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Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 @ 7:08 AM
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017 @ 8:58 AM
The debate about Syrian refugees being allowed to come to America has grown heated in the past few days. For those who do not want the refugees here, questions about the vetting process are front and center.
The process is a long one and can take up to two years.
Here’s a primer on just how refugees come into this country.
Refugees who want to come to the United States must first apply for refugee status with the UNHCR – the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The application is reviewed, and UNHCR decides who is to be declared a “refugee” – or, by its definition, one who is “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."
Assuming an applicant falls into one of those categories, he or she is referred for resettlement in another country. Once in that country, he or she is granted legal resident status which will lead to the opportunity to apply for citizenship.
Let’s say the refugee is referred to the United States. When that happens, the refugee’s application is processed by a Resettlement Support Center. There, the refugee is interviewed then goes on to an intensive screening process that includes another interview, a medical evaluation and an interagency security screening process. That process is meant to ensure the refugee does not pose a threat to the United States. The agencies involved in that part of the vetting process include, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The agencies check backgrounds, fingerprints and look for names on any terror list. Syrian refugees go through another layer of screening called the Syria Enhanced Review process.
Refugees whose applications for U.S. resettlement receive approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service are matched with an American resettlement organization. Most are nonprofit organizations that rely on professional and volunteer staff to assist refugees in the resettlement process. There has been a lot attention paid to this part of the process since it was revealed that one of the terrorists in the Paris attacks entered Europe through such a processing center.
Detailed information on all refugees approved for resettlement in the United States is sent to the Refugee Data Center (RDC) in New York where the refugee is matched with one 11 voluntary agencies that provide reception and placement services for refugees coming to the United States.
Refugees are told they must complete addition steps even after they are matched with an agency to help them settle in the United States. These activities are undertaken concurrently and can take from 2 months to 2 years to complete, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
According to the USCRI, the activities are:
How many Syrian refugees are here already and who are they?
Just under 2,200 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States since 2011. According to a CNN story, most are children. "Single men of combat age" represent only 2 percent of those admitted, and the elderly comprise another 2.5 percent. Those already admitted to the country are living in 36 states.
What happens when they get here?
Refugees are given money when they arrive to help them get set up in this country. Below is what the Associated Press reported about the funds they get.
Upon arrival in the United States, each refugee is eligible for a $1,975 arrival and placement grant that is managed by one of nine refugee resettlement agencies working with the federal government. At least $1,125 of that grant must be spent on housing, including a bed for each person, basic furniture such as a couch, kitchen items including dishes and silverware, and weather-appropriate clothing. The remainder is used to cover additional costs for the aid agency.
Low-income refugee families with children may be eligible for temporary assistance for needy families, a welfare program in which state rules govern eligibility and the amount of money families receive, for up to five years. Immigrants without children or otherwise not eligible for the temporary assistance program qualify for the refugee cash assistance program run by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. Eligibility for that program lasts eight months.
Elderly, blind or disabled refugees may be eligible for cash assistance through the Supplemental Security Income program for up to nine years.
Low-income refugees may be eligible for Medicaid for up to seven years. While immigrants to the U.S. are not generally eligible for Medicaid, refugees invited to move to the U.S. are exempt. Each state determines which refugees meet the eligibility requirements. Those who don't qualify for Medicaid can receive refugee medical assistance for up to eight months.
Refugees must register with the Social Security Administration after arrival and are almost immediately eligible for a work permit. Social services, including job placement programs, are available to refugees for up to five years.
Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 5:50 PM
— During World War II, Ralph G. Rumsey of Woodstock was a prisoner of war in Germany for six months. After struggling with his wartime experiences for 73 years, he’s been awarded a Prisoner of War Medal, gaining the recognition he thought might never come.
At 96, Rumsey said he’s finally feeling some sense of closure.
He’s not satisfied yet, however; now, he wants to put the focus on other veterans.
“I always wanted to be able to help veterans,” Rumsey said. He hopes to support other veterans in tackling the issues they face, particularly psychological issues.
Rumsey himself has struggled for decades with feeling a horrible itching sensation that he believes was caused by his time as a prisoner, when his bed and clothes were filled with bugs.
Despite his vivid memories of the war, his family said he never talks about it. Until two years ago, no one in his family knew that Rumsey had been a prisoner of war, according to his wife Ruby.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson helped Rumsey secure the medal, and Isakson presented it to him at a special ceremony for his friends and family.
