What Would It Actually Take to Fix the Asylum System?

What Would It Actually Take to Fix the Asylum System?

Originally published by Mother Jones

In April 2018, the Department of Homeland Security began using a new word to describe the situation at the southern border: crisis. The number of parents and children crossing the border to seek protection under US asylum laws was climbing to nearly 10,000 per month, up from barely a thousand at the start of the Trump administration. Trump did everything in his power to stop families from coming. He deployed the military to the border, separated parents from children, turned away asylum seekers at official border crossings, and then tried to make it illegal to request asylum unless people went to those crossings.

Nothing worked. More than 58,000 parents and children traveling togethercrossed the border last month, the seventh record-high in eight months. DHS officials have upped their hyperbolic rhetoric, saying that the immigration system is “on fire” and in “meltdown.”

At first, Democrats dismissed Trump’s fearmongering on immigration by pointing out that the total number of border crossers was still near historic lows. But as the number of parents and children coming to the border continues to skyrocket and the backlog of asylum seekers awaiting court hearings swells, it’s becoming clear to people across the political spectrum that doing nothing is not an option. Solutions are needed—the question is, what do they look like?

Mother Jones interviewed a half-dozen immigration experts from the left and center to see how they would create a fairer, more efficient, more humanitarian system for asylum seekers. Here’s what they recommend. 

Art by Central American migrants on display at the US-Mexico border fence in Tijuana in JanuaryGuillermo Arias/AFP

In April 2018, the Department of Homeland Security began using a new word to describe the situation at the southern border: crisis. The number of parents and children crossing the border to seek protection under US asylum laws was climbing to nearly 10,000 per month, up from barely a thousand at the start of the Trump administration. Trump did everything in his power to stop families from coming. He deployed the military to the border, separated parents from children, turned away asylum seekers at official border crossings, and then tried to make it illegal to request asylum unless people went to those crossings.

Nothing worked. More than 58,000 parents and children traveling togethercrossed the border last month, the seventh record-high in eight months. DHS officials have upped their hyperbolic rhetoric, saying that the immigration system is “on fire” and in “meltdown.”

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At first, Democrats dismissed Trump’s fearmongering on immigration by pointing out that the total number of border crossers was still near historic lows. But as the number of parents and children coming to the border continues to skyrocket and the backlog of asylum seekers awaiting court hearings swells, it’s becoming clear to people across the political spectrum that doing nothing is not an option. Solutions are needed—the question is, what do they look like?

Mother Jones interviewed a half-dozen immigration experts from the left and center to see how they would create a fairer, more efficient, more humanitarian system for asylum seekers. Here’s what they recommend. 

1. Hire more immigration judges

A backlog of nearly 900,000 asylum cases means that families seeking asylum often spend years living in the United States before their cases are decided by immigration judges. Most asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have not won their cases in recent years, and it’s even harder now that the Trump administration has limited protections for victims of gang and domestic violence, the most common forms of persecution in these “Northern Triangle” countries. Many of those who receive deportation orders, either because they lost their case or they did not apply for asylum after being released at the border, remain in the country as undocumented immigrants.

The backlog, combined with ICE’s limited ability to find people who don’t comply with removal orders, creates the accurate perception among migrants that families who turn themselves in to border agents are highly unlikely to be quickly deported. That presents an incentive for families unlikely to win asylum to cross the border anyway. More than 260,000 parents and children crossed the southern border between the 2016 and 2018 fiscal years. ICE deported about 7,000 family members during that period.

Read more:https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/05/what-would-it-actually-take-to-fix-the-asylum-system/

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