Guest Commentary: Biden Must Restore and Rebuild Asylum

A reversal of Trump’s asylum system is simply not enough — we must build our asylum system back better.

By Katrina Eiland

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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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. And despite the egregious harms they’ve suffered, the Trump administration refused to let them wait for their asylum hearing in the U.S. Biden must end MPP immediately and ensure that the people subjected to the policy are able to pursue their claims in the U.S.

Second, Biden must rescind the “Title 42” order — CDC’s regulations and orders that permit hasty expulsion of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, unlawfully denying them any chance to seek humanitarian relief like asylum. Under Title 42, young teenagers like J.B.B.C., who witnessed a murder in Honduras and fled after gang members threatened him, are summarily sent back to danger. The three federal judges who have examined the Title 42 order all agree that it is illegal. And although the Trump administration tried to cloak the order in public health justifications, numerous public health experts denounced the policy and explained why it does not protect this country’s health. CDC’s own experts reportedly objected to the policy and refused to support it in court; it was implemented only after the White House pressured the CDC to accept it. As public health experts have explained, the government has the means to safely process people seeking protection while safeguarding the health of U.S. residents.

Third, President-elect Biden must act quickly to end Trump’s two illegal asylum bans. The first bans anyone who entered the U.S. between ports of entry, even though U.S. laws state that it does not matter how a person enters if they are fleeing danger. The second bans anyone who travels through a third country to reach the U.S., unless they first apply for and are denied asylum in a third country — impacting nearly every non-Mexican asylum seeker. It is a naked attempt to deny as many people as possible, regardless of their need for protection under our laws. While the ACLU and partners quickly blocked the first asylum ban, the second ban had disastrous consequences for people seeking asylum before a judge vacated it in June 2020. But, the Trump administration has doubled down, issuing a new version of the second ban at the eleventh hour that takes effect just a day before inauguration. Biden must quickly rescind both bans.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous disastrous anti-asylum policies that Biden must promptly stop, including:

  • Trump’s “Asylum Cooperative Agreements” (ACA) with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and the related policies that force people to seek asylum in those countries instead of in the U.S. These ACA policies not only violate our laws, but they are also in bad faith, as thousands of people in those countries are fleeing persecution there as well. Biden must terminate the deceitful ACAs and rescind the related policies that allow people to be deported to other countries without regard to their safety.
  • PACR/HARP, Trump policies that hold asylum seekers in crowded, unsanitary Border Patrol facilities that unlawfully block access to lawyers during their initial screening interview, depriving people of basic due process and a fair chance at asylum. Indeed, it is unsurprising that people held under such inhumane conditions are far less likely than other asylum seekers to pass their screening interviews. Biden should put a stop to these harmful programs and ensure everyone can access their attorneys.
  • The massive new asylum rule issued in December that upends nearly every aspect of asylum law, including longstanding “political opinion,” “particular social group,” and “persecution” definitions, as well as other core elements of asylum eligibility and the legal process. It is designed to block most people seeking protection. Biden should work diligently to rescind this disastrous rule and restore our longstanding asylum standards.

Biden does not have an easy task ahead of him — in fact, there are already trumped up warnings of border “surges” in an effort to make reinstituting our asylum system politically harder. It will take courage, diligence, a commitment to protecting people in danger as our laws allow, and respect and deference to experts in asylum who have been dealing with the consequences of Trump’s policies for four years. Biden has promised these solutions already; it is all of our jobs to make sure he follows through.

Katrina Eiland is the Managing Attorney, California Office, American Civil Liberties Union


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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39 Comments

  1. Chris Griffith

    The last thing we need is free range immigration especially since we have the coronavirus and all this unemployment we seem  I’m just driving down 5th Street and saw a whole line of people out there trying to get free food I don’t think they were professors we need to reel in this immigration stuff a little bit.
    In my humble opinion we need to to enhance enforcement and border control we need a good old-fashioned 700-foot-high ice wall guarded by knights sworn to defend our land to the death. Also a moat with sharks kind of like the one that built around the people’s republic of  Davis

    1. Bill Marshall

      Where on Fifth Street?  STEAC moved its food closet from Fifth a long time ago… Who is supplying the ‘free food’?  Taxpayer funded or private charity?

      How many of those you saw were “free range immigrants” [an estimate, +/- 30 % would be more than fine]?

      Your linkage eludes me…

      And, “asylum” is not “free range”… there have been standards, it’s just they have been recently thrown away, so that there’s no such thing as asylum… and asylum is not a guarantee of citizenship…

  2. Chris Griffith

    How many of those you saw were “free range immigrants” [an estimate, +/- 30 % would be more than fine

    I’m really not for sure I left my official Biden Harris melatonin color chart at home and besides I really couldn’t get close to them cuz all this coronavirus stuff.. 🤗

     

        1. Bill Marshall

          Between Pole Line and B?  Reason I ask, is that I have an errand downtown… headed that direction in next half-hour…

          And yes, I’m good with me doing my own research and/or verification… unlike some…

        2. Ron Oertel

          Regardless of whether or not Chris gets back to you, looking forward to your research. Sounds like we can expect your results later today.

          I did not (necessarily) take Chris’ comments literally.

    1. Bill Marshall

      thx

      Sounds like Davis Community Church… between Fourth and Fifth, west side of D (they occupy the whole block!)… sure looks like private charity, so see no reason to link with ‘free-range’ immigrants… DCC serves a lot of the homeless or poor in Davis and environs… little/no taxpayer dollars… your ‘linkage’ and concern is more and more strange…

  3. Chris Griffith

    I’m glad this topic came up I am so tired of talking about Trump in this coronavirus 😊. By the way never take me literally and I know my wife doesn’t.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Fortunately, as I write this, H o R voting, and have been talking about POTUS for several hours… and the Retrumplicans seldom wear masks unless they’re ‘on-screen’… watching on both Fox and CNN… as to impeachment, the fat lady is about to sing…

      [What is the nickname for Georgia, where POTUS lost (even after theatening the Republican GA Sec of State if he could not find ~12,000 votes in HIS favor), and probably was largely responsible for the two GA senate seats going from Red to Blue?  Add im… and …ment.  The irony is priceless…]

      1. Chris Griffith

        