New Enhanced Security Measures in US for Entering Refugees
WESLACO – The federal government set new standards for refugees entering the U.S. Many of those go through the process here in the Rio Grande Valley.
Many refugees stay at shelters across the country, including those in the Valley.
Former refugee and university professor Hadidja Nyiransekuye explained her path; holding up pictures during a face-time interview.
"These are my children when they were younger back in Rwanda,” she said.
The pictures can't show how Nyiransekuye's fled the war in Rwanda, Africa.
"You just run into bandits. You run into people who steal your things if you still have things,” she recalled. “People were hungry, people were sick. People were killing themselves because of desperation.”
Nyiransekuye was a teacher in the 1980s in Rwanda and came to the U.S. in the teacher exchange program. She went back to Rwanda in the 90s.
Her family was on both sides of the Rwanda genocide (war).
"At the time, I was teaching in Rwanda. My husband and I did not belong to the same ethnic group and it was my group that was killing my husband’s group,” she explained.
The war forced the family to split. They had to run.
"Sometimes you choose to separate so you can stay alive and pray to god that one of you will survive. So the boys went with my husband first and we stayed behind with the girls; was the thing to do at the time,” said Nyiransekuye.
They all made it safe to a refugee camp in the Congo but were forced to leave due to the unsafe conditions.
In 1998, Nyiransekuye called the U.S. home through a student visa. She later got her children over here, too.
She's now a professor at the University of North Texas and began leading a refugee advocacy group called Refugee Congress.
Nyiransekuye's brother is still in Africa as a refugee in the Uganda.
"Are you worried your brother is going to have a hard time coming over here? Yeah, I am,” she said.
Nyiransekuy's worried because of the new security procedures in the refugee program.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Department of Homeland Security enhanced data collecting for applicants for background checks, more training for officers to detect fraud and duplicate identities and documents of applicants.
People from selected 11 countries considered high risk will see more in-depth review.
Nyiransekuye agrees safety is the main priority but said the extra security may not be necessary.
"We're looking at it from the wrong place. I don't think refugees are the people causing problems,” she said.
Nyiransekuye said the minimum time it takes for the refugee process is 18 months. Now, she fears it will take much longer.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to USCIS about what data is looked at and what countries are high risks. They can't comment or name the countries.