Immigration | St. Louis Public Radio

Immigration

Alaa Alderie, a Syrian refugee, is the owner of Cham Bakery in St. Louis.
File photo | Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Alaa Alderie sought refuge in the United States several years ago, not long after Syrian authorities started looking for him because of his involvement in political demonstrations against President Bashar Al-Assad.

In 2012, he and his parents came to St. Louis, where his brother had arrived earlier, finding success in their new home. Alderie, who is Muslim, considers himself a “lucky refugee.” 

The entryway of Casa de Salud's building at 3200 Choteau Ave. in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

How long is the wait for a Spanish-language therapy session in the St. Louis area, if you don’t have health insurance? A year or more, providers say.

Jorge Riopedre, president of St. Louis-based Casa de Salud, which serves uninsured immigrants and refugees at a clinic on Chouteau Avenue, hopes to change that.

Areli Muñoz Reyes, who is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, attends St. Louis Community College at Forest Park and is studying to be a teacher
Jenny Simeone-Casas | St. Louis Public Radio

Young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, and received temporary Social Security numbers and work permits under an Obama-era program can keep their protections — for now.

 

Breaking a promise made on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump announced last week that he would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but hasn’t said for how long. Missouri is home to almost 4,000 DACA permit holders.

Carla has started taking classes, hoping to make her children proud by becoming fluent in English over the next few years. St. Louis Public Radio has changed Carla’s name because she is an unauthorized immigrant. May 2017.
Jenny Simeone-Cases | St. Louis Public Radio

Insurance coverage, transportation, child care and work schedules can all stand in the way of a person’s access to mental health services.

For some St. Louis residents, language is the biggest obstacle, because only a handful of organizations in the region offer services in languages other than English — and demand is growing.

The International Institute in St. Louis provides integration services for more than 7,500 immigrants and refugees each year.
File photo | Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

The International Institute of St. Louis is seeking ambassadors of sorts.

The organization that provides integration services for more than 7,500 immigrants and refugees each year is recruiting volunteers to help spread the word about how those foreign-born residents benefit the community.

Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Day at the Missouri Capitol, 2013
MoBikeFed | Flickr

Missouri lawmakers solved the puzzle over federally mandated IDs on Thursday night, sending Republican Gov. Eric Greitens a bill that would ease travelers’ and military members’ worries come January.

It was one of several pieces of legislation that reached the finish line ahead of the 6 p.m. Friday deadline for the 2017 session. Here’s a look at Thursday’s action:

A print by Mitchell Eismont, cut from linoleum depicts noted physicist Albert Einstein above the words "Einstein was a refugee."
Courtesy of the St. Louis Artists' Guild

Ohio-based artist Mitchell Eismont’s interest in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis developed while he was producing posters for East Coast musician Chadwick Stokes' “Forced to Flee” tour. Inspired by Stokes' dedication, Eismont began work on a series of prints supporting immigrants and refugees, featuring cultural figures like the Dalai Lama, Jesus and Albert Einstein.

“I think it’s probably the crisis of our generation,” Eismont said of the crisis, which stems from a long-running civil war. “I think it’s important to try and help with the situation.”

Erika and her daughter, Alison, sit on the porch of their St. Louis home. Potraits of the two will be featured in Saturday's exhibit.
Lindy Drew | Humans of St. Louis

Advocates from the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project normally help St. Louis clients navigate the complex U.S. immigration system. But this weekend, their efforts will take on a more artistic bent.

“We’ve always wanted to be able to portray our clients as really full, well-rounded people,” explained Jessica Mayo, attorney and co-director at the MICA project. “As more than just their immigration story.”

Rita, an undocumented woman living in St. Louis, fills out a power-of-attorney form with the help of a volunteer attorney and interpreter at a workshop organized by immigrant advocacy groups in south St. Louis Mach 11, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio / St. Louis Public Radio

In response to high anxiety among St. Louis immigrants living in the United States without authorization, a Catholic charity and two immigrant advocate groups have organized a series of legal workshops.

Some workshops teach immigrants their rights in case of arrest; others help participants establish powers of attorney.

Dr. Bahar Bastani poses for a portrait at Saint Louis University Hospital on March 2, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In 1984, Dr. Bahar Bastani knew he had to leave Iran.

During Iran's cultural revolution, religious leaders closed universities and threatened academics. Bastani, then a professor of medicine in Tehran, realized he had become “unhireable” in that political climate.

“I was religious, I was doing prayers, but I could not tolerate the hardship the government was putting on people,” said Bastani, now a kidney specialist who works at Saint Louis University Hospital.

