Markey, Kennedy participate at immigration roundtable

Focus on Trump administration’s cap on refugee admissions

SEN. ED MARKEY and US Rep. Joe Kennedy III made a joint appearance on Tuesday at an immigration roundtable event focused on the Trump administration’s decision to cap refugee admissions at a record-low level of 18,000 for the coming fiscal year.

Markey and Kennedy, two of the four candidates running for the US Senate, mentioned the immigrant backgrounds of their families and pledged to work for an increase in refugee admissions. Kennedy said he wanted to change the politics of immigration and Markey touted legislation he has filed that would increase immigration levels to 95,000 a year.

The new cap is 40 percent below the 30,000 allowed in the 2019 fiscal year. The US has accepted a yearly average of 95,000 refugees since the resettlement program began in 1980.

The roundtable was hosted by Oxfam America and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. Last year, 421 refugees were resettled in Massachusetts, down from 2,400 in 2014.

One of those 421 is 20-year-old Tresor-Alin Nahimana, who said his parents and brother were murdered by a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo two years ago. Nahimana, his wife, and daughter fled the area after his village was burned to the ground. They traveled through Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, Israel, Iran, and Iraq by foot, before ending up in Turkey.

He resettled in Lynn in February, leaving behind his wife, a daughter, and a son who was born after he left.  Nahimana said he works full-time at a Starbucks, pays rent, takes English classes, and sends $500 a month home to Turkey to keep his family afloat.

The lower cap on refugee admissions means it will be difficult to bring his son and daughter to the United States. “When I heard they were decreasing the number of refugees, I thought, there’s no hope. My son needs me, and my daughter needs me. They deserve to have a father around,” he said.

As a result of the changing refugee cap, resettlement agencies will receive far less money to assist with services because their budgets are based largely on the number of new refugees they serve.

Sen. Ed Markey and his challenger, US Rep. Joe Kennedy III, sit across from each other at immigration roundtable. (Photo by Sarah Betancourt)

“It is not the time to cut the resettlement infrastructure. It’s the time to increase it,” Markey said.

Kennedy is concerned about how cuts would not just impact the resettlement agencies, but also how overarching Trump administration asylum and refugee policy changes will impact immigrants’ abilities to find work in the US.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“The administration is making it harder for them to get into the country and when they’re here, harder to provide for their families. They are squeezing immigrant families any way they can,” he said in a phone interview after the event.

Kennedy ticked off several bills he has co-sponsored to help immigrants, including legislation to end family separation, another to deliver humanitarian funding to the border, and another to increase funding for immigration courts and legal assistance.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services last week also announced a new process to allow states and localities to block resettlement of refugees in their communities. The new process codifies a process that has been ad hoc before. For example, 31 governors have already barred Syrian refugees from resettling in their states.