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Vox’s Nicole Narea: “The demise of America’s asylum system under Trump, explained”

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Narea: “The US asylum system has almost become unrecognizable.”

In a detailed explainer, Nicole Narea from Vox breaks down the demise of the U.S. asylum system under Trump and the Republicans. A country that once opened its arms to immigrants seeking refuge and fleeing persecution, has now shut its doors over the last three years, making the asylum system almost unattainable.

From his “zero tolerance” debacle separating families at the border, to his “Remain in Mexico” policies targeted at migrants seeking to obtain asylum, President Trump has completely disregarded the premise of our asylum system, which is to protect people and determine on a case by case basis if their asylum claims have merit. Narea lays out seven areas where Trump “has made it all but impossible to seek asylum in the US.” It is certain that the U.S. is no longer a beacon of hope; but rather a dark pit of despair, where Trump and the Republicans have deployed convoluted policies that cause chaos, trap migrants in Mexico, ensure cruelty and danger, and make it nearly impossible for valid asylum claims to reach a court of law.

Here are Narea’s seven ways onTrump has diminished the asylum system:

1) The Trump administration wants to send migrants back to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador

El Salvador has the highest homicide rate in the world. Honduras is fifth, Guatemala is 16th, and Mexico is 19th, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Each country has rampant government corruption and high rates of violence against women and LGBTQ individuals, and remain hotspots for international criminal gang activity. The US State Department has issued travel warnings for US citizens in all four countries.

The administration has nevertheless sought to send migrants back to those countries.

…2) Mexico has become the choke point: The journey through Mexico is long and treacherous

….Mexico has consequently created a bottleneck for asylum seekers. If detained and deported by Mexican authorities, they may never even be able to reach the US border in order to claim asylum.

…3) Getting in line at the US-Mexico border doesn’t work anymore: 

If asylum seekers reach the southern border, they face a choice: either line up at a port of entry and wait to be processed by CBP officers, or try to cross the border without authorization. But the Trump administration has made waiting untenable.

…4) There is no guarantee of entry to the US

Previously, both those who waited in line at the border and those who were apprehended between ports of entry would have been held at a CBP processing facility until a border agent determined whether they should be released, transferred to ICE detention, or deported. But now, most are quickly sent back to Mexico under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, officially known as the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP).

The policy, which was unveiled in January, applies to both those processed at ports of entry and those apprehended while trying to cross the border without authorization. It allows the government to send migrants with credible asylum claims back to Mexico while they await a final decision on their applications. About 55,000 migrants have been subject to the policy as of October, a CBP spokesperson told Vox. They have been allowed to enter the US only to attend their immigration court hearings, and largely unable to access legal counsel.

…5) Trump has massively expanded the detention of asylum seekers

…Announced in April 2018, the zero tolerance policy coincided with a shift in the demographics of migrants showing up at the border: Families now make up the majority of those apprehended, rather than single adult males.

As a result, the Trump administration has sent record numbers of asylum-seeking families to immigration detention who typically would have been released under previous administrations. The government’s rationale was that the practice of releasing families — what Trump has called “catch and release” — was encouraging migrants to come to the US and that keeping them in detention while their immigration cases were underway would deter further migration.

…6) Asylum seekers aren’t getting a fair day in court

…As of June, migrants with active immigration cases have been waiting an average of almost two years for a decision.

Immigrants typically have a short initial hearing before a judge and a government attorney to learn about their rights and how their case will proceed. They are usually given time to retain a lawyer and prepare their case, which includes gathering documents attesting to experiences that might make them eligible for relief from deportation or protections under the asylum system or international torture agreements.

They then have to wait for another hearing in which they actually argue why they should be permitted to remain in the US before an immigration judge makes a decision on their case.

…7) Some migrants never set foot in a courtroom at all

The government has the power to put some migrants in what’s called “expedited removal proceedings,” under which they can be deported in a matter of days without seeing a judge or an attorney. It currently applies to individuals who are arrested within 100 miles of a land border within two weeks of their arrival.

But in July, Trump tried to expand who can be subjected to expedited removal, issuing a rule that would have also included immigrants found anywhere in the US if they arrived within the last two years — an estimated 20,000 people annually. That rule has been blocked temporarily as part of an ongoing legal challenge, but it could still be revived.

The administration also wants to make it much more difficult for asylum seekers to get work permits during the months or years it takes for their claims to make their way through court. For non-detained asylum seekers who cannot afford to be unemployed and are not eligible for most public benefits, that means they would need to either give up their asylum claims in the US altogether or find under-the-table jobs in the shadow economy.