As of Friday afternoon, a total of 177 migrants have arrived in Portland. Thursday night, 157 stayed at the Portland Expo, and 20 more arrived on buses from San Antonio Friday morning. Since arriving on Sunday, 41 have also left, according to the city of Portland, possibly headed for Canada.
With the unexpected arrivals and more on the way, it’s worth a refresher on the refugee experience and process, from the perspectives of both the state and migrant.
Why are these migrants so heavily concentrated from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
Briefly, since horrifying political violence in the central region of Grand Kasai ramped up in 2016, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become one of the most conflicted regions in Africa. Food and nutrition experts estimate that 7.7 million people are food insecure, a 30 percent increase from 2017. A cycle of violence, disease and malnutrition has led to increased calls for international aid, and a 2018 UN report cited that 13.1 million citizens require humanitarian assistance — 60 percent of that figure are young people 18 and under. The situation is extremely dire.
For the migrants currently arriving in Portland, many have sought the city out specifically because of the vibrant immigrant community that has already taken root and for the city’s reputation for supporting refugees, according to the Portland Press Herald.
What does the refugee process entail?
Incoming asylum seekers face an intense vetting process that can last as long as two years. According to information from the National Immigration Forum, individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry are subjected to a “credible fear screening interview” by asylum officers. Here, the applicants explain how they have been persecuted, or why they have a “well-founded fear” of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion if they returned to their country.
Typically, asylum seekers who arrived here have already passed the first step of that test, and CBP officers have deemed them as having a “significant possibility” of being eligible for asylum at a future interview. These folks probably haven’t.