Krissy Lane | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8 p.m. with Senate giving first approval to immigration bill — Advocates for immigrants and refugees in Missouri have more on their minds than the revised executive order President Donald Trump put out this week suspending the U.S. refugee program indefinitely.

They also have to monitor the Missouri legislature, which is considering at least one bill that advocates say would make life more uncertain for immigrants and refugees. That’s why roughly 60 people traveled from St. Louis and Kansas City to the Capitol to lobby lawmakers Tuesday.

Alan Greenblatt, a reporter with Governing Magazine, joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss President Trump's relationships with U.S. cities.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

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In January, the term “sanctuary city” came back into the spotlight after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would punish local governments that don't comply with federal immigration enforcement. No cities or counties in St. Louis are currently considered sanctuary areas, but some immigration advocates have called for St. Louis to join the ranks of Denver, Chicago, San Francisco and New York in noncompliance with the feds.

Stakeholders attend a New American Alliance community meeting to discuss ways to better serve and connect with new immigrants to St. Louis.
Jacquelyn Ballard | New American Alliance

Recent immigrants to St. Louis have a new resource they can tap when adjusting to life in the United States.

The New American Alliance is a referral system for immigrants and refugees that started to take shape this past summer.

For example, if a recent refugee needs help finding a job, access to healthcare, or an affordable place to live, the Alliance reviews their situation and connects them to an organization that can help.

Protesters gathered in downtown Clayton in February 2017 to show soldarity with immigrants and refugees following the announcement of President Trump's executive orders.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Department of Homeland Security’s latest announcement on the Trump administration’s immigration policies have alarmed local immigrants and their advocates.

In two memos released Tuesday, the department expanded the scope of immigration raids, undermined sanctuary areas and called on local law enforcement to help with federal immigration enforcement.

St. Louis immigration lawyer Jim Hacking said his office phone lines have been busy since the announcement, with clients unsure of how to move forward.

“People are really and utterly freaked out,” he said. “They’re wondering if they should carry their papers on them, they’re wondering what they should do, they want to have a lawyer on speed dial. Frankly, people are scared.”

The International Institute of St. Louis building.
File photo | Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal appeals panel's ruling last week lifted a travel ban for residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries, but it didn't change one crucial aspect of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration: a 50,000 cap on refugees allowed to enter the United States.

That's is a significant drop, considering that the Obama administration raised the cap from 85,000 to 110,000 for the 2017 federal fiscal year, which extends from last October to this September. As a result, local organizations that resettle refugees, such as the International Institute of St. Louis, are finding themselves in a difficult position, having originally planned for a larger intake of people.

Soumya Chatterjee, a scientist at Saint Louis University, peers into a microscope in his laboratory, where he studies pathogens, such as tuberculosis.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump's executive order last month reduced the cap of refugees allowed into the United States from 110,000 to 50,000. That means that fewer refugees will be resettled into areas like St. Louis.

But the cap also is curtailing disease research across the country. To understand diseases that are widespread in poor, war-torn countries, scientists study refugees from those nations that are infected with those diseases.

Bac Le, 70, picks up his grandson after studying for his citizenship test with a tutor from Bilingual International Assistant Services. Le moved to St. Louis from Vietnam to be near his children.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Between learning U.S. civics and history to acing all four parts of the naturalization exam — passing the U.S. citizenship test is no walk in the park. For older immigrants who don’t speak English, the learning curve can be even steeper.

“Think about your own grandmother,” said Jason Baker, executive director with Bilingual International Assistant Services. “Imagine her trying to learn a completely foreign language at an advanced age. And then in that foreign language learn about the Federalist Papers and be able to produce it on command. Some grandmothers will be able to do it. Others will not. Mine certainly couldn’t.”

Faizan Syed, Jessica Mayo and Anna Crosslin joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the local impact of President Trump's executive orders on immigration.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Last week, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders that sent the lives of many into chaos — in St. Louis and across the world.

Sina Nassiri and Mehrdad Alvandipour are Iranian students at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In August 2015, Mehrdad Alvandipour arrived in the United States from Iran to pursue graduate degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

“Basically, I love science,” he said. “That’s the reason I traveled here, to study at a good university and improve myself.”

Alvandipour hoped that studying at SIUE would put him on track to become a professor at an American university. But President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration has him, and other international research students in the St. Louis region, worried about the future.

Summer Albarcha stands with friends at a rally to show support for immigrants and refugees outside Sen. Roy Blunt's Clayton office. This week, Blunt released a statement expressing support for President Trump's executive order on immigration. (Feb 2, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Protesters gathered outside Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office in Clayton Wednesday to voice their opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Hamishe Bahrani, at the restaurant she created with her husband: Cafe Natasha's. Bahrami sits in front of a wall of infused gins; her specialty.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The call came in the middle of the night; Hamishe Bahrami’s childhood friend would be unable to visit from Iran.

