Immigration Officials Summon Iowa Burmese Refugees

Immigration officials have sent letters to dozens of Burmese refugees living in Iowa, requesting them for interviews, and to provide information validating their immigration status in the US. Refugees from Burma are a group that has grown in number over the last five years, with over 8000 now living in Iowa.

Abigail Sui, the program manager of The Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resources (EMBARC), a Des Moines-based non-profit organization, said that people are scared, with high school teachers getting in touch with them because their pupils are afraid. Around 50 Burmese refugees in Iowa, who came to the US via Malaysia, have received the letter from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The refugees are expected to fund their own trip to the interviews, at least one of which has been interstate, and to take time off from their jobs, with no interpreters made available. The immigrant refugees concerned are either trying to get a green card, are permanent residents who already have green cards, or already have US citizenship. Sui believes that there may be consequences if the refugees do not attend the interviews, despite them being billed as voluntary.

According to Sharon Rummery, San Francisco USCIS public affairs officer, concerns have been raised about biographical and identity details given to the agency, in several cases involving refugees from Burma by a current investigation, and that 1000 interview requests have been sent for nationwide interviews to determine immigration status and eligibility.