• Towards a More Sensible Asylum Policy

    August 18, 2019

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    Posted in: Trump


    America’s asylum laws, meant to help the most vulnerable, have instead become a clogged backdoor for economic migrants. The Trump administration is restoring asylum to its correct role in American immigration policy. It is a long overdue, right thing to do, but almost nobody is satisfied. Here’s why.

     

    Asylum is a very old concept, dating back to the ancient Greeks. It recognizes a person persecuted by his own country can be offered residence and protection by another country. The actual conditions vary considerably across the globe (the U.S. will consider Female Genital Mutilation grounds for asylum while in many nations it is an accepted practice), but in most cases asylum is offered to people who face a well-founded fear of persecution if sent home on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group.

    The definition of those five protected grounds have also varied greatly based on shifts in American domestic politics. Since 1994 for example, LGBT status has been, and remains under Trump, a possible claim to asylum. Domestic violence was granted consideration as grounds under the Obama administration, only to be rolled back under Trump.

    But even as those criteria have changed with political winds, asylum has never been about simply wanting a better life. Poverty, for all its horrors, has never fallen within the protected grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group, though is often assumed to by progressive journalists without access to the Internet and some Democratic legislators from the Bronx.

    A theoretical “perfect” asylum case in the U.S. might be a prominent Chinese democracy advocate finally granted permission by Beijing to lecture in the U.S. As he arrives, his government announces he will be arrested upon his return to China for intellectual crimes against the state, and per the State Department, likely subjected to torture.

     

    The reality of 2019 is the asylum system has evolved into a cheater’s backdoor, a pseudo-legal path to immigration otherwise not available to economic migrants. They lack either the skills for working visas, or the ties to qualify for legal immigration under America’s family reunification system. So they walk to the border and emptily ask for asylum, taking advantage of previous administrations’ look-the-other-way “solution” to their ever-growing numbers. Affirmative asylum claims, made at ports of entry, jumped 35 percent in the last two years even as refusal rates for those cases along the southern border run into the 80th percentile.

    It works — for them. A Honduran on the border who says he came to work is sent back almost immediately. However, should he make a claim to asylum, the U.S. is obligated to adjudicate his case. Since detaining asylum seekers and their families while the processes play out over at time years is expensive and politically distasteful (kids in cages!), until recently most asylum seekers were instead released into American society to wait out their cases. They became eligible for work authorization if their cases extended past 150 days, as almost all do. The number of pending cases in early 2019 was 325,277, more than 50 times higher than in 2010.

    Eventual approval rates for all nationalities over the past decade average only 28 percent (some place the approval rate as low as 15 percent and argue it is because of unfairness in the system, rather than illegitimate claims. Others claim the approval rate, however low, is bogus, reflecting clever coaching by immigration lawyers instead of legitimate fears), and after denial the applicant could either refile as a defensive asylum claim, or simply disappear into the vast underground of illegals.

    Previous administrations’ plans to create expedited asylum processes proved ineffective as numbers endlessly just increase to fill the available opportunities. Simply making a claim to asylum has been enough to live and work in America in one status or another. Trump is changing that.

     

    The most visible change is detaining asylum seekers and their families at the border instead of releasing them into society to wait for their cases to be processed. Detention is a deterrent to economic migrants making false claims to asylum, statistically somewhere between seven to nine out of 10 persons plus their families.

    The next change was for the Trump administration to negotiate for asylum seekers to wait out their processing times not in American society or in a detention facility, but in Mexico, a program called the Migrant Protection Protocols. People at the border make their asylum claim, and are then nudged a step backward to wait for an answer in Mexico. This relieves the U.S. of the costs, monetary (the House just voted an additional $4.6 billion to be spend on beds and baths for detainees) and political.

    Mexican officials estimate about 60,000 people will be sent to Mexico by the end of August under the Migrant Protection Protocols. The policy seems to be effective in weeding out economic migrants as many, denied the chance to work off their debts in America to the human traffickers they paid for the journey north, choose to return home to Central America and abandon their previous sworn assertion such a return would imperil their lives.

    A more significant Trump change to U.S. policy is to bring it in line with the European standard (“Dublin Convention“) of country of first refuge. Most of Europe subscribes to this model, which requires asylum claims to be made in the first country that can offer refuge. The idea is a person legitimately fleeing a repressive government would want safety as soon as possible. If the person is really just an economic migrant, this will stop him from “forum shopping” to see if the economic benefits are better in Italy or Austria. Or Mexico versus the United States.

