Immigration

The Party of Trump Is Trying to Gut America's Asylum Process

A GOP bill would set up impossible obstacles for fleeing foreigners

|

Are there limits to nativism in the party of Trump? The latest indication from the House of Representatives is that the answer is "no." Yesterday, the

Refugee Camp
Oxfam via Foter

committee that controls immigration policy passed a bill to gut America's asylum process, dooming many thousands of desperate people to a U.S. taxpayer-funded flight back to violence and persecution.

The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act would radically increase the evidentiary burden for asylum seekers simply to apply for asylum. Current law requires a minimal test: articulating a credible fear of persecution. If they do this, they get a hearing in immigration court to present their full asylum claim. At that point they have to offer copious proof of their claim before they are extended the right to live permanently in the United States.

The new bill would now require asylum seekers to prove when they are detained at the border that it is "more probable than not" that their claims are true in order to just get a hearing.

Under this heightened standard, words alone will generally no longer suffice. Asylum seekers will need to carry proof of persecution with them. This is absurd. Many asylees have to flee under cover of darkness or swim through streams to escape their persecutors. They often set out without any concept of where they will end up, let alone with documentary evidence in their pockets.

As the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project notes, "preparing an asylum application requires a lot of work." It necessitates gathering, if available, photographs, medical reports, written threats, witness statements, police reports, and reports on human rights in their country of origin. Many legitimate asylum seekers lose their cases because they cannot obtain such evidence even after months to prepare for their court appearance. It is a delusion to expect people to have it at the border.

In one asylum case, a Muslim woman fled Morocco due to abuse from her conservative Muslim father. She escaped to the United States and claimed a credible fear of persecution. The officer allowed her in. Only then was she able to document the claim with testimony from her aunt and the State Department's report on the inability of Moroccan women to seek protection from abusive male family members.

As the Tahiri Justice Center, which serves women fleeing violence, stated, "H.R. 391's heightened screening standard will, as intended, wrongfully prevent women and girls fleeing horrific violence from even presenting their cases in court." The bill's sponsor, now-former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, responded to these concerns last year by simply saying, "It is not too much to ask that the alien seeking refuge in the United States be required to tell the truth." But this response is neither here nor there: they already must tell the truth. The question is how and when to verify it.

For these reasons, when Congress created the "credible fear" process in 1996, it did so with the clear intent that it would not create an adversarial process that this bill now seeks to do. The initial draft of the 1996 legislation had included the "more probable than not" language, but when opponents noted these problems, the bill's Republican authors removed it. Those were more sensible times, apparently!

These asylum changes would not simply apply to the people fleeing gangs in Central America but also to Syrian Christians fleeing the Islamic State. A number of Syrian Christians showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border last year to apply for asylum after traveling across several continents. Despite the fact that the State Department has found that ISIS is carrying out a "genocide" of Christians in its territory, if this law had been in place then, they would either have been deported from the border or consigned to a stateless existence in the U.S.

"Genocide" appropriately brings to mind the Holocaust. The entire asylum system came out of America's complicity in that awful crime, via its systematic denial of visas to German Jews and particularly its monstrous decision to compel the M.S. St. Louis to return its cargo of 937 Jews. The Nazis killed 255 of them in death camps or elsewhere on their return, their fate heartbreakingly depicted in the movie the Voyage of the Damned.

The State Department used similar documentary requirements as a tool to keep out German Jews just as the Holocaust ramped up. Our failure then is now our moral compass. If our proposals today would have kept out those passengers, then they are unfit for discussion.

Against these considerations, the bill's authors offer only the fear that many people claim asylum simply to gain entrance, and "something must be done" (a favorite phrase in government). But the U.S. experienced an equally large surge of asylum seekers in the mid-1990s, and Congress adopted a much more moderate reform—"the credible fear process"—which Congress today wants to gut.

Moreover, while some asylum applicants are undoubtedly gaming the system, the best evidence indicates that it mostly works as intended, giving many legitimate claimants the opportunity to apply. Indeed, a majority of asylum applicants in immigration courts prove their claims, if they are able to obtain immigration counsel.

