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The New York Times reports that around 200 people, mostly women and children fleeing violence, have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border after a very long and very public journey to seek protection from violent situations in their home countries. Kirk Semple and Miriam Jordan report, “A long, grueling journey gave way to what could be a long, uncertain asylum process Sunday as a caravan of immigrants finally reached the border between the United States and Mexico.”
Instead of properly applying a carefully developed and practiced law to this small group of mainly women and children, Trump has spent weeks scaring the public. At a time when all objective sources agree that the border is the most secure it has ever been, Trump continues to act like the situation is “out of control” in order to justify his incessant call for a wall.
Here are the key facts:
FACT 1: People who properly present themselves to our border authorities and request humanitarian protection are following the law. Good government requires that our border authorities properly and expeditiously administer that law.
When a person arrives at a designated U.S. port of entry and seeks from border authorities protection from persecution in his or her home country, U.S. law requires that the individual be interviewed by USCIS to determine whether he/she has a credible fear. If a credible fear is established, which only means he/she has a “significant possibility” of proving an asylum claim, the individual is then referred to the immigration court for a full hearing on her claim. If credible fear is not established, the individual’s removal proceeding resumes.
FACT 2: The road from an asylum request to winning a case is long and arduous. There is no guarantee of protection, just an opportunity to state a claim and be properly considered for asylum.
Many people arriving to the United States have fled horrific violence in their home countries and are coming to legally apply for asylum at the U.S. border. They face an arduous journey through a difficult asylum process.
Many, we expect, will be detained in poorly managed immigration jails, a horrible experience that will only compound the traumas they are already dealing with. Only those who can demonstrate a “credible fear” of persecution will be permitted to have their cases heard by an immigration judge.
Those who are able to continue the asylum process then face months, and in some cases years, of separation from children and spouses with no guarantee that, in the end, they will not deported to horrific violence from which they may have fled.
FACT 3: U.S. refugee and asylum law is grounded in decades of U.S. and international law and practice, a law and practice that was developed as a result of the horrific World War II refugee crisis and to prevent similar situations in the future.
The U.S. government has decades of practice and experience in implementing refugee and asylum law. After millions of people were displaced as a result of the horrors of World War II, the international community created international agreements to provide protection for those fleeing persecution. Almost 150 countries adhere to this agreement and many, including the United States, have very carefully developed and refined their laws over the last six decades to properly ensure protection for those legitimately seeking protection.
Under that well-established and respected law, individuals may seek protection from persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
FACT 4: The border is more secure than it has ever been. We should be more than ready to address their asylum claims – and indeed, we must under the law.
The fact is, the border is more secure than ever. The Border Patrol accepts and processes requests for asylum like these every single day. And, they have a legal obligation to do so. While Trump may have “instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country,” he cannot revise U.S. law via tweet.
The administration has been well aware of this group’s journey and plans for weeks, as evidenced by President Trump’s obsessive tweeting about the need for a wall to keep them out. They had plenty of time to put resources where they would be needed so that they can implement the law as required.
Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch, a new project of America’s Voice, said:
“This administration has all the tools and resources to address this humanitarian situation. Instead of running from it, it should uphold the rule of law, apply it to this group, and appropriately ferret legitimate claims of asylum, as required under the law.”
“We are a nation founded by refugees seeking religious freedom. We must continue to uphold the rule of law that values life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must do so not only in words but in actions, as required here.”