What happened to welcoming huddled masses? Why do we persist in operating upon false assertions of the threats posed by desperate people seeking asylum here? Today, we go beyond criticizing. We offer immediate solutions. Read on.
Less is More Out of Stock, So….
I wanted to order a copy of Less is More for a friend but upon reaching Collected Works, I was told that the publisher was printing a new paperback edition that would be available November 1, but all hard bounds were out of stock. As a result, we are postponing Book Club II until December when people will have had time to read it. Stay tuned.
What We Are Reading
We’ve been focusing upon getting the best possible information on the situation at the border and immigration public policy historically.
- Council of Foreign Relations: “Why Central American Migrants Are Arriving at the U.S. Border.” This piece offers an excellent, brief synopsis of the reasons that we are seeing a surge in refugees flowing from Central America and the policies in the US and Central America impacting that flow.
- Office of Immigration Services: “Annual Flow Report 2020 Refugees and Asylees.” This piece begins by defining terms (immigrants, refugees, asylees) and then outlines the numbers of refugees and asylees flowing to the US and resolution data (processed, detained, returned). It shows both current data (unfortunately just through 2019) and historic data going back to 1900. Bottom line: from 1990-2000 we routinely processed and resettled far larger numbers of refugees than are currently incarcerated or awaiting entrance into the US.
- The American Immigration Council: “Facts About the Current Situation at the Border.” This is an excellent piece that includes compelling charts on the numbers of people at the border and the policies that are impeding our addressing their seeking refugee status more humanely.
- The Hill: “10 Ways to Resolve the Border Crisis” This is a very straightforward piece that outlines 5 specific short term policies we can implement to improve the border crisis and five longer-term strategies for fixing our immigration process.
If there is anyone out there who would like to take a deep dive into this topic, we could use a piece on the modern history of immigration and immigration policy and then a few case histories of communities, especially rural and rust belt communities, that have successfully welcomed, supported and ultimately benefited from an infusion of refugees. If you are interested, please write to RetakeResponse@gmail.com.
How We Resolve the Border Crisis
On Monday, we posted a piece calling out Kamala Harris for telling refugees to “Stay Home” and the Biden administration for not doing enough to address the humanitarian crisis at the border. As is often the case, we got some comments on the blog with some expressing outrage with Harris and Biden and others indicating that Biden should be given more time to implement policies reversing Trump policy. We also got one excellent and more detailed comment from William Finnoff, a regular contributor. Click here to read the original post and the comments that flowed from it.
William’s critique was:
- The backlog at the border is not something that can be addressed quickly, as the legal process for adjudicating asylum applications simply takes time; [We disagree. while the adjudication process can take a year or longer, there is no need to be incarcerating refugees until their hearing. See below.]
- That there are housing, services and other supports that need to be in place; [Agreed, but these could be developed relatively quickly. See below.]
- That I had been unfair in characterizing Obama’s policies as not differing substantially from Trump’s. To this I plead guilty. Obama never implemented Muslim bans or caged children and during his administration it was rare for children and their families to be separated. So, here I was careless and unfair to Obama. As to Biden, he has severely restricted ICE arrests and is seeking $4 billion to address conditions in Central America. So, there is a difference between both Obama and Biden administrations and Trump’s. And yet, our border is closed and our message to refugees is “Stay Home.” We can do better.
Certainly, it will take time to process the thousands of refugees on the border and the thousands more who would likely come to the border if it were opened and the US were processing applications as had been our practice for decades. However, I felt there must be things we could do now to humanize the situation. It is simply intolerable to have thousands of refugees huddled on the closed Mexican border. We used to welcome those “huddled masses.”
So, I did two things: Interviewed an immigration attorney and immigration policy expert, Allegra Love and I began reviewing articles on the current and historic immigration process focusing on proven policies that could be implemented immediately to relieve the situation.
First, I interviewed Allegra Love, founder and former Director of Santa Fe Dreamers Project and currently working at the El Paso Immigration Collaborative is a project aimed at increasing access to legal representation for persons detained in the El Paso Processing Center, Otero County Processing Center, West Texas Detention Facility, Torrance County Detention Facility, and Cibola County Detention Center. EPIC’s primary goal is to assist persons who are eligible for bond, parole, or persons who have received a negative fear decision and want to fight to reverse it.
On Saturday, June 19, my interview with Allegra will be aired on KSFR, 101.1 FM or streaming live from KSFR.org and will also be posted with the Saturday blog focusing on Juneteenth. Suffice to say, it is a powerful interview, so stay tuned.
