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Situationer on the State Neglect Against Refugees, Asylum Seekers across the US

Background and Context

Hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived at the US southern border over the last year, seeking asylum by declaring themselves to the Department of Homeland Security. Many were then bussed, hundreds at a time, by ICE or by heartless state leaders like Republican Governor Abbot of Texas, to “Democrat” or “blue states,” including Washington DC, New York, Illinois, Denver, and Washington. This cynical move by Abbot to score political points against Biden, leading up to this election year, tries to use migrant asylum seekers to highlight the ineffectiveness of Democrat immigration policies. But neither Democrats nor Republicans are solving the current crisis, and instead, both parties continue to alienate and criminalize migrants, further increase funding and militarization of the border, and threaten the accessibility of asylum altogether.

The migrants have been sent to “sanctuary cities,” which claim to welcome everyone regardless of status, but both the migrants and local cities and communities are given little guidance or support for asylum seekers, so everyone is left to fend for themselves with whatever limited resources they have. While local governments are obligated to do what they can, ultimately the US federal government is responsible for the daily neglect of thousands of asylum seekers without a comprehensive national plan to deal with today’s crisis of massive forced migration and the unlivable conditions thousands of refugees face once they arrive in the U.S. 

Many migrants are fleeing from their homelands where they experienced loss of livelihood, war, genocide, torture, extortion, physical and/or sexual abuse.​​​​​​​ The ravages of imperialism and its local economic, political, and social violence have made their homelands unlivable, and they have no choice but to flee like the over 270 million forced migrants and 60 million+ refugees in the world today. Just this past month, IMA-USA members joined an online forum on the situation of thousands of displaced Rohingyan refugees landing by sea in Aceh, Indonesia, with 1 out of 8 refugees perishing en route. The remaining survivors of the deadly journey face similar conditions as the asylum seekers in the U.S., wanting to stabilize themselves to work and not be a burden through whatever legal mechanisms are available. But xenophobic misinformation attacking these refugees has resulted in violent local student efforts to round them up and deport them, pitting the migrants against local workers for limited job opportunities.

Situation of Asylum Seekers & Refugees across the U.S.

The basic right to seek asylum in the U.S. is being threatened in congress right now, just as the crisis of forced migration reaches new heights. Meanwhile current refugees and asylum seekers are often left stranded without the ability to legally work for 18 months upon arrival.

In New York City more than 150,000 asylum seekers neglected by the federal government are now being attacked by Democrat Mayor Eric Adams for overcrowding already stretched emergency housing resources and threatening “the city as we know it.” Approximately 1,000 arrive to the city daily without access to work and security. A 60-day shelter limit was recently set which would further displace some on the street without protection in the harsh winter. Without adequate resources or any opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, there are now reports of suicide amongst some desperate and hopeless refugees in New York.

In Chicago over 30,000 migrants have been bussed from Texas and abandoned at police stations, airports and bus shelters, then inadequately sheltered in churches and library basements. Now, thousands have been crowded into uninhabitable warehouses, where complaints of cockroaches, rats, inadequate and rotten food are rampant. In December, a 5-year old died due to inhumane health conditions. At one police precinct where migrants sleep on lobby floors, multiple Chicago police officers are now being investigated for sexual misconduct including with one underage female migrant.

This widespread government neglect and the abuse of migrants form a cruel combination for people who have already suffered from intense trauma in their own homelands and during their long migration.

State Neglect: Lack of Services and Resources

The refugee crisis exists because the federal government not only fails to address the root causes of forced migration, but also continues to disregard the needs of migrants upon arrival. There are woefully inadequate federal, state, county, and city resources allocated to the influx of migrant, asylum, and refugee resettlement because all presidents and the U.S. Congress have failed to pass comprehensive federal immigration policy solutions outside of further militarizing the border and stripping away migrant rights.

Neoliberal policies at national and local government levels have further prevented immediate and long-term relief to migrant families. This includes band-aid-like public-private partnerships that enable government entities to subcontract with third parties to pass off the immense responsibility to meet the needs of migrants and their families, while at the same time allowing some service-providing private corporations to charge exorbitant fees at the expense of public funds. We see this most clearly with the migrants’ housing crisis, as some private companies get millions to briefly house asylum seekers, but long-term housing solutions across the country are dramatically underfunded, leading to thousands of migrants becoming homeless daily after temporary or emergency housing expires. The few government contracts to house migrants are short-term, substandard, unhygienic, and inhumane. When these temporary housing options in hotels, church parking lots, and other vacant lots become overwhelmed, police forces are utilized to intimidate, evict and disperse migrants to prevent more waves of local and national xenophobic attacks against migrants.  

State legislation and institutions are ill-equipped to address the dire and immediate needs for comprehensive social services. Nonprofits, churches, grassroots organizations, and advocates are bearing the brunt of responsibility to fill this gap and fight against state negligence, engaging in fundraising, coordination, mutual aid, and other service and advocacy efforts. But with limited resources, they along with the migrants themselves have turned more and more to organizing to demand the  resources and services they need while maintaining their right to seek asylum and eventual work authorization as their highest priority.

Grassroots Organizing and Migrant Demands

Support the powerful migrant led organizing across the country and their current demands at the state and federal level! 

Migrant demands:

  1. Emergency shelter upon arrival 

  2. Medium to long-term housing support to allow people to get on their feet 

  3. Faster processes for being able to access work authorization and not dependent on court cases 

  4. Health Care - including Orthodontic and Dental care

  5. Public, pro-Bono or affordable immigration lawyers

Calls to Action 

IMA-USA condemns the violent state neglect of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers by the US federal government, especially at a time when new billionaires emerged from the Covid pandemic, Biden boasts of his booming economy and record job-creation, and while imperialist wars, sanctions and the climate crisis make our homelands uninhabitable.

We particularly condemn right-wing and reactionary state leaders, and federal agencies like ICE and DHS, for inhumanely shipping migrants from the border to cities and states with inaccurate or little-to-no information about where they’re going or the real conditions at the camps where they will arrive. ICE paying for migrants to go to far-flung cities ill-equipped to adequately take care of them is both wasteful neglect and another clear act of state violence against our most vulnerable communities. 

IMA-USA uplifts the grassroots demands of the Tukwila WA refugee organizations and all asylum seekers for liveable housing, healthcare, work authorization and opportunities, legal and all other resources needed to support their and their families’ livelihood. We demand a comprehensive and fully resourced program of support for the critical needs of all asylum seekers and the immediate processing of their status and their ability to work. 

Lastly, we call on all IMA-USA members and supporters to raise awareness and help build the grassroots organizing and leadership of asylum seekers, refugees, and all forced migrants to speak on their own behalf, design their own solutions, and build the power they need to obtain dignity and justice for all.

Follow organizations on the ground building community power against state neglect and support their grassroots fundraising:





Portland Sanctuary Fund: 

IMA-USA continues to organize campaigns for migrant workers and border solidarity against state neglect and political repression of migrants. We carry the global IMA call to End Forced Migration so that migrants never have to endure these harsh conditions. We also call for an end to all U.S. wars and sanctions, intervention and destabilization in our homelands, forcing us to migrate and leave our families and loved ones behind.

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