• A Broken Asylum System, and How We Ended Up With Kids in Cages

    July 17, 2019

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Other Ideas, Trump


    How did we end up with kids in cages? We put them there, across multiple administrations, and created a politicized immigration and asylum system that constrains better options. So time to stop saying this isn’t who we are and start looking beyond the hysteria.

    There are givens. Immigration restrictions are not inherently racist. All countries have borders. They have to so they can make decisions about who can enter their country and who can be a citizen.

    No nation allows people to simply move in. Every border globally is designed to place a barrier in between those allowed and those who are not. At the same time, most economies depend on the cheap labor of immigrants. For most of the developed world, labor needs are worked out via a points system that admits a regulated number of workers with designated skills coupled with border enforcement. The U.S. instead focuses on “reunification,” with family members legally in the country petitioning for relatives with unknown skills to immigrate (do we get the brother with the 4.0 GPA or the one with 3.0 murders under his belt?) Our borders have historically then been left porous to ensure an adequate number of exploitable workers. But since the number of people drawn to work usually exceeds the demand, our immigration laws also place speed bumps in front of the many, many people around the globe who want to try their luck. Inevitably you end up with kids in cages.

    Bill Clinton’s 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act set new records for immigrants detained. Next up was George W. Bush’s 2005 Operation Streamline, a zero-tolerance plan to prosecute all illegal entrants. But to avoid the logistics and negative optics, the program made exceptions not written into the law for adults traveling with children. Nature finds a way, and more and more economic migrants arrived with somebody’s child in hand as a Get Out of Jail Free card. Fewer kids in cages, but more illegals.

    Obama initially prosecuted only those found illegally entering more than once. Caught off guard by an influx of asylum seekers from Central America, the administration in 2014 established then-legally permitted family detention centers to hold parents and children — potentially indefinitely — in cages as a means of deterring others. There were also children held alone in cages when they arrived without parents, or in the hands of human traffickers, or when their parents were criminally dangerous. The program ended only because of a 2016 court decision ordering the release of most of those hostage families and largely prohibiting family detention facilities. Adult men, women, and children, would be caged separately in the future.

    The whole Obama program got little media attention, although kids were in cages, mostly at the same facilities in use today. The holding facility at Clint, for example, currently a focal point for progressives, has been open since 2013. It was set up specifically for children. Fort Sill, Oklahoma, housed Japanese-American detainees during WWII, 1200 immigrant children during the Obama years, and will reopen to again take in immigrant children for Trump. Immigrant rights activists dubbed Obama “deporter in chief” for having deported more immigrants than any president. He still holds the title because his administration deported more migrants per year than Trump.

    While many children at the border are with parents, others arrive with human traffickers, some on their own. “Children” can include everyone from infants to 17 year old “boys,” and the dangers of housing those vulnerable people among adults of all types should make it obvious why the law is written as it is. While on the face a nice solution sounds like “parents with their own kids,” imagine the terrible things that can happen when children and adults are detained together.  Also under Trump, parents arrested at the border are criminally charged with illegal entry. Due process laws do not allow children to be kept with the parent because the child is not being criminally prosecuted.

     

    Trump set out in April 2018 to prosecute every illegal crosser, first or tenth time, with or without kids, the letter of the law. There had been a growing rise in the number of people from the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador) along with Mexico. For example, the border patrol detained 6,405 unaccompanied children in May 2018, up from 4,302 in April. In comparison with May 2017, the number of unaccompanied children soared by 329% and parents migrating with kids as a family surged by 435% in 2018.

    By law now children and adults cannot be detained together; it was allowed during the Obama years and earlier under the Flores Settlement. Most parents arrested at the border are criminally charged with illegal entry. Due process laws do not allow children to be kept with the parent because the child is not being prosecuted. Overall, interpreting what these laws say must be done versus can be done to end up at what should be done draws some very fine, politically-motivated legal lines.

    What is clear is by ending the various catch-and-release, and ignore and don’t catch policies of his predecessors, Trump triggered the next variation on an old problem. With no legal avenue to immigrate for work, and with border enforcement stopping many from simply walking north and blending into the estimated 11 million illegals already in the U.S., a vast number of economic migrants now ask for asylum. They are aided by for-illegal profit asylum cartels, staff from a Democratic Congresswoman’s office, and volunteer American lawyers.

     

    Asylum applicants must demonstrate if sent home they would be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group. The definition of those five protected grounds has varied based on American domestic politics. For example, since 1994, LGBT status has been a possible grounds of asylum. Victims of domestic violence were granted consideration for asylum under the Obama administration, rolled back under Trump. However, asylum never has been and was never intended to stretch to security or economic situations affecting blanket-like most everyone in a country. “Wanting a better life” has never been grounds for an asylum claim.

