I have barely posted in the last couple of months, and may not post much more for a time. I have found myself faced with unexpectedly having to move after 15 years at the same address. More about that later. This has also meant that I haven’t been able until now to discuss the latest Trump scandal — the human rights abuse at our southern borders. I want to make up for some lost time.
The last few days have been among the last few nightmarish of the Trump presidency so far. In the light of the Helsinki press conference with Putin, even some Republicans are suggesting that Trump may have committed treason with his careless unconcern about that fact that Russia appears to have bought the 2016 election. They’re just not certain whether they should impeach him for it. (Keep in mind that Bill Clinton was impeached for committing perjury, Nixon for ordering a “second-rater burglary” — petty crimes compared to this).
You know what I say? Forget Russia: Trump should be impeached for the human rights abuses at our southern border – where he is depriving many helpless endangered people of their rights under the U.S. Constitution, permanently traumatizing thousands of children and their parents, and doing all of this with deliberate and calculated malice and cruelty.
In May it was revealed that the administration was adopting a new “zero tolerance” policy for “illegal immigration.” Anyone caught crossing the U.S. border anywhere but at a legal entry point would be charged with a felony. Their children would be removed from them immediately, as children can’t be kept with incarcerated parents. We were assured that those crossing at the legal entry points would not be prosecuted. Trump’s supporters smugly echo his words: “Don’t come to our country illegally — that’s the solution.”
More than 2,500 children have been separated according to this policy and have been housed in separate detention centers in often appalling conditions. The public outcry was so enormous that Trump was finally obliged to back down. He and his administration are now faced with having to return the children to their parents by court order by July 26.
But more and more evidence and eyewitness reports suggest that the plan seems to have been quite otherwise: to charge all those seeking asylum with a felony in attempting to enter the U.S. even if they used the legal port of entry, and to tell them they could get their children back only if they waved their asylum claims. Once they had done this, parents and children would be deported — provided the children could be found. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the Administration has never had any coherent plan for re-uniting children and parents.
“But they entered illegally!. . . “ Take a look at what this actually means.
A woman named Lauren Pope got into a Facebook discussion with some anti-illegal immigrant folks. She had an impressive array of facts on her side, but ended up replying to a bunch of screaming people spouting simplistic rhetoric, false assumptions, and unadulterated anger at the “illegals.”
She eventually edited her discussion down to an impressive look at the reality involved in our border dispute.
Sounds rational, right? Don’t come into our country illegally. Follow the legal process. Wait in line. I mean, we’ve all heard these things. The problem is that crossing a border illegally doesn’t actually prevent you from applying for asylum. In fact, you MUST be physically present on American soil to file for asylum. Huh? Let’s talk a bit about the asylum process in America.
One thing that we’ve heard a lot over the past few weeks is that if someone wants to seek asylum in America, they should present themselves at a port of entry. And it is true, presenting at a port of entry IS a path to an affirmative asylum claim.
Here’s the problem, though. Our government has been *illegally* preventing people from entering the country if they suspect that they are attempting to seek asylum. We’ve gone so far as to intimidate people on the other side of the border to prevent crossings. Families have been kept waiting in the searing sun for days upon days, with no intention to ever let them in, for the express purpose of getting them to turn away. Again, THIS IS ILLEGAL. However, it’s happening.
After waiting for days in the sun, they discover that if they illegally cross into the country, then they can declare themselves for asylum on the other side.
THIS IS 100% TRUE. An immigrant, regardless of how they entered the country, has a year to declare themselves and apply for asylum once they enter the US. How you got into the country is completely irrelevant.
Now, some people may say, “Ok, so I guess that’s the law, but I mean they still broke the law by crossing the border, why didn’t they just go to an embassy or something?”
Well, here’s the thing. You can not apply for asylum at an embassy. An embassy can only process *refugee* applications. And, of course, we all know that we have slashed refugee admissions since the beginning of the Trump administration. Also, the regulations about who qualifies as a refugee are of course different than who qualifies as an asylum seeker. So yes, *refugees* can apply at a US embassy, but affirmative asylum seekers MUST be physically present in the US.
Got it? Good.
So, we’ve blocked the legal border crossing path (Policy Change # 1), so the ONLY way that a person can apply for affirmative asylum is to somehow get into America and then present themselves for asylum.
This is where Policy Change #2 comes in. Previously, when a person illegally crossed into the US and presented themselves for asylum, they would be ticketed for the (misdemeanor) crime of Illegal Entry and then given a date to begin processing their asylum claim.
At this point the person who crossed illegally and the person who crossed at the port of entry are indistinguishable in terms of legality and process. Their claims were processed and they were either granted or rejected.
The Trump Administration changed this policy. Instead of self-reporting asylum seekers being ticketed and then given a date to begin their asylum processing, they are simply being *detained*.
In fact, we’ve even been detaining the very few people who are able to somehow get through a port of entry. People who’ve broken zero laws.
This is what triggered the child separation crisis . It is new. Parents who anticipated that they would pay a modest fine ($50-$250) were instead arrested and their children were taken from them.
Again, I need to remind you that entering the country illegally has absolutely no baring on your asylum eligibility and that a person MUST be physically present in the US in order to claim asylum.
So, after their children were ripped from their arms, these parents have accepted deportation orders in exchange for dropping their asylum requests with the promise that if they do so their children will be returned.
Essentially, their children are being used as blackmail to prevent people from continuing their COMPLETELY LEGAL applications for asylum.
I know that was a lot to take in, but now I’m going to address some common objections that I have seen about this entire process.
“Doesn’t the UN require that asylum seekers stop at the First Safe Country to apply for asylum?”
No. This is a *discretionary* rule, meaning that countries are free to decide for themselves if they will enforce it or not. We have historically not (aside from a special relationship with Canada). However, if we did want to enforce this rule, there are very specific restrictions that must be followed in order to send someone back to this “First Safe Country”. The biggest one is that the country must accept the asylum seeker in the first place. Mexico has been unwilling to do this, so even if we ignore *their* human rights violations which call into question if they are actually “safe” we simply can not demand someone return to a country that will not acknowledge them.
“They broke the law!”
Yes, they broke a misdemeanor law that does not impact their ability to apply for asylum in any way. And, they broke it in order to *comply* with our own immigration laws and in response to our own illegal policies.
“We can’t let everyone in!”
Logistics aside, this is all simply talking about allowing someone to begin the asylum process. No one is suggesting that everyone who asks for asylum should have it automatically granted. We’re just saying that no one should be blackmailed with never seeing their children again so they abandon their claim.
“Nothing has changed. This policy has been around for 30 years!”
Blocking Ports of Entry to asylum seekers and detaining people for misdemeanor charges has created a crisis situation in which there is currently NO LEGAL WAY for ANYONE to claim asylum aside from the whim of a random agent. (source)
What people harping on “legality” don’t realize is that legality means nothing to Trump, Attorney General Sessions and Stephen Miller, the alt-right advisor who actually came up with the policy. They are as much against legal immigration as they are the illegal kind. They are racists and white nationalists and want to keep foreigners out.
This is why Sessions has been busy reviewing cases of asylum that have been handled by the courts, reducing as much as possible the legal grounds for asylum. No longer do fear of domestic violence or fear of gangs or the drug cartels they’re connected with qualify. Keeping everyone out, legal or illegal — it’s the reason for the whole cruel game.