This draconian bill—which would deny safe haven in numerous other abhorrent ways—demonstrates the depths to which the party of Trump has fallen. For years, a level of bipartisan common decency protected those who sought refuge in America. Now we can only hope partisan gridlock offers the same level of protection.

David Bier is an immigration policy analyst at The Cato Institute

NEXT: Jeff Sessions' attack on sanctuary cities is also an assault on federalism and separation of powers [updated with a response to Leah Litman]

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. In effect, he notes, the bill harkens to pre-World War II days when fleeing Jews were sent back to Nazi Germany to face death camps.

    Welp, that’s out of the way already.

  2. Godwined the bill before it passed.

    1. +1 Hakenkreuzflagge

  3. A number of Syrian Christians showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border last year to apply for asylum after traveling across several continents. Given that the State Department has found that ISIS is carrying out a “genocide” of Christians in its territory. If this law had been in place then, they would either been deported from the border or consigned to a stateless existence in the U.S.

    Or they could have applied for asylum in one of the many countries on the several continents they crossed before they reached the US.

    1. It’d be lovely for us to bring in the victims of genocide.

      If we limit the refugees to Christians, however, the Left will go apoplectic.

      Yes, Middle Eastern Christians have been the victims of a genocide for a little while now. The same Left that demands more refugees seems to have major problems with targeting refugee status for actual, honest-to-God nowhere-else-to-go refugees.

    2. Or they could have applied for asylum in one of the many countries on the several continents they crossed before they reached the US.

      This.

  4. would not simply apply to the people fleeing gangs in Central America

    You mean, those gangs that they recreated in America after they got here?

  5. Yesterday, the Committee that controls immigration policy passed a bill to gut America’s asylum process, dooming many thousands of desperate people to a U.S. taxpayer-funded flight back to violence and persecution.
    GOOD! Even better would be to deny people from these shit holes from even making it to our shores. Save taxpayer money that way.

    Let them fight for THEIR home before they come here. We have enough people.

    1. loveconstitution1789- Yeah. Let the women and children form righteous unarmed battalions. Their reward shall be in the hereafter. And let me apologize to you and all your ancestors on behalf of all former economic and religious refugees for the land grab and the smallpox. I mean, right?

      1. Fat Stanley, you want to cough up your spare bedroom, or get your fat ass off the couch and go fight for them, be my guest (but you better be responsible for *all* the expenses. Not a drop of welfare). Leave me out of it.

  6. A number of Syrian Christians showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border last year to apply for asylum after traveling across several continents.

    Refugees and asylum-seekers are supposed to ask for sanctuary in the first country that they’re at when they’re safely out of the place where they’re being prosecuted. If they’re “traveling across several continents” then that means that they either (a) were denied refugee status in multiple countries before they reached the United States or (b) they passed up multiple (closer) countries that would have taken them in to travel further to the United States.

  7. Yesterday, the Committee that controls immigration policy passed a bill to gut America’s asylum process, dooming many thousands of desperate people to a U.S. taxpayer-funded flight back to violence and persecution.

    That seems unnecessary. Didn’t Justin Trudeau say that Canada would gladly take in any refugees that the United States didn’t want? Maybe if we remind him of his promise, he might even chip in for the airfare.

  8. A number of Syrian Christians showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border last year

    That we know were denied access under the Obama administration. However if they were mooslims they would have been let in

    1. There were some sad/funny stories about Syrian Christians who attempted to get asylum in Germany last year. At the hearing, the German govt would provide Arabic-speaking translators, who are overwhelmingly likely to be Muslim of course. In several cases, once the Muslim translator discovered that the applicant was a Christian, they would change the applicant’s words so that it sounded like they were economic migrants and not refugees.

      1. You hit the nail right on the head! The translators are most likely Muslim Brotherhood (like Obama) and they can’t have those Christians coming in and spill the beans on their plans to recruit more ISIS type terrorist arriving here in America.

      2. As if the German government was actually deporting people whose asylum applications were rejected.

        Also, the Syrian Christian asylum seekers in Poland brought in by the preceding government left for Germoney too so it’s not like being Christian precludes them from being economic migrants.