    However, economic immigrants without legitimate claims to asylum have long taken advantage of slow processing by American authorities. A Mexican man caught on the border who says he came just to work may be sent back almost immediately. However, should he make a claim to asylum, the U.S. is obligated to adjudicate his case, however frivolous (there are potential expedited processes.)

     

    The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires those seeking asylum be detained while their cases are processed. But for logistical and political reasons, prior administrations simply released most asylum seekers into American society to wait. Asylum seekers become eligible for work authorization if their case has been pending for more than 150 days, as almost all do. Trump has directed the letter of the law be followed, ending this catch-and-release system. He also has negotiated for many asylum seekers to wait out their cases in Mexico instead of working the while in the U.S.

    The problem is the backlogs are unresolvable. Affirmative asylum seekers, such as most of those now at the border, apply administratively through DHS. The number of such pending cases as of January 2019 was 325,277, more than 50 times higher than in January 2010. Defensive seekers are those applying for asylum once facing deportation or removal for some reason, including being denied under an earlier affirmative application. These cases go through the courts. As of July 2018, there were over 733,000 pending. The average wait time for a hearing was a staggering 721 days.

    The approval rates for asylum claims are low, and always have been. Some recent figures for Mexican claimant approvals are 12%, Salvadorans 21%, Honduras 22%, and Guatemalans 26%. Those countries account for more than 40% of asylum applications, and have for some time. The high refusal rates, while up under Trump, are not at odds historically. In 1984, only 3% of asylum cases from El Salvador and Guatemala were granted, even as U.S.-sponsored wars raged there. Approval rates for all nationalities over the past decade average only 28%, skewed high over recent years by waves of cases designed to pander to general U.S. voters (Chinese pro-democracy applicants) and evangelical voters (Chinese anti-One Child Policy applicants.)

     

    But as we talk there are still kids in cages. None of this is to defend the conditions in detainee camps. Those are a result of a sudden shift in implementation of immigration law coupled with a lack of infrastructure planning, driven by a president who impulsively wants to be seen as “tough” facing down a problem, all backed by an asylum system no longer suited for the conditions imposed on it. Conditions can be quickly improved, and the House just voted $4.6 billion to do that.

    But we need also acknowledge the dangers in 2019 of hysteria, driven by media and progressive politicians exploiting the situation to paint themselves as liberating another concentration camp on the road to Berlin, when the immediate solutions are more in line with hygiene kits and child care workers. And no whataboutism. Under Obama we tolerated kids in cages. Without that tolerance then we would not have the intolerant situation now.

    But there are deeper dangers. Progressives don’t want to fix Trump’s logistical mistakes (AOC and others voted against the recent humanitarian funding increases.) The camps must not be made more humane, they say, they must be closed. Deportations must not be limited, they must be ended by decriminalizing illegal entry. Free medical care for illegal immigrants. Asylum to economic migrants. Abolish ICE. Open borders.

    Meanwhile, Trump’s immigration policies resonate with important sectors of the public. Some 60% of likely voters support efforts to “prevent migrants from making fraudulent asylum claims and being released into the country.” This does not grow from racism or white supremacy (Latinos support much of the Republican immigration agenda), though using those words is an easy way to blame people impacted by decades of imposed change and delete them from the conversation on how to do better.

    The driver seems to be the imposition by elites of an uncounted number of illegal immigrants with unknown skills and unknown criminal backgrounds to have an unknown impact on the places they choose to settle. Do we get the guy with the 4.0 GPA or the one who committed 4.0 murders? We are destined — required — to take the bad with the good, scatter them around the country, and hope for the best.

    So when economic turmoil in Mexico during the early 1990s pushed migrants north, just as war in Central America drove them in the 1980s, and gang violence does today, in America there is no plan. Tired, consumed, with resources stretched, there was a backlash building Trump sensed and acted on. As Trump was unprepared at the border and told DHS to make do, America for decades has been unprepared and told to make due. A de facto open border similar to 2015 Europe imposed by progressives would have the same effect here as there, leading to a new, even more conservative backlash.

     

    The peak year for legal immigration to America was 1907. Your great-grandfather entered an agricultural and rapidly industrializing nation desperate for workers with no time to waste putting kids in cages. To get them out today we need more than olde timey nostalgia and modern outrage. We need a 21st century asylum and immigration policy.

     

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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Doc said...

