‘The asylum changes are a poison pill if there ever was one…’
(Molly O’Toole, Los Angeles Times) Senate Republicans proposed Tuesday to effectively bar Central American minors from claiming asylum in the United States unless they apply at home, a reversal of U.S. law that Democrats swiftly denounced as unacceptable.
A proposed spending bill introduced by Senate Republicans would amend federal law to bar any Salvadoran, Guatemalan or Honduran younger than 18 from asylum unless they apply first at designated facilities in Central America.
The bill notes that those facilities do not currently exist—and the Homeland Security secretary would have 240 days after the bill’s enactment to open them.
As written, the proposal seeks “to establish an asylum processing program” outside the United States that “reduces the incentive for such persons to make the dangerous journey to the United States southern border to request asylum.”
Over the past year, the number of minors seeking asylum at the border has risen exponentially. In October and November, officials stopped 44 percent more minors at the border than in the same span a year ago.
In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, officials apprehended nearly 50,000 unaccompanied minors, with just under 80 percent from Central America.
With many Border Patrol facilities at capacity and two recent cases in which children died from illnesses after making the trek, U.S. immigration authorities have said the issue is at a critical level.
However, despite efforts to discourage the refugees and inform them of the dangers of the journey, many have been egged on by misinformation from radical leftist organizations like Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which are actively seeking to undermine U.S. policy, assuring them that they will be granted entry.
A legal loophole that requires underage immigrants to be released from holding facilities after approximately three weeks has led additionally to family units—or those claiming to be families—journeying across the border, knowing that they will soon be released.
The bill also appears to seek to eliminate judicial review of asylum decisions, saying that “no court or immigration judge” could review Homeland Security’s determinations of who is granted asylum and who isn’t.
It follows repeated cases in which activist liberal judges, particularly those in the 9th Circuit Court have issued politically motivated injunctions to waylay any efforts at enacting border security measures.
Republicans are looking to increase political pressure on Democratic lawmakers following President Donald Trump’s offer Saturday of a supposed compromise to end the month-long partial government shutdown.
Democrats, who had been attempting to make the case—without evidence—that they were seeking compromise-based solutions, offhandedly Trump’s overture.
They likewise refused to consider the Senate bill, which included the DACA fix among others tucked into the massive 1,300-page spending bill that its sponsors said would reopen the government and ensure border security.
“The asylum changes are a poison pill if there ever was one,” said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. He said Republicans had conducted no negotiations or consultations with Democrats to produce the proposal.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Republican-led Senate would vote on the bill Thursday. If it passes intact, it would go to the Democratic-led House, which is sure to reject the provision.
Backpedaling on McConnell’s earlier declarations that no funding legislation would be considered that Trump would veto, the Senate will also vote Thursday on a House-passed measure to fund the government through Feb. 8, with no border wall funding that Trump has demanded.
Despite the bill’s efforts to keep the activist courts at bay, immigration experts and advocates say the asylum application proposal would face stiff legal challenges.
Lindsay M. Harris, a law professor and co-director of the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, said the proposal violates the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which permits any person physically in the U.S. to claim asylum.
“This proposal ignores the reality that El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are unable to protect these children from persecution and will not magically be able to do so because the U.S. decides to reopen an in-country processing system,” said Harris. “Children will make the journey north as long as remaining where they are is a threat to their safety.”
In his televised address Saturday, Trump touted “critical measures to protect migrant children from exploitation and abuse,” highlighting what he described as a new system to allow Central American youth to apply for asylum in their home countries.
The proposed bill would limit asylum to Central American minors without criminal records, who have not been deported before and who are deemed not to be a risk to “public safety or national security.” They also must have a parent or guardian in the United States who can care for them.
In addition to the so-called Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, processing centers would be located in Nicaragua, Panama, Belize, Costa Rica and Mexico, according to the bill.
The bill would limit asylum to a maximum of 15,000 Central American minors in any fiscal year. The law would remain in effect for at least three years after it’s enacted.
While refugee status is obtained abroad, migrants can only apply for asylum if physically present in or arriving in the United States, even if it’s not at an official port of entry, according to federal law.
A federal court in November blocked the Trump administration from trying to ban asylum claims between ports of entry.
The Trump administration ended Obama-era programs that allowed, but did not require, Central American minors and their families to apply for U.S. asylum while at home. Thousands of children were stranded when the programs were terminated.
Requiring the minors to apply for asylum in their home countries or region leaves them trapped by the gang violence and other dangers they are trying to escape, said Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union.
“You can’t condition asylum on people remaining in the place where they are being persecuted,” she said.
(c)2019 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.