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January 14, 2021

A timely reversal

Opinion

January 14, 2021

The United States has made a commitment – by law and by treaty – to protect people who come to this country fleeing persecution. But the Trump administration relentlessly attacked people seeking protection and the very concept of asylum. It is now nearly impossible for anyone to secure asylum, no matter how strong their claim or fear. President-elect Biden has the opportunity to restore our asylum system, as he has promised to do. Unwinding Trump’s harmful and unlawful policies will be just the start to making our system more efficient, fair, and humane. A reversal is simply not enough — we must build our asylum system back better.

The asylum system Trump unilaterally destroyed was in place since 1980 when Congress passed the bipartisan Refugee Act, enshrining in federal law the nation’s international commitment to provide safety for people fleeing danger. These laws allow anyone who has been persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group to request asylum, which if granted allows them to live and work in the US and get on a path to citizenship. Under our current law, individuals who arrive at the border and express a fear of returning to their home countries are either placed directly in a process to decide their asylum claims or screened further to determine if they could ultimately be granted asylum. If they pass, they are placed in the asylum process. Either way, they wait in the U.S. while a judge decides their case.

After Trump, this system is in shambles. People seeking asylum confront an alphabet soup of new anti-immigrant policies that ensure no one gets a fair shake. Biden must work swiftly to end these harmful policies and restore our asylum system. First, he must end the disingenuously named ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’ or MPP, under which people seeking refuge are forcibly sent to Mexico, where they languish in dangerous conditions sometimes for more than a year. Refugee camps in Mexico are now filled with people sent there by the US with no consideration of their asylum claims. Many of these individuals and families have experienced violence, extortion, and kidnapping, and some have even been killed. The entire concept of asylum is that it is an urgent request – that coming to the US is critical to one’s safety – so being forced to remain in danger indefinitely is contrary to asylum’s core purpose.

Among those trapped in Mexico are the ACLU’s clients in Nora v Wolf, who have been forced to wait indefinitely in Tamaulipas, one of the most violent and lawless areas in the world. One family was kidnapped twice; the mother and her eldest daughter were gang raped over a period of days by cartel members.

Excerpted: ‘Biden Must Follow Through With Promise to Restore US Asylum’

Commondreams.org