Thursday, October 10, 2019

Trump's new asylum policy a game-changer on immigration - By Dale L. Wilcox

A fortified border wall is a powerful deterrent to illegal migration.  Probably more powerful is the lure of a porous, loophole-riddled immigration system that attracts aliens who know they can live and work in America for months or years until a backlogged court system finally hears their cases.  The wall is being built, despite aggressive opposition.  Now the immigration system is getting a much needed overhaul.
While the nation's capital has become consumed by the news of a potential impeachment process, scant attention has been paid to a seismic realignment of immigration policy.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acting director Kevin McAleenan recently announced initiatives designed to effectively end "catch and release" for Central American families arriving at the border.  According to the new DHS policy, the agency will no longer be releasing family units from Border Patrol stations into the interior of the country, with some exceptions for humanitarian and medical reasons.
The importance of this change cannot be overstated.  In place of what has become de facto policy of allowing entry to virtually all claimants, family units will be quickly returned to their country of origin if they do not claim a credible fear of persecution by their governments.  If they do claim fear of return, as most are likely to do, they will be returned to Mexico as their case proceeds under a new agreement with our neighbor to the south as part of the Migrant Protection Protocols that DHS implemented in January.
With the same certainty as death and taxes, anti-borders groups will be quick to attack the new policy as mean-spirited, possibly illegal and not representative of "who we are."  When viewed through a nonpartisan, apolitical perspective, the policy brings fairness and common sense to an immigration policy that for too long has been in short supply of both.
With much of the American public oblivious to it, asylum has become the back door into the United States for aliens who in many cases have no right to claim it.  After the Obama administration expanded grounds for asylum by domestic violence and gang crime as forms of persecution, the number of credible fear claims by aliens rose by 2,000 percent.  Today, immigration courts are drowning in hundreds of thousands of cases waiting to be heard.
The Trump era has represented a historic pushback on the creeping definition of asylum.  Attorney General Barr in July clarified the meaning of "social groups" in asylum law.  This is an important distinction because, until recently, even nuclear families have been interpreted as particular social groups.  That meant that almost everyone whose family members have been crime victims in certain countries may be eligible for asylum in the U.S.
Despite this important clarification, the damage in terms of misrepresenting the issue to the public has been done.  Thanks in no small part to relentless agenda-driven media coverage, the perception has been created that anyone who has experienced any form of hardship in his home country should be eligible for asylum.  This was never the intent or purpose of asylum law.
The fact is that many who file for asylum status — and later have their claims rejected — do so to pursue better economic opportunities in the U.S.  No one can blame people for seeking this, but it is not and should not be the criterion for asylum.  The policy exists to give people refuge when the government of their country makes life dangerous for them because of who they are.  To water down the definitions of asylum and allow applicants with pending cases to remain in the country only serves to clog the system and put more strain on our already overburdened immigration infrastructure.
Critics will bemoan the sea change that should come from the new DHS policy, but it is long overdue.  An immigration policy that benefits those seeking entry to the detriment of the host country is not sustainable.  A sensible asylum policy is the only way to remain a welcoming refuge for those most in need.        
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.