      1

      Immigration policy is going to be the 2020 elections “repeal Obamacare” issue for the Republicans. Hence, nothing substantive will happen between now and the election. MAYBE when Trump gets reelected we’ll be able to see real change and improvement.

      07/17/19 8:14 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      2

      I think purposely porous borders would be a better term. We need temporary workers to do the exhausting and tedious work of harvesting edible crops. The truth as I see it is that America needs a national service. Hey kid, we’re going to ship you to Salinas where for two years you’ll pick cantaloupes. Parents: “Not my kid! I want him sitting in his air conditioned bedroom playing violent video games not doing “physical” work far from home. So that ends my idea very quickly- We’re a squishy soft and decadent empire incapable of self correction.

      07/17/19 9:05 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      3

      There would been an open door policy if these immigrants would vote Republican.

      07/18/19 12:06 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      4

      Besides, we need to save the cages for Defense contractors with Top Secret clearances like this:

      A Pentagon cybersecurity contractor has been charged with making a death threat to a member of Congress for supporting legislation that would require public schools to vaccinate students, according to a recently unsealed criminal complaint.

      Darryl Albert Varnum was charged with making a threat against an official for his June 26 voicemail to the Florida office of a member of Congress, saying he would “personally fucking kill” the lawmaker for backing the Vaccinate All Children Act, according to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland on July 5.

      In 2015, Varnum’s wife called police to report her husband was having “behavioral issues,” including yelling that ISIS fighters were out to get him. A .45 caliber Ruger pistol is registered to him, the complaint says.

      It’s unclear whether Varnum is in custody. Capitol Police, who led the investigation, declined to comment. A federal magistrate judge approved warrants for Varnum’s arrest and for a search of his phone and other electronic equipment.

      Gun nuts..with TS clearances.

      07/18/19 6:00 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      5

      Trump’s immigration plan is not racist.

      When asked by a reporter if Trump’s comments were racist, Sen. Lindsey Graham responded, “No, I don’t think it’s racist.”

      His reasoning?

      “A Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back,” Graham said. “If you’re a racist, you want everybody from Somalia to go back cause they’re black or they’re Muslim.”

      07/19/19 10:40 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      6

      Since the US is responsible for consuming the drugs that transit Central America and Mexico, it is responsible for the creation of the drug gangs in these countries that are threatening these migrants. While Trumpie makes his case he belongs in an insane asylum, these migrants should be granted protective status asylum until the US stops buying this shit…which will never happen. We are putting the innocent in cages while the real criminals are free in the US.

      Speaking of real criminals. Mickey Cohen had extensive discussions with the President ‘s personal counsel, who , according to Cohen , said that Cohen should “stay on message” and not contradict the Don.

      After the FBI searched Cohen’s home and office in April 2018 , the Don publicly asserted that Cohen would not “flip,” contacted him directly to tell him to “stay strong,” and privately passed messages of support to him. Cohen also discussed pardons with the Dons personal counsel and believed that if he stayed on message he would be taken care of. But after Cohen began cooperating with the government in the summer of 2018, the President publicly criticized him, called him a “rat” and suggested that his family members had committed crimes.

      07/19/19 4:36 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      7

      Caged Heat

      The Don must be really worried what heat he will face when Mueller talks. The poor guy is losing his grip on reality.

      President Donald Trump on Friday continued his attack on four progressive congresswomen of color by falsely claiming they had talked about “evil Jews.”

      Speaking to reporters in front of the White House, the president accused Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota of being racist and anti-Semitic.

      “You know what is racist to me? When somebody goes out and says the horrible things about our country, the people of our country, that are anti-Semitic, that hate everybody, that speak with scorn and hate — that to me is really a very dangerous thing,” Trump said.

      Reporters also inquired what first lady Melania Trump thinks about the ongoing feud between her husband and the four congresswomen.

      “The first lady feels very strongly about our country,” the president replied. “The first lady thinks it’s horrible what they said about Israel and horrible what they said about our country, these congresswomen. They cannot call our country and our people garbage. They can’t be anti-Semitic. They can’t talk about evil Jews, which is what they say, evil Jews. That’s what the first lady thinks.”

      The First Lady…

      07/19/19 8:20 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      8

      Bauer -let’s not besmirch PVB’s blog with petty bickering over your unhealthy need to see Trump in prison. After all PVB pays the hefty freight of this site so we can voice our oppositional comments. He knows if he gets down to Philly for some reason he has a third floor suite (with a chocolate on the pillow!) at my and my wife’s home in Ardmore. What have you offered him?

      07/22/19 6:43 PM | Comment Link

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