One of Rumsey’s friends, Christine Maza, was crucial in helping Rumsey get the medal. She met him when she was a hospice volunteer several years ago, and one day while taking him to the VA, she noticed a poster advertising the medal.
“He was so excited,” she recalled. Maza helped him submit the paperwork, but when it stalled at the VA, she called Isakson’s office, remembering how he had helped her father, also a veteran. Isakson made it happen, she said.
“I’m just happy that Ralph is finally getting what is long overdue,” Maza continued. “He’s just been sinking. This really revived him.”
Rumsey’s stepdaughter, Jean Thomas, also believes that the medal will help Rumsey psychologically. “I’m so happy for him and pleased,” she commented.
At the ceremony, Rumsey was in high spirits, eager to share stories of his experiences in the war, both good and bad. Though he remembers the bug infestation in the prison clearly, he also recalled the way Paris lit up at night in; the days he spent there after he was released.
When Isakson walked into the room, Rumsey joked that Isakson was a “youngster” compared to him.
With a laugh, Isakson agreed. “I’ve only been here 73 years, you’re 96!”
As Rumsey received the medal, many of his friends and family shed tears.
Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 5:47 PM
— Craig Haney, hired to assess conditions in the solitary confinement unit at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, has visited some of the nation’s most dangerous prisons, but nothing could prepare him for what he witnessed on the E Wing.
The atmosphere was “as chaotic and out-of-control as any such unit I have seen in decades of conducting such evaluations,” he wrote. “When I entered this housing unit I was met with a cacophony of prisoner screams and cries for help. The noise was deafening and there was the smell of smoke in the air, as if someone had set a fire sometime earlier in the day.”
Such “draconian”conditions at the Jackson prison’s special management unit, which houses up to 192 prisoners, have created some of the most “psychologically traumatized” inmates he’s ever assessed, Haney wrote in a blistering report, released this week in its entirety.
“They are at grave risk of harm,” he said. “That psychological harm may be irreversible and even fatal.”
A spokeswoman with the Department of Corrections declined comment, citing pending litigation.
Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, specializes in the psychological effects of imprisonment and consequences of solitary confinement. He was hired by the Southern Center for Human Rights, a leading advocate for criminal justice reform, after a prisoner filed a federal lawsuit claiming inhumane treatment within the GDC isolation unit. Similar suits from three other prisoners followed.
At every turn, the solitary unit — created to house the prison’s most dangerous and destructive inmates— exceeds the deprivation seen in similar solitary or “Supermax” facilities, Haney said. They are not only deprived of physical contact, but verbal communication is virtually impossible, the report found. Even visual contact is fleeting, as prisoners are confined by solid metal doors instead of bars. Even the small “windows,” on the cell doors and in the rear of the cell, are covered by thick metal sheets.
Prisoners can’t see out; natural air and sunlight can’t seep in.
“The prisoners are in essence hermetically sealed inside their cells for the extended periods in which they are confined there,” Haney reported.
Conditions throughout the unit were “unusually severe,” said Haney. Prisoners are locked in their 7 x 13.5-feet cells for all but five hours a week, when they are allowed outside exercise time.
Those five hours are divided into two sessions and spent within a caged outdoor cell, paved with concrete and surrounded by institutional facilities — more industrial than natural, Haney notes.
“Dangerously” high level of mentally ill prisoners in isolation
Housing just one mentally ill prisoner within the solitary unit would be problematic, Haney said.
At GDC, 70 of the 180 prisoners currently in isolation qualify as mentally ill.
“I do not believe there is any possible justification for housing such a high number of mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement, especially not in a unit as harsh and severe as the Georgia SMU.”
And that’s not including prisoners in the unit who Haney, after reviewing the medical records of all 180 inmates, said exhibited serious mental problems. Two such prisoners committed suicide in 2017, he concludes. (Specific information about the prisoners is redacted.)
One, incarcerated since 2002, had an unstable childhood and was in need of mental help, his father wrote on a social history questionnaire. A mental health referral form from 2009 stated the prisoner had reported hearing voices for more than a year and had a history of treatment for anxiety, depression and multiple personalities. In 2015, he was moved to the special management unit.
He eventually hung himself with a sheet tied to a lighting fixture. His body was “stiff and cold … suggesting that officers had not checked on him in some time,” Haney wrote.
Prisoners with such pre-existing conditions “are likely to suffer greatly and deteriorate badly in solitary confinement,” the report states. “When their suffering and deterioration is ignored and they are retained in these dangerously harsh and deprived conditions, the consequences can be fatal.”