“Today, she was supposed to arrive in St. Louis,” Bahrami said Monday. “She was so excited to come, visit St. Louis and see my life in person. We don’t know if we’re going to see each other again.”

Anna Crosslin is joined by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to talk about the importance of immigrants in the region. Jan 30, 2017
Erica Hunzinger | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis leaders are decrying the Trump administration’s executive order that bars refugees from coming to the United States for 120 days. The order also prevents those from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

President Trump's executive order on immigration late Friday ignited nationwide protests — and a slew of legal challenges.

At least four federal judges across the country have blocked part of the order and temporarily ensured refugees and travelers who reached U.S. soil would not be deported.

Here's an explanation of what happened so far and what could come next.

Protesters gathered outside the Terminal 1 departure area at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated to include information about Sunday's protest and official responses at 7:50 p.m.

St. Louisans gathered throughout the region over the weekend to protest President Donald J. Trump's executive order barring citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Areli Muñoz Reyes, who is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, attends St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For the past two years Missouri legislators in Jefferson City have sent a strong message to undocumented students in the region: you can go to college in Missouri, but we won’t make it easy.

That's what it looks like, at least, to Areli Muñoz Reyes a student  St. Louis Community College at Forest Park who started in the fall of 2015. Already worried about what will happen to undocumented students under the administration of Donald Trump, she’s also facing steep tuition rates without the state-funded scholarship she worked hard for.

Faizan Sayed, executive director of Missouri’s branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, organized a news conference to speak out against current events in Syria.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Several of the 300 families of Syrian refugees who have settled in the St. Louis area this year are still afraid to publicly condemn their former government's attacks on Aleppo — even living so far away from their native country.

“They’re worried that someone’s going to see their picture or their [social media] feed on TV, they’re going to find out who [they are] and they’re going to hurt their family in Syria,” said Faizan Sayed, executive director of Missouri’s branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Sayed reached out to at least 20 Syrian families asking them to speak at CAIR press conference Thursday denouncing the bombardment of rebel-held neighborhoods in Aleppo. Every single one turned him down.

Arjun Sidhu holds an American flag while sitting with his mother, Mandeep Sidhu, originally from India, at a naturalization ceremony held at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site on Nov. 10, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While much of the nation remains at odds over the results of the November elections, some people are feeling more optimistic for the future than ever. Newly naturalized U.S. citizens in the St. Louis region are excited to be a part of the country, and many are raring to vote.

At a naturalization ceremony held last week at the International Institute of St. Louis, 39 people from 24 different countries stood together in front of a crowded room for the first time as new citizens.

Among them was Lenilson Pereira Dos Santos Coutinho, a clinical medial physicist who was born in Brazil. Coutinho, who came to the United States for graduate school, laments not being able to vote on Nov. 8. Now that he’s a citizen, he can’t wait for future elections.

Katie Herbert Meyer and Stephen Legomsky discussed the efforts of Migrant & Immigrant Community Action Project in St. Louis on St. Louis on the Air.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Since Nov. 9 and the results of the presidential election, the phones have been “ringing off the hook” at St. Louis’ Migrant & Immigrant Community Action Project. MICA is a local nonprofit that provides immigration law services at a reduced cost for documented and undocumented immigrants who cannot afford to pay the thousands of dollars it would take to retain an attorney in asylum, work authorization and other kinds of immigration cases.

Kamila Kahistani cast her first vote as an American citizen in 2016's November election.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

In response to an outpouring of client concern, local immigrant advocacy organizations are hosting information sessions on what a Trump presidency will mean for St. Louis immigrants.

Among those who are concerned is Kamila Kahistani, who arrived in the United States with her sister seven years ago from Afghanistan. She was a refugee when she came via Russia, escaping war in her native country. Kahistani, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen five years ago, doesn’t worry about how immigration policy changes would affect her. But she does worry for the family members she’s petitioning to bring into the country.

International Institute staff and volunteers serve a Thanksgiving meal to new refugees and immigrants to the St. Louis area on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.
Hannah Westerman | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 23 with corrected numbers – Thanksgiving came a little early for hundreds of refugees and immigrants who gathered for a meal with all the trimmings Tuesday afternoon at the International Institute in St. Louis.

The Institute, which serves as the region’s “Welcoming Center for New Americans,” said it has served more than 1,000 new refugees in the last year, from countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Iraq.

“We’re pleased that it’s an all-American holiday that has meaning all around the world,” said President and CEO Anna Crosslin.

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