Thousands of unaccompanied minors remain detained a week out from the deadline for the Trump administration to reunite children with their parents.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement says 453 children have been resettled in Alabama this year through April. It isn’t known how many since then. Children released from detention are placed into foster care shelters or with relatives who are approved as sponsors.
The problem is, many relatives are afraid to come forward to take in these children. That’s because they’re required to disclose their immigration status to private resettlement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.
Isabel Rubio, director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, says relatives are still worried. “People are concerned that if their information is sent to the Department of Homeland Security that they are at higher risk for deportation because now immigration knows exactly who they are and where they live.”
Read more coverage on immigration:
Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Find Foster Homes in Alabama
Some Immigrant Children Being Reunited With Families
Separating Immigrant Families Violates Country’s ‘Belief of Faith and Family,” Jones Says
Amid Immigration Controversy, More Hispanic Students Arrive in Alabama Classrooms
Federal officials have placed 2,729 unaccompanied immigrant children in Alabama since 2015, with most finding foster homes in Jefferson, Marshall, Morgan and Tuscaloosa counties.
Of those, 453 found foster homes in Alabama this year through April, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Information on how many children have been settled in the state since April – including during the recent separation of families as part of a zero-tolerance policy – is not yet available.
In fact, little information is publicly known about the children after they are placed. Read more.
Sixteen unaccompanied Latino children separated from their families as part of the border patrol’s zero tolerance policy were scheduled to be reunited with their parents Sunday.
The children will join 522 other children who have been reunited with their families, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The 16 were scheduled to be reunited Friday, but weather affected travel, and officials said Saturday night that the children were to be reunited with their families “within the next 24 hours.”
There remain “a small number of children who were separated for reasons other than zero tolerance that will remain separated,” according to the press release from Homeland Security. Read more.
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said in a press conference Thursday that he strongly opposed the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy on people illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico that resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents and held in detention centers.
“I believe that separating families is completely contrary to our country’s deeply held belief of faith and family,” Jones said.
Jones’ comments come during a week of controversy over the immigration policy. About 2,300 children have been separated from their parents at the Mexican border since May. About 500 of those children have been reunited with their parents, the Associated Press reported Friday. Read more.
Lipscomb Elementary School, tucked away on a quiet neighborhood street, does not draw a lot of attention to itself. Its enrollment numbers, however, show a dramatic story of Alabama’s growing Hispanic population.
The school in the Jefferson County school system is a plain red-brick complex near Bessemer, Birmingham and Brighton and Midfield. It serves grades K-5, and is a Title I school. That means most of its students are from low-income families and need additional resources, primarily in math and English, so they can learn on the same level as their better-off counterparts elsewhere in the system.
Fifteen years ago, Lipscomb had 188 students, most of them black, with a handful of whites. Today it has 254 students, and the enrollment is almost evenly split among Hispanics and blacks. Most of the Hispanic students are U.S.-born, mostly of Mexican heritage, and about 80 of them are taking English as a Second Language classes.
Reflecting the growing Hispanic presence in its classrooms and hallways, Lipscomb held Hispanic heritage month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 last year. During that month, the children danced and sampled food prepared by parents of some of their fellow students; each classroom did research on a Spanish-speaking country south of the border.
Lipscomb recently observed Black History Month, and principal Reta Hayes says its chief lesson was “that even though we may be all of different cultures, and (though) we may be of different colors overall, we are still one big happy family.”
Different cultures and colors have been a growing fact of life in Alabama public schools in recent decades. Enrollment figures from the state Department of Education for the current academic year show nearly 727,000 students in K-12, a decline of 11 percent over last year due to a drop in both white and black enrollment. Statewide Hispanic/Latino numbers, however, showed an increase, rising 6 percent over last year to total 57,817, or about 8 percent of the total K-12 enrollment. In 2000-01, the K-12 Hispanic total was 9,541, or about 16 percent of the current figure.
It has been a warm day in early August 2012, in Aleppo, the historic, cosmopolitan Syrian city where you work and live. This day is part of the Muslim month of Ramadan, in which the faithful fast from sunup to sunset. Now the sun is setting, and your oldest son, Fouad, and two of your daughters, Rama and Lydia, are out in the walled garden of your elegant, 14-room home getting ready for iftar, the meal that will break the day’s fast.
Then, overhead, without warning, without invitation, comes a whining, whooshing sound. Seconds later, the ground shudders as a projectile lands outside the wall and explodes. Sounds of gunfire follow. Your children run into the house. Lydia, who is 8, is crying and screaming for her mother, your wife, Latifa.
Before the month is out, you, Latifa, Lydia, your other son, Khaldoun, and your baby daughter, Caroline will have left your bloodied, battered country. By September, Fouad will have left and Rama will have joined relatives, among them your mother and father, who have fled to Turkey.
Your name is Ahmad Faris, you are now 52 years old, and you used to be a well-off, well-known and well-respected surgeon. Now you and your family are among the approximately 5 million Syrians who have left Syria since the civil war’s start in 2011, and you hope that one day, you will practice medicine again.
In the meantime, you, Latifa, Khaldoun, Rama, Lydia and Caroline are now making your home in a place where, on the August day that brought the terror of war over the rooftop of your home in Aleppo, young, high-school-age men are getting ready to don helmets and shoulder pads and practice a war-like game that you still do not fully understand.
This place is Hoover, Alabama. Read more.
Baher Sabah, a plastic surgeon from the Iraqi city of Babylon, was looking forward to his trip to America. “He loves America,” said Sabah’s uncle, Safaa Al-Hamdani, a biology professor at Jacksonville State University. “When he has come to the United States for any reason, it was just like he won the lottery.”
On tap for Sabah was the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery’s annual scientific meeting on Feb. 9-11 in San Diego. He had his airline ticket. He had his visa and, at the scientific meeting, he would have access to workshops, live patient demonstrations, displays of the latest technologies and, of course, lots of networking opportunities. All in all, said Sabah’s uncle, “a golden opportunity to advance himself.”
Now, as a result of President Donald Trump’s recent executive order temporarily halting travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Sabah has put his visa, his ticket and his golden advancement opportunity on the shelf. Read more.
March 2016 Special Report from BirminghamWatch, B-Metro
About 18 months ago, when St. Symeon Orthodox Church was building a new sanctuary at its Highland Park site, its rector got a reminder of how much Birmingham has changed since he first came here in the 1980s.
A team of Hispanic workers did the plaster work on the dome inside the new building. They also did the exterior stonework. “They just were tremendously diligent and acquitted themselves so impressively that you couldn’t help but take notice,” says the Rev. Alexander Fecanin, himself the grandson of Russian immigrants. Fecanin also took notice when another team arrived to install the sanctuary’s shiny new hardwood floor. It consisted of a man originally from Romania, along with his son. In the grand scheme of diverse things, the construction project at St. Symeon was a small blip on the radar. But it was yet another marker on the upward climbing graph charting the Birmingham area’s ever greater diversity. “Alabama is no longer…or Birmingham is not a black or white conversation,” says local attorney Freddy Rubio, who came here as an English-challenged Puerto Rican in 1991. “It is white, black, and other, [and] there’s nothing that we can do to stop that.” Read more. . .