies; 2009, Vol. 30 Issue 2, p115-142.
Zeigler, Sarah L. and Kendra B. Stewart
  Abstracted by: Katie Corradini [2010]
Abstract:
Female refugees face enormous hardships not encountered by most other refugees. Simply because of their gender, women asylees are further victimized once in the United States, often at the hands of the United States government. This paper explores why female asylees are inherently disadvantaged once they enter the United States. Refugees can seek asylum if they fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Gender is not a qualification for seeking asylum yet women are systematically placed in a position to flee their country, often times with children, to escape violence or death. Some of these women, however, enter the United States without proper documentation, or any documentation at all, and cannot claim asylum based on their gender so they are placed in detention centers or jails with criminals. Additionally, they are interrogated by males and do not feel safe to recount rape and other sexual abuse or female genital mutilation (FGM). Some of the male authorities do not have the proper training to work with women who have been traumatized. Also, these women often live in male-dominated societies where talking about anything sexual will bring shame to themselves and their families and they are embarrassed to talk to authorities about their abuse. Immigration judges likely deny female asylees because their claims do not fall under one of the five categories for asylum. When that happens, they are deported back to their home country and face even more violence and risk rape and death. While the judges may sympathize with the women, they cannot legally grant them asylum. In a landmark case, however, a woman argued that FGM was grounds for political asylum which is now recognized by United States law. Women who have not been subjected to FGM have a better chance of being granted asylum than women who have suffered. Women who have already been subjected to FGM are often sent back to their home countries, the controversial reasoning being that they cannot be subjected to further torture because the FGM already occurred. The attacks of 9/11 forced Congress to tighten immigration laws and expand the definition of a terrorist to include anyone who supports a terrorist group, even if they are forced to against their will. The enactment of the Patriot Act and REAL ID further exacerbate the issues already faced by women.
  Gender-based differences written into immigration law need to change immediately. Women are one of the most vulnerable populations yet the most underrepresented in asylum cases. The United States government must continue to work to recognize gender-based violence as a credible qualification for asylum status and protect women from rape, abuse, torture and death.

Balseros
Film: 2003
Directors: Bosch, C., and J.M. Domenech
Producer: Omedes, L.
Distributor: Bausan Films and TVC
Runtime: 120 minutes
  Abstracted by: Clara Farr-Rice [2010]
Abstract:
During the early 1990s, many Cubans fled their home country in pursuit of the American dream. The politically and economically restrictive environment of Cuba forced people to take desperate measures to escape. People built boats and rafts out of a variety of materials, including dismantled household structures and inner tubes; the lack of buoyancy of many rafts combined with the volatility of the ocean resulted in cases of rafts overturning and people drowning. The U.S. Coast Guard was employed to intercept individuals before arrival, utilizing the Guant"namo Bay detention center as a place to hold refugees or "entrants" as some were labeled. Individuals in this film stayed for a minimum of nine months before meeting with immigration officials and receiving notification of whether their claims for refugee status had been accepted. Unfortunately, approval for refugee claims was not the end of the journey; it was the beginning of adaptation to and integration with a new society.
  Balseros documents five families and their quest for a better life; a life that they perceived was not available to them in Cuba. Personal testaments and harrowing visual evidence tell the tales of loss, perseverance, hope, and disappointment. Attention is given to the portrayal of life during all three refugee stages: pre-flight, flight, and post-flight. However, emphasis is placed on the post-flight experience. Although life in Cuba was restraining and economics were unquestionably insufficient, life in the United States was also taxing in new and different ways. The film portrays long-standing challenges faced by Cuban refugees; their low socio-economic statuses affected their livelihoods in both countries.
  Most of the family members documented in the film expressed a level of disappointment that life in the U.S. was not how they imagined it would be. Not only was there an array of challenges in meeting basic needs, overcoming language barriers, and adjusting to cultural differences, but individuals were also forced to accomplish and/or endure these difficulties without their familiar social support systems. Embedded within the refugee experience is a deep sense of loss, and as noted here, often refugees are not given the time or space to deal with these intense emotions of grief. The main characters" unfiltered expressions expose the intensity of migration and for some without the longed-for "happy endings" receiving countries seemingly present to them. In the case of the five Cuban refugee families, violations of the human rights that guarantee freedom from fear and protection of basic essentials (food, shelter, etc) extended into flight and resettlement stages. The longevity of the refugee experience surpassed the dangers of the home country and deeply impacted the challenges these Cubans faced in the United States.