    In the American context, if someone is fleeing gang vengeance in Honduras, Mexico would become his refuge even though his cousin needs help in the restaurant in Chicago. The U.S. will thus not consider asylum seekers who pass through another country before reaching the United States (the order is being challenged in the courts.)

    To put the plan into practice, U.S. reached a deal with Guatemala for that nation to take in more asylum seekers from other Central American nations. The U.S. is expected to sign similar agreements with El Salvador and Honduras. The U.S. has had an identical but little-noticed arrangement in place with Canada for many years, allowing the U.S. to not consider asylum applications from persons who did not apply first while in Canada. Despite the media hysteria about cruelty, the idea is nothing new.

    The impact of these changes will be significant. Though Mexico does not yet have a formal safe third country agreement with the U.S., its Commission for Aid to Migrants projects 80,000 asylum requests this year, up from only 2,137 five years ago. Mexico and other Central American nations are expected to also become a place of first refuge for the many Haitians, Cubans, and Africans who previously just passed through their territory en route to America.

    This illustrates an ancillary benefit to moving some of the costs of housing migrants to Mexico, and asking for more asylum processing by Guatemala and other nations: it gives them a reason to police their own borders. Until recently, there was no incentive for these countries to stop migrants headed north, and indeed much incentive to pass on the problems by opening their own borders to northbound traffic. This same thinking allowed human traffickers and drug dealers to operate with near impunity.

    Following all this, the newest change concerns derivative claims to asylum. Spouses and minor children of those approved for asylum continue to be granted asylum alongside the principal. AG Barr, however, recently overturned a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals saying a Mexican adult man could apply for asylum on the basis of his father being targeted by a cartel. Previous administrations held such an adult, while obviously not a dependent minor, would still automatically “inherit” asylum as the member of a particular social group, his extended family. Barr says now the adult can still apply today for asylum, but has now to prove his case independent of his father.

    Barr’s decision is in line with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who ruled victims of domestic violence would no longer be considered members of a particular social group, i.e., all abused women of say Honduras, and were thus not eligible for asylum based simply on a claim to have been such as victim. Sessions determined each woman would need to prove a specific case of persecution and not simply assert she was a victim of a crime sadly endemic to many Central American societies.
    Americans broadly favor immigration in general. But the gap between orderly immigration and unfettered immigration based on how many people can slip through physical holes in the border and loopholes in the law has grown too wide, to the point where a quarter of the 45 million foreign-born people currently in the U.S. arrived here illegally. Some 60 percent of likely voters support efforts to “prevent migrants from making fraudulent asylum claims and being released into the country.” As Europe has acknowledged and America is learning, modern immigration comes with considerable social and political costs, and those will be accounted for by society one way (good and thought out) or another (violent and chaotic.)

    As David Frum melodramatically wrote to encourage his fellow progressives to abandon garbage “policy” like abolishing ICE and throwing open the borders, “if liberals won’t enforce borders, fascists will.” Rewriting that a bit, if Congress will not reform immigration policy in line with a broad national consensus, then whoever is in the White House will, albeit in a piecemeal fashion. The result is Obama’s DACA reforms didn’t outlast his administration, and if a Democrat wins in 2020 Trump’s changes to asylum processing will be rolled back. Nothing gets permanently resolved that way, and it needs to be.

     

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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

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      And if some great catastrophe hit a white populated country, you can bet we would welcome the poor refugees with open arms…as long as they promise to vote Repugnicans.

      08/18/19 2:43 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      Nb. This obviously did not apply to Jews fleeing Nazi occupied white populated countries not so long ago…cause Jews usually vote the Democratic ticket.

      08/18/19 2:54 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      3

      According to The New Colossus Fraud in the White House, the Statue of Liberty should state: “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” Brown people need not apply. The white Supremacist in the White House really believes Lazarus’ poem doesn’t apply to today’s immigrants because the poem “was referring back to people coming from Europe.”

      08/18/19 3:01 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      4

      Maybe Elon Musk has fixated on The Zanti Misfits from the old Outer Limits and figures he can fix America’s current unwanted asylum seekers problem with “space ships” packed with indigenous misfits as well as those awful dusky races rattling the fences at America’s southern border. If so I can see a District 9 type scenario happening if he makes it to an advanced and populated “planet”. In the mean time we unRaptured types will have to deal with a Soylent Green world of dying oceans and hundreds of millions scurrying from their sea level lower deck station of an already listing civilization. Get ready for a capsized planet. Satire? Maybe not.

