Another immigrant crisis

Nov 15, 2018-

Public’ safety, national security and the rule of law are among the incantations the Trump administration likes to chant when rolling out one of its deliberately and pointlessly cruel immigration policies. It evidently hopes that repetition will somehow insulate its actions from public or judicial scrutiny. President Trump’s newest proclamation, made public on Friday, is yet another expression of this tactic. This time, Mr. Trump’s claim is that what’s happening hundreds of miles south of the United States-Mexico border “has precipitated a crisis” requiring extreme measures. 

The latest rule enacts a wholesale, 90-day entry ban on any person trying to seek asylum at a place other than a port of entry. Requesting asylum anywhere else—say, after being captured crossing the Rio Grande—“would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” The American border is not being overrun by asylum-seekers. 

The number of people applying for asylum has nearly doubled in the past two years, but apprehensions for illegal crossings remain far below historical highs. The United States has clear laws governing the asylum process and well-funded agencies to enforce those laws. There may well be a resource problem to process and adjudicate all outstanding asylum claims, but that does not a crisis make. The new regulation is legally sound. As it stands, federal asylum law is unambiguous: Any person who is either “physically present” or “arrives” in the United States, no matter if said person arrived “at a designated port of arrival” or not, is entitled to apply for asylum. 

Desperate migrants, many of them fleeing violence or persecution with their families, cannot be expected to know the new rule Mr. Trump has imposed—only that asylum, as a matter of international law, may be within reach once they touch American soil. The president can’t, with the stroke of a pen, disregard people with credible asylum claims who don’t present themselves at a port of entry.

Published: 15-11-2018 07:50

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