The Fence (La Barda)
Film: 2010
Director: Rory Kennedy
Producer: Rory Kennedy
Distributor: HBO Documentary Films
Runtime: 36 minutes
  Abstracted by: Christy Jeziorski [2010]
Abstract:
It is estimated that about half of a million undocumented immigrants cross the U.S. border every year. In response to the tragedy of 9/11, the Bush administration, in response to political pressure to reduce the ease of border crossings, implemented a plan to construct a fence to divide the U.S. from its southern neighbor. The effort, called the Secure Fence Act of 2006, was passed by over 70% of the congressmen voting. Construction of the initial fence cost over $3 billion and continues to incur added costs for repairs and maintenance. This film, directed by Rory Kennedy, probes the story and controversy behind the southern U.S. border. Specifically, the documentary explores the southwest border fence, from its conception to construction, and uses a satirical perspective on what Kennedy describes as the "absurd ideological contradictions and misinformation that have dogged the fence from its inception." Kennedy travels the wilderness, protected ranches, border towns, and deserts, and interviews individuals on both sides of the border who are directly involved in the controversy- from border protection guards, politicians, environmentalists, and human rights activists to coyotes and those that have crossed or plan to take the risk of crossing the border fence. Kennedy makes several arguments pointing to the absurdity of the fence, e.g. there are numerous gaps, where those that are restricted by the barrier in one area, can walk down a mile and find a long gap in the fence and cross there. Kennedy also points out that of the 29 individuals that have committed terrorist acts on U.S. soil during the last quarter century, 24 arrived by plane, the other 5 were born in the U.S., and the number of terrorist acts attempted by those who have crossed the U.S./Mexico border are zero . The film provides an arousing analysis of the actual costs of the fence, most important being the human costs.

Protecting Victims of Gendered Persecution: Fear of Floodgates or Call to (Principled) Action?
Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law, 2006-2007, Volume 14, No. 2, p. 119-143.
Musalo, Karen
  Abstracted by: Debbie Martinez [2010]
Abstract:
Basing her research around the case of Rodi Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman who survived an abusive marriage, the author addresses the controversy involved with granting asylum to women with gender-based claims. Rodi Alvarado sought asylum in the United States and made her claim to the courts in 1995. Ten years later, the Alvarado case had still not been settled and several others involving domestic violence, sexual trafficking, and female genital cutting have since emerged. Musalo argues that we should not fear a potential increase in gender asylum claims, but should focus on addressing the root causes of these violent acts committed towards women. A primary reason gender-based claims have become controversial is because of the gender-neutral nature of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. A leading concern is the cultural factor involved with many of these acts. For example, female genital cutting is a cultural norm in many societies; therefore, some argue that a revision of the 1951 Convention and its Protocol would challenge these communities and their long-standing traditions. Those who oppose the recognition of gender-based claims take their argument even further by stating that granting women like Rodi Alvarado asylum would open the floodgates to similar cases. The author disputes these arguments and supports the UNHCR's stance on granting asylum to these women for the sole reason that their human rights have been violated. Musalo disagrees with the theory that a drastic increase in the number of gender-based cases is inevitable. As seen in Canada, the recognition of gender asylum did not lead to the floodgates of gender-related cases, primarily because these women have little means or safe opportunities to emigrate, or may have children they cannot leave behind. The author explains that instead of focusing solely on creating a legal standard for all gender-based claims, the U.S. should concentrate on addressing the root causes of the reasons these women are fleeing their home countries. In Guatemala, 3,000 female homicides were reported between 2001 and 2007. Less than 10% of these cases were investigated. Musalo argues that as a major economic provider to Guatemala, the United States has the authority and should feel obligated to demand transparency and accountability from the Guatemalan government. The author concludes her critique by holding the United States government responsible for the femicides in Guatemala and the failure to adequately address the underlying causes of the gender-based asylum cases within the U.S. This article is a great resource for those interested in learning more about the large number of women who have fled violent abuse in their home countries and whose gender rights continue to be dismissed by being denied asylum after arriving in the United States.

Experiencing Refugee Resettlement in America: Exploring the Impact of Generalized Policies and Services
University of Botswana, Office of International Education and Partnerships
Sowa, Graham R.
  Abstracted by: Shailer Vatsa [2010]
Abstract:
The essentialization of both the definition and expectations of a refugee have created limits to the advancement of refugees in the United States. In the article the author, then a volunteer refugee mentor, describes his interactions with his assigned refugee family over the course of one afternoon. While doing so, he analyzes how the bureaucratic refugee system in the US generalizes the needs of and expectations for all incoming refugees, which is driven in large part by fear of "dependency syndrome." The labeling of refugees as "clients" is a misnomer implying that the refugee has a large degree of agency and control over the process, especially in determining the obligations of the refugee agency. Instead, it is the system that predetermines the needs of the essentialized refugee, often neglecting to take into account individual needs. The author exemplifies this by noting that many of the refugee women with whom he worked did not speak the major language of their region (Swahili), and thus could not take ESL classes, which are taught solely in major languages. Lastly, the author touches on the fact that American conceptions of displacement are tied to notions of foreignness and political conflict, neglecting the existence of IDPs within the United States, including the thousands of people displaced by natural disasters such as hurricane Katrina.

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