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Another Sad Trump and Republican Legacy: The End of Asylum

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The Trump administration is ending asylum by administrative fiat, circumventing Congress to change settled law that has been a cornerstone of America’s welcoming tradition since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980 — emanating from a post-World War II commitment to “never again” allow the vulnerable to be victims of state persecution or states that are unwilling or unable to protect the vulnerable.

In just the last few days, news reports have shed light on the administration’s relentless assault on this once-revered tradition and the cruelty and chaos with which it is being implemented: 

  • Even more families separated at the border: The Trump administration admitted to separating an additional 1,556 parents from their children, bringing the number of families separated to a startling 5,400. According to The Associated Press, this includes “Five [children] were under a year old, 26 were a year old, 40 were 2 years old, 76 were 3, and 60 were 4.”  As ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt noted, “It is shocking that 1,556 more families — including babies and toddlers — join the thousands of others already torn apart by this inhumane and illegal policy. Families have suffered tremendously, and some may never recover. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated.”
  • A pilot fast-track deportation program: In El Paso, the administration is testing a fast-track deportation policy, allowing asylum seekers just one day to contact a family member or a lawyer before their credible fear interview, pushing people through a truncated asylum process in just ten days and in effect, fully denying the most vulnerable any semblance of due process.
  • Teenagers held in black site detention centers: ICE is indefinitely detaining immigrant teenagers in undisclosed locations and under unknown conditions. As Human rights researcher Angelina Godoy argued, “the level of aggressiveness with which they are pursuing secrecy should alarm us.”
  • Criminality among CBP agents reaches 5 year high: Quartz reports on an undisclosed internal government report revealing that “Criminal misconduct by US border officers has reached a five-year high…The offenses range from fraud to capital murder…This uptick in misconduct may be in part the result of a hiring surge ordered by US president Donald Trump”
  • Asylum seekers face double jeopardy: As ProPublica’s Dara Lind revealed, these asylum-seekers, forced to return to Mexico to await their hearings under the administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, may now be ineligible for asylum because of their stint in Mexico. So, following the law is putting them in legal jeopardy.
  • Taken together, these policies are causing irreparable damage: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a new report Trauma at the Border: The Human Cost of Inhumane Immigration Policies detailing the “widespread, long-term, and [potentially] irreversible physical, mental and emotional trauma” of family separation and indefinite detention for immigrants.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “America has a 50 year tradition of offering an imperfect but important legal process by which those fleeing for their lives had a lawful opportunity to present their case and seek refuge. Under Trump, Stephen Miller and the Republicans, this administration has made it virtually impossible for people fleeing violence and persecution to access that process, denying refugees a fair shot in what amounts to a life-and-death decision. Bypassing Congress, they have used a blizzard of administrative, regulatory and practice restrictions to destroy America’s asylum process. They are closing the door on America’s tradition of rescuing refugees, and they are doing so unilaterally. The Statue of Liberty weeps.”