Nick Miroff’s story in the Washington Post, “U.S. asylum screeners to take more confrontational approach as Trump aims to turn more migrants away at the border” drives home the fact that Stephen Miller and fellow Trump administration hardliners are charging ahead with deterrence-only policies that are doomed to make the current humanitarian and refugee crisis worse. The Trump-Miller strategy is based on a worldview (refugees and migrants are a threat) and a set of assumptions (they are gaming the system to seek a better life) that fundamentally misreads why Central Americans are moving (violence, corruption, hunger and destitution) and how to craft a common sense set of workable responses (case management, legal representation, more independent adjudicators, refugee resettlement from the region, root cause alleviation).
The new changes for asylum screeners are designed to reduce the percentage of those who pass initial “credible fear” screenings. Fitting neatly alongside such Trump-Miller ideas as requiring asylum seekers to pay a fee, the new guidance for asylum screeners operates from the presumption that, as President Trump said, the asylum process is a “scam,” and that those arriving are “Some of the roughest people you’ve ever seen, people that look like they should be fighting for the UFC … you look at this guy you say ‘Wow, that’s a tough cookie!’” (no matter that it’s largely destitute Central American families fleeing for their lives). Trump thinks the asylum system is “a big fat con job.”
Unsurprisingly, Stephen Miller is a driving force behind many of the changes. As Miroff writes:
One senior DHS official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to comment, said Miller and others in the administration are struggling against an asylum officer corps that doesn’t share its immigration goals and would rather refer an applicant to the courts than risk making the wrong choice in a rushed decision with life-or-death consequences.
That’s because the Trump team is motivated by politics and the president’s hardline brand – not by effective policy or finding lasting solutions to the life-or-death consequences of the humanitarian and refugee crisis.
According to Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “The real ‘big fat con job’ is the notion that President Trump and Stephen Miller have the right solution to address this humanitarian and refugee crisis. They are failing and flailing, driven more by political brand-building than an honest diagnosis and sensible ideas. They view headline-grabbing punishment inflicted against immigrants and asylum seekers as a core part of Trump’s electoral strategy heading into 2020 and seem intent on advancing cruel and doomed-to-fail policies as a way to burnish Trump’s ‘tough guy’ credentials.”
Meanwhile, to keep up on all the changes and implications, read a new report from Sarah Pierce at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), cataloging the immigration policy changes advanced by the Trump administration. The report, “Immigration-Related Policy Changes in the First Two Years of the Trump Administration,” captures the staggering volume and pace of how formerly fringe hardline immigration policy ideas have been introduced and implemented.