Terry H. Schwadron
July 22, 2019
What? Donald Trump lifts an eyebrow and the immigration problem at the southern border goes away? After all the fuss, Trump apparently thinks it’s up to him singularly to eliminate the thousands seeking to enter this country without Congress, without a law, without a law?
Beginning immediately, a new Trump administration rule adjudges that asylum seekers who pass through another country first will be ineligible at the U.S. border. In a single rule, Trump is eliminating asylum protections for anyone from Central America, among other areas, arguing that they should be seeking asylum in Mexico.
Poof! No more border problems. No more bad press for taking children away from families. No more issues with locking up migrants under treatment so inadequate that the United Nations agency officials who look at such things declared the detention centers a disaster.
Maybe he can wave a magic wand and make the conditions just disappear in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that drives thousands to seek safety.
More importantly, it’s now Mexico’s problem, or Honduras, or some other country. Presumably if a refugee from conflicts in Syria were to get on a plane to try to get into the United States, they’d have to apply instead in Turkey or Britain, where the plane might stop.
And who decided this? Trump and company. Did I miss the negotiations with Mexico and other Central American countries? Did I miss the Senate debate?
Instead, we have a rule published in the Federal Register taking effect immediately that said migrants, including children, who pass through another country first will be ineligible for asylum at the U.S. southern border. There are exceptions for individuals whocan argue that they have been trafficked, if the first country did not sign one of the major international treaties that govern how refugees are managed or if an asylum-seeker sought protection in a country but was denied.
Essentially, however, Donald Trump just ended practical asylum protections for the thousands now at the border.
Meanwhile, Politico.comreports that the Trump administration is considering a virtual shutdown of refugee admissions next year — cutting the number to nearly zero — according to three people familiar with the plan. Politico said that during a meeting of security officials on refugee admissions last week, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services representative who is closely aligned with White House immigration adviser Stephen Miller suggested setting a cap at zero. Homeland Security Department officials at the meeting later floated making the level anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000, raising objections from the Defense Department, among others.
For someone running for reelection on the claim that only he can solve international problems in a single leap, these actions alone will serve as red meat for his base of voters who want solutions for selected problems in simple and instantaneous form. Of course, it is just the sort of insulting broad-brush action that equally enflames opponents both to policies that come across as racist and those who think social problems deserve actual thought and inclusion of Congress.
Clearly, as a result of process alone, the new policy will join other executive actions in a court challenge.Plaintiffs led by the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in the matter in federal district court in San Francisco on Tuesday against the Trump administration in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Tuesday, arguing thatthe Trump administration lacks the authority to exclude asylum seekers who arrive across the U.S. southern border because U.S. immigration law states clearly that the government cannot disqualify applicants on the basis of how they arrived.
There is an exception in the written law for those who have come through a country considered to be “safe.” But the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs asylum law, is vague on how a country is determined “safe”; it says “pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement.”
Mexico is not currently such a safe third country; indeed, in recent years, the U.S. goverenment has warned U.S. citizens about travel in selected Mexican areas. Canada is a safe country by the same rules. There was recent talk of expanding a regional compact, amazingly enough to include Central America, but it has not been ratified. A meeting with Guatemalan officials in Washington was canceled on Monday.
The administration has made a variety of efforts to deport asylum seekers or keep them waiting in Mexico for months for cases to be heard at overcrowded immigration courts, These represent efforts to restrict who can claim asylum or to extend time for detention of those waiting to hear the outcome of asylum requests.
Most of those efforts have been blocked by federal courts.
Meanwhile, reports of fetid conditions at detention centers on the border continue, although deportations and a slowing of new arrivals during the hot weather have reduced the population at selected centers. In general, the numbers of migrants from Central America fleeing violence and economic bad times have increased despite Trump’s derisive rhetoric and hard-line immigration policies. Immigration courts are backlogged by more than 800,000 cases, resulting in delays of months or even years.
During 2018 budget year, there were 162,060 asylum claims filed, and 13,168 were granted.
Maybe the hats should be Make America Magical Again.