        1. Oh yes, the German government is deporting people quite aggressively. Germany is a law and order country. Just as important, refugees are clearly not considered immigrants and are kept separate from the population.

  9. “Genocide” appropriately brings to mind the Holocaust. The entire asylum system came out of America’s complicity in that awful crime, via its systematic denial of visas to German Jews

    1. The Holocaust was not known about at the time this happened.

    2. Refusing to save someone who you have no obligation to save is not remotely the same as killing them or being complicit in their killing.

    3. Those people tended to have money and marketable skills, so it was clear that they were not economic migrants.

    1. The Holocaust is NEVER known about at the time it is happening… Even if there is no excuse for not knowing, apparently.

  10. It’s almost like the lunatics are in charge of the asylum process.

    1. You can shorten that to four words. Lunatics are in charge.

  11. I’ll just leave this here:
    \
    http://nationalinterest.org/fe…..mind-21506

  12. Ah… I see now.

    There are two ways to have a biased immigration system, you see: you can either just select one group for disfavored status (eg “The Bannon Approach)…

    Or you can ban both… and then carve out an exception for the one you favor. No Christian will be turned away- only “those other ones”.

    These Eth-Nat slime are as disingenuous and manipulative as their gun-banning cousins.

  13. “…dooming many thousands of desperate people to a U.S. taxpayer-funded flight back to violence and persecution.”

    Don’t forget rape, torture and death. If they’re not good enough to work for Trump, send ’em back. http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/20/…..index.html

    I’m stunned that people fail to connect a reasonable, compassionate immigration policy with international moral authority. Canada is standing on the high ground.

    1. I’m stunned that people fail to connect a reasonable, compassionate immigration policy with international moral authority. Canada is standing on the high ground.

      “Moral authority”.

      Sure.

      A country with criminal penalties for “hate speech” has no moral ground from which to stand.

      Hey, I feel for the refugees. Sadly, there are billions of people in the world whose lives are rather shitty. It’s not our job to fix that. The world has asked us to STOP trying to help and, well, we’re doing so.

      Be careful what you ask for.

    2. Canada’s PM said that his country would take in any refugees that the United States wouldn’t admit. I’m sure that any minute now he will be calling the White House to coordinate travel plans.

      1. Well, in World War I, Germany shipped Lenin into Russia without asking Russian permission.

        Perhaps that idea has some merit…

  14. Great work, not even a mention that these people are eligible for full welfare benefits as soon as they arrive in the US.

    You will go far at Reason where Open Borders advocacy means never talking about the costs of such policy. Its all sunshine and “Freedom”.

    g to the USA where they can

  15. I thought the goal was for the US to stop trying to fix all of the world’s problems.

    This is part of that.

    I feel really bad that all of these people reside in utter shitholes.

    It’s not our job to fix that.

  16. Moreover, while some asylum applicants are undoubtedly gaming the system, the best evidence indicates that it mostly works as intended, giving many legitimate claimants the opportunity to apply. Indeed, a majority of asylum applicants in immigration courts prove their claims, if they are able to obtain immigration counsel.

    In 2016, the majority was about 52%.

    Not exactly overwhelming proof that the system works.

    If any other system failed 48% of the time, it wouldn’t be held up as being beyond change.

    1. “Sixty percent of the time, it works every time!” — Brian Fantana, Anchorman

  17. A number of Syrian Christians showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border last year to apply for asylum after traveling across several continents.

    At the risk of being insensitive — they didn’t apply for refugee status in Mexico…why?

  18. I don’t know how we’ll survive without the next tsarnaevs.

  19. “Under this heightened standard, words alone will generally no longer suffice. Asylum seekers will need to carry proof of persecution with them. This is absurd”

    Given that America’s borders are with Canada and Mexico, it doesn’t seem absurd to me at all.

  20. very nice post. I like it. Thanks for sharing this information.
    Tinder is the best online chatting application. Try it.
    http://www.tinder-pc-download.com/ tinder for pc
    http://www.tinder-pc-download.com/ tinder download

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.