Presidential Proclamation: Needless and Undermines U.S. Asylum System
Published on November 13, 2018
There is no crisis at the border. Overall migration to our southern border is at a historic low. The number of families and children seeking protection has increased as conditions in Central America have deteriorated, especially for young people.
There is no need for a Presidential Proclamation to close the United States to all but a few vulnerable immigrants seeking safety. We are a nation that can handle vulnerable people, including children, fleeing to the United States and applying for asylum.
The President’s order and subsequent information provided by USCIS specifically limits the ability of unaccompanied children to ask for asylum.
Recognizing the reality facing individuals fleeing for their lives, U.S. law affords the opportunity to apply for asylum to individuals arriving in the U.S. “whether or not at a designated port of arrival.” A person fleeing persecution often cannot choose where at the border to seek safety. A child alone is often at the mercy of other adults, such as human smugglers and other strangers, and has even less control over how they will arrive at our country to ask for protection.
Of adults and families screened for fear of persecution during expedited removal processing in the last year, 89 percent have been found by U.S. officials to have a credible fear of returning to their home countries and therefore, under U.S. law, may seek protection in the United States. The fact that the “vast majority” pass this initial screening indicates that many may be in grave danger.
The number of those who do not ultimately gain protection is not necessarily an indication of merit, but does show the deep problems with our immigration system. Most asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children), do not have attorneys, without which they cannot meaningfully access our system or have a fair chance to make their case.
Some may not be eligible under U.S. law to gain asylum. But our laws and our values dictate that they must have a fair chance to tell their story. Otherwise, we could be sending people, including children, back to grave harm and even death.
The President’s Proclamation says several times that those coming to the United States appear to have no lawful basis for admission into our country, effectively pre-judging their claims without any basis, including the claims of unaccompanied children and children traveling with their families.
Over the past several months, many people have been turned away from asking for protection at the ports of entry. They have been made to wait in dangerous conditions on bridges in Mexico for their turn to speak with an official. These are the same ports of entry to which the Administration is now directing asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children.
Children who enter with a parent and may have their own legal case for protection will also be subject to this bar without the guarantee of an attorney who can explain their rights or screen their case.
The Administration is using cost and limited capacity to process protection claims to justify their actions. However, this same Administration is needlessly holding unaccompanied children in tent cities that cost upwards of $700/day.
This wholly unnecessary Proclamation completely undermines the U.S. asylum system and does not make us safer.