The solitary trap
The isolation unit is supposed to operate within an incentive system; getting out is dependent on the prisoners’ behavior.
But Haney’s report found that malfunctions in the Tier III program used at GDC are often just as responsible for keeping prisoners in solitary for exceedingly long periods. The requirements for advancement out of the unit are often unrealistic and dispensed arbitrarily, Haney said.
A lack of bed space is another persistent problem, according to the report. The unit’s chief of security, Dwain Williams, corroborated this in a deposition, testifying that prisoners are often held in more restrictive quarters because the facility can’t find room elsewhere.
“Thus, prisoners often languish at the lowest and most deprived level in the system (and the levels at which they are at most risk of harm) not because of their behavior but because the prison cannot house them where they are supposed to be,” Haney wrote.
Prisoners told Haney they often did not know what they needed to do to advance out of solitary confinement.
“I’ve been here almost two years,” said one prisoner, whose name was redacted. “I don’t know how to get out. It’s supposed to be a six-month program but nobody has a release date. You only have a start date.”
Typically prisoners spend a staggering three to four years in isolation at GDC; nearly 20 percent of the inmates had been retained for six years or more.
Haney said since 2010 it’s become increasingly difficult to win transfer out of solitary.
“Instead, once there, it looks as if prisoners are hard-pressed to secure their release,” he said.
Nowhere is it worse than the E Wing, the most restrictive portion of the special management unit. Most suffer from poor mental health.
Prisoners told Haney they are kept in their cells virtually around the clock, for weeks or months on end.
“We never get out of our cells,” one prisoner said. “We are caged in. They don’t even want to take us to shower.”
Haney described a palpable sense of hopelessness pervading through the E wing.
“We are just desperate, so we yell and scream for help,” another prisoner told him. “They ignore us or they beat us up.”
The report detailed four cases in which prisoners were battling serious mental health issues.
Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 11:04 AM
BRANSON, Mo. — A woman who lost nine family members when a duck boat capsized in Missouri’s Table Rock Lake on Thursday said the captain of the boat told passengers not to worry about life jackets before the accident.
Tia Coleman was one of the 11 members of the Coleman family to board the duck boat Thursday, according to WXIN-TV. She told the TV station that she and her nephew were the only survivors of their group.
“My heart is very heavy,” Coleman told WXIN-TV. “I lost all my children, my brother-in-law.”
She said that her family members didn’t bother to grab life jackets because they were told by the boat’s captain that they wouldn’t need them.
“When it was time to grab them, it was too late,” she told WXIN-TV. “I believe that a lot of people could have been spared.”
Authorities said 17 people were killed and 14 others injured in the incident, including Coleman’s family members. The family had traveled to Branson for their annual road trip, according to The New York Times. Carolyn Coleman told the newspaper that the victims came from three generations of the Coleman family and included four young children.
The president of the company that owns Ride The Ducks Branson, Ripley Entertainment, told “CBS This Morning” that the boats have life jackets onboard but he added that passengers aren’t required by law to wear them. Jim Pattison said that, given the weather conditions, the boat “shouldn’t have been in the water.”
At least 13 people are dead after a tour boat capsized and sank on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, during a powerful thunderstorm.— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) July 20, 2018
Jim Pattison Jr., president of Ripley Ent. says the boat "shouldn't have been in the water."
WATCH: https://t.co/VNF7ebL3N6 pic.twitter.com/SSHqXXA5qd
"Usually the lake is very placid and it's not a long tour, they go in and kind of around an island and back,” Pattison told “CBS This Morning” on Friday. “To the best of our knowledge – and we don't have a lot of information now – but it was a fast-moving storm that came out of basically nowhere.”
Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 11:28 PM
— Deputies shot an armed man Friday evening in The Villages near Lady Lake, Florida, the Sumter County Sheriff's Office said.
Deputies were called shortly before 6:30 p.m after a report of a domestic disturbance, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michelle Keszey said.
"The victim met deputies at a nearby church where she stated the suspect punched her dog in the face three times," Keszey said. "An argument ensued (in which) the suspect then pushed the victim. The victim fled the scene with her children and contacted law enforcement."
Investigators said they heard gunfire nearby while interviewing the victim.
"While deputies were confronting the suspect, the suspect refused to comply with deputies' commands," Keszey said. "The suspect then raised his firearm at deputies. Two deputies fired shots, striking the suspect."
The man was taken to Ocala Regional Medical Center under a trauma alert status.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting.
No other details were given.