One of the points that Allegra made so eloquently is that while we have always had immigration flows and judicial review of applications for immigrants and refugees seeking legal entry into the US, the process has become more punitive, more reliant on incarceration, and now with essentially closed borders sending a strident America First message to the world. It is not human or humane. Allegra kept harkening upon how our policies seem as much geared toward causing harm as upon processing the entirely legal effort of refugees to seek asylum in our country. She wondered where American empathy and compassion had gone.
So let’s examine what we can do right now to mitigate the misery. These recommendations will not fix the immigration system, but they will immediately make the experience of tens of thousands of refugees more humane and sane. The cost could easily be borne by beginning the process of closing the private detention centers that are currently profiting off of the incarceration of refugees who do not require incarceration.
1. Increase resources as necessary to better manage the flow of migrants. We need to add personnel and resources to expand capacity at ports of entry, so that we can handle intake and process asylum claims more expeditiously. This also means we should increase the number of immigrant judge teams and the number of asylum officers. But while this is being achieved, we do not need to maintain refugees in costly and inhumane detention centers.
2. Maximize use of alternatives to detention and detain security threats only. Children and families should be kept together and released as fast possible on alternatives to detention, such as case management and electronic management, as a substitute to detaining large numbers of families who pose no security threat. People seeking asylum most often have friends or family willing to house and support them and asylum seekers almost never miss their hearings; there is no reason to incarcerate them until their hearings. “When families and unaccompanied children have access to legal representation, the rate of compliance with immigration court obligations is nearly 98 percent.” (Human Rights First: “FACT CHECK: Asylum Seekers Regularly Attend Immigration Court Hearings”). As a subset of this recommendation, we should pay for all refugees to have legal representation. It is beyond comprehension how we can allow unaccompanied children who do not speak English or know our laws, to represent themselves in court. But it happens.
3. Ensure an orderly release of migrants who are not safety threats. By giving notice of upcoming releases to organizations offering humanitarian assistance to migrants, we can ensure there is an orderly transition. Prior to release, we need to provide migrants with medical service. While the myth promoted by the GOP and Trump is that refugees seeking asylum are “bad people,” the truth is that refugees commit fewer crimes than our general population, far less. They are very happy to have gained entry and are not looking for any reasons for being swiftly deported.
4. Inform migrants about U.S. asylum and immigration laws. The U.S. government should conduct a public information campaign for migrants in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala), in order to dispel misinformation from smugglers and help migrants understand who would — and who would not — be eligible for asylum. In addition, we need to re-establish in-country processing to permit those in danger an option to apply for asylum in their home countries. A speech by our VP telling desperate people to “Stay home,” is not education.
5. Partner with Mexico and Northern Triangle countries to counter human smuggling operations and increase intelligence cooperation. With recommendation # 4, this would minimize the predatory practice of seduce refugees with false promises and the extortion of desperate people by smugglers.
In addition to the above recommendations from The Hill, we would also recommend the following:
6. Reverse Title 42. Title 42 was Trump’s policy that uses the Covid public health emergency as an excuse to stop all proceedings even considering refugee applications. Essentially it closes the border.
“In April 2020, President Trump instituted the practice of expelling all individuals encountered at the border under public health authority allegedly provided by Title 42 of the U.S. Code. Under Title 42, any single adult or family crossing the border from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador were immediately turned around and sent back to Mexico. Unaccompanied children and most individuals from other countries were taken into custody, held for days or weeks, and then deported by plane back to their home country.”
In conversation with Allegra, she noted that even the CDC feels that Title 42 is not necessary. But for the sake of argument, instead of using Title 42 to allow us to reject refugees from legally seeking asylum, what if we equipped medical volunteers with Johnson & Johnson vaccines which require just one shot, sent them across the border and held vaccine clinics for refugees. Vaccinated refugees could begin to enter the US two weeks later.
We will close with a quote from the Department of Homeland Security’s own website:
“We are streamlining the way immigration benefits are delivered. By working smarter and eliminating redundancies, we are bringing a business model to government. We will eliminate the backlog and, at the same time, enhance national security. We will deliver the right benefit to the right person in the right amount of time, while ensuring that the wrong individual does not access immigration benefits. It is this fundamental mission that guides USCIS as it faces the challenges associated with eliminating the backlog.”US Citizenship & Immigration: “Backlog Elimination Report”
This is official policy guidelines coming from the immigration system. Do that. Now.
In solidarity & hope,
Paul & Roxanne
Categories: Immigrant Rights