Refugee Stories: Policy in Practice
In this chapter, we have described the policies and processes that drive refugee resettlement. In order to have a complete picture, it is important to see how these policies and processes impact the real families who experience them. The case study highlighted throughout this chapter and the case study below provide examples of the opportunities and barriers they face during their transition.
“Ester, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was forcibly separated from five of her children during civil conflict in the early 2000s. She spent years in a refugee camp and was eventually resettled to North Carolina without her children. Upon arrival in the United States, she petitioned the USCIS to bring her children here. USCIS required that Esther provide birth certificates to prove her relationship to her children, all minors, but these documents did not exist. Incurring months of extra delay, Esther contacted relatives in the Congo who procured retroactive documentation of the relationship. USCIS then approved the petition and transferred the file to the United States Embassy in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. In order to continue processing, the children had to travel to Kinshasa for visa interviews. But the children lived on the other side of the country, hundreds of miles away, and the journey to Kinshasa was extremely dangerous. Esther had no choice, however, and raised money from her church to fly them to the capital in a small plane…. On the day of their interview, they were turned away from the embassy because they lacked the requisite paperwork, which was in the United States with Esther. Rescheduling the interview took months. During this time, the youngest child, Florence, went missing. She is presumed kidnapped or dead, and did not accompany her siblings to the United States to be reunited with their mother. When the remaining four children received a new interview…. Their visas were approved – nearly two years after Esther filed the petition.”
-“Esther’s Story” describes a true story presented in Haile, 2015.
- Imagine you and your family were suddenly unsafe in the United States and feared for your life. What would you do? If you would leave the country, where would you go? How would you get there? How would you provide for your family in the meantime? How do you think you would be received there?
- Why should a country receive refugee families?
- What helps refugee families’ well-being during relocation?
- Where did Ester run into problems with the resettlement process?
- What examples of resilience to you see in Ester’s story? What is your reaction to the story’s ending?
- How might this have been avoided during the process of family reunification?
- Are there policy recommendations you can see?
Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees
- This website, created by the Minnesota Historical Society, is a database of oral histories of recent immigrants. They have stories from Asian Indian, Filipino, Hmong, Khmer, Latino, Somali and Tibetan refugees and immigrants.
- This is the website of the UN Refugee Agency. It has up-to-date news on refugee crises, needs, and resources.
USCIS United States Refugee Admissions Program Consultation & Worldwide Processing Priorities
- This website includes the current priorities for refugee admissions, and has links to resources to apply for travel documents, family reunification, and permanent resident status.