      08/19/19 10:41 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      5

      JP,

      What kind of talk is this? Everything is FINE. Did we give up when the Germans attacked Pearl Harbor? Sure the rising ocean CO2 levels acidity will deplete the ocean food stocks, but think of all the delicious recipes we will have to digest green algae with seaweed. Rising temps will make Greenland the next Hawaii. Ocean front condos will make Trump a fortune. Think positive.

      08/19/19 1:32 PM | Comment Link

    • J.L.Seagull said...

      6

      “have instead become a clogged backdoor for economic migrants”

      What is your citation for this? I’ve heard the precise opposite — the number of refugees is increasing due to violence

      08/20/19 12:02 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      7

      J.L.Seagull: The women with their children fleeing from a toxic macho culture head northward. Why not southward? It is a huge and tragic mess and Christianity (the Catholic Church) has played a huge part for centuries in keeping women in a subservient role- same as Islam. There is no solution except the very slow arc of cultural evolution which is always a crap shoot anyway.

      08/20/19 10:19 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      8

      Speaking of crap, Demented, a real toxic macho shitshow himself:

      “Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump said.

      Whatever happened to good people on both sides?

      08/20/19 4:33 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      9

      This is the only instance you will see Trump and sensible mentioned in the same article.

      Trumpie: If the very not nice lady in Denmark would sell me Greenland, we would have a place to hold all these economic migrants.

      08/21/19 2:04 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      10

      Trumpies final solution to the economic migrants in the concentration camps: One Flu over the cuckoo White House.

      08/21/19 2:45 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      11

      Speaking of alternatives to concentration camps, ICE could mark a number on the wrists of each migrant so they can’t buy or sell. Very fashionista.

      08/21/19 5:46 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      12

      “If a democrat wins in 2020…”

      Wait, what? You assured US this was not going to happen. So which is it?

      Lessons learned to the Max: never put your life in the hands of an idiot.

      08/21/19 5:50 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      13

      1. Rich, per your spot on comment about the Colossus Fraud, this is embarassing. Cucinelli doesnt even know our own country’s history. He is not fit for any office in any government.

      2. Our foreign policy is in need of /dire/ overhaul. Part of the reason people who do have well-founded fear for their safety/lives is that foreign policy is being made in policy vacuums with little regard to how results effect societies and the average person.

      Should we prop up military dictatorships, human rights abusers, and the like? That may be great for sales or US businesses and economic interests, but there is this tremendous cost and people’s lives are at stake. Foreign policy is too often utilized for promoting economic opportunities, yet there are sane and humane ways to do this that doesn’t need to uproot people or put them in harm’s way

      08/22/19 12:24 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      14

      Kyzl,

      Our foreign policy is driven by one motive: profit.

      While Der Fuhrer Trump is driving US over a fiscal cliff, the old idiots who still support him don’t know he is their ultimate enemy. We are at the endgame stage, folks. Trumpie has these idiots fooled about holding children indefinitely in cages, but he has big plans for making them hostage in his cuts in their Social Security, Medicare and everything that the MIC can’t make a profit.

      Unless Warren and Sanders can get to the 270 electoral level and Moscow Mitch and his ilk are sent packing to wherever the hell they came from, everyone but the very rich is seriously fucked.

      While it appears Pennsylvania and Michigan are going blue in 2020, look for the minority party to do whatever it can to suppress the vote. I’m looking at you Georgia and Florida. Remember the Maine too.

      It’s war, baby. And anyone who doesn’t realize that is a greater fool than the Orange Clown.

      08/23/19 9:35 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      15

      Orange Clown: “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA…”

      Boy, the Orange clown’s list of Enemy of the people is getting longer by the day. And they thought Captain Queeg was paranoid.

      08/23/19 4:03 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      16

      Bauer – maybe more like Captain Ahab earning a spot on Mt. Rushmore after harpooning his Moby Dick critics.

      08/24/19 11:22 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      17

      JP,

      You do know what happens to Ahab, right? So Trumpie kills the economy but it takes him down with it.

      08/24/19 6:58 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      18

      Bauer- and that leaves all of us fighting to reach the floating coffin that Ishmael clings to. Millions were left bobbing on the roofs of their underwater homes in the last “recession”. What’s next I wonder.

      08/25/19 10:17 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      19

      I’m thinking Hunger Games.

      08/25/19 11:05 AM | Comment Link

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