Stuck in Limbo: Family living in Albuquerque wait for asylum hearing

Politics - Government

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Families who entered the United States legally through the asylum process are still stuck in limbo. Constantly changing rules are making an already overwhelmed system even more complicated. However, a local volunteer group is trying to help.


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A family who fled from protests, unrest, and threats in Colombia asked KRQE News 13 to keep their identities secret in order to keep them safe. “What happened is that we flee from persecution in Colombia. We have political family there and they are going after us, for decades,” said the husband and father.

He went to school in the U.S. and both his parents are now citizens but he went back to Colombia in hopes of serving his country. “My wife works, used to work at a high court in Colombia. She is a lawyer. I was working for the Office of the General Controller and basically fighting corruption all the time,” the man said.

He says last year, he started getting threats from a guerilla group so he immediately packed up his family. He’s now been in Albuquerque for almost a year but is still one of more than a million people awaiting an asylum hearing.

“We started identifying that there were lots of families that settled in the Albuquerque area and that they were staying here waiting for their cases to be heard and they were falling through the cracks,” said Jessica Corley, director of the asylum program for ABQ FaithWorks Collaborative.

The program is an all-volunteer group currently helping 53 families stuck in the backed-up asylum process, most are legally unable to apply for work. “The biggest issue is we have these two folks, these two parents, who are highly educated, one with a master’s degree, and they can’t work. They can’t work because they don’t have a legal working permit,” Corley said.

Corley says the Trump administration doubled the amount of time people seeking asylum have to wait before applying for a work permit; going from six months to a year. “I mean, can you imagine trying to support your family if you can’t work? If you can’t access benefits and you can’t work,” Corley said.

FaithWorks helps families in limbo with food, legal resources, and housing. They also recently visited the border to help the lucky few families who were allowed into the U.S. to await an asylum hearing. Another Trump-era policy forces most to wait in Mexico.

“The policies that are not allowing people to put their feet on our soil are the policies sending people to violent, awful deaths,” Corley said.

Corley said the Biden administration is trying to repeal the ‘wait in Mexico’ and work waiting period policies. She hopes they’re successful. “These policies that are just cruel and inhumane policies that have criminalized a legal process,” Corley said.

The family from Colombia, who now has another child on the way, agrees saying they want to contribute and build a new, better life in Albuquerque as do many people who are stuck waiting. “November 20th we are going to be here for one year. Just doing nothing and that is not okay,” the man said.

ABQ FaithWorks says even applying for the asylum process can take months, cost thousands, and often require the help of a legal team. For more information, visit abqfaithworks.org.

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