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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Migrants wait in Tijuana, Mexico, last week before being transported by Mexican authorities to the San Ysidro port of entry to begin the process of applying for asylum in the United States.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019 1:00 am

Handling of asylum inhumane, deceitful

Policy defies US values; 'gaming' claim unfounded

Perry Shilts

President Donald Trump's war on brown people rages on. Following the failure of his condemned child separation policy, Trump renewed his attack in December by creating new migrant protection protocols.

Trump and Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen declared that in an effort to defeat those immigrants who were “gaming” the asylum system, the existing policy of “catch and release” would be changed to “catch and return.”

In other words, immigrants legally applying for asylum would be returned to Mexico to await their review hearing, instead of being released pending that hearing.

Nielsen claims that Mexico, which cannot protect its own citizens, will set up a system to protect our asylum seekers. Does this remind you of anything? (“And who's going to pay for it?”)

The Catholic Church denounced the change immediately: “Today, the administration has turned its back on our legal and moral obligations.”

The American Immigration Lawyers Association vehemently opposed the change as Mexico does not have any established infrastructure or relief system for our asylum-seekers.

More importantly, if these immigrants are not released, they will lose ready access to attorneys who can assist them at their asylum hearing. The AILA said an attorney-represented immigrant is five times more likely to receive asylum then an unrepresented one.

Trump and Nielsen's underlying premise for this historic change is incorrect and another poorly disguised attack on brown people. Trump and Neilsen claim the asylum “game” is played by appearing at our border, receiving a court date, getting released into this country while waiting, and then disappearing, hence the immediate need for change in treatment.

Two points: First, our Department of Justice's records identify that in 2017, 89 percent of asylum-seekers were present for their hearings, so they don't disappear! Another blatant lie!

Second, Neilsen's reference to asylum seeking being a “game” is a pathetic misstatement. This “game” requires potentially walking for at least 1,500 miles from the southern border of dangerous Mexico to the U.S. Imagine walking from St. Louis to Phoenix in the summer months. Sounds like a fun “game.”

While this change in policy is un-American, non-Christian, unnecessary and inhumane, it also creates an incentive for our asylum system to forever remain unrepaired.

Trump and his old white men buddies in Congress lose any incentive to repair the system with its existing backlog of 800,000 cases.

Why would they ever care if these asylum-seekers had to languish for months or years in Mexico, waiting for their case to be heard?

Our current asylum program flows from our Refugee Act of 1980, which declares, “It is the historic policy of the United States to respond to the urgent needs of persons subject to persecution in their homeland.”

Certainly, the dynamics of immigration and asylum-seeking have changed in the last 39 years.

But even so, do we want Trump to unilaterally compromise a historic American policy?

Ask yourself, is it Trump's “stable genius” intellect or his “shutdown” dealmaking or his business's four bankruptcies that gives you this confidence? Or is it the moral compass he provides with his three marriages, multiple mistresses, and 17 disclosed claims of sexual battery? Or is it that multiple old white men are willing to lie for him to the FBI to cover up who knows what? Or is it his Christian faith, though he admits he has never asked for the Lord's forgiveness because he has not felt it was necessary?

This is not an attack on Republicans. Neither presidents Reagan nor Bush, nor nominees McCain or Romney, ever identified their support for this change, then or now.

It's old white man Trump harming hundreds of thousands with complete indifference, again!

Asylum seeking and illegal border crossings are two different things. The first is an established legal process and the second is a problem that requires a comprehensive approach that cannot be defeated by a $300 extension ladder from Home Depot.

Trump's unilateral actions against the Dreamers, our TPS guests, and now, asylum-seekers, are un-American, non-Christian and wrong. Given that old white men continue to be the problem, women and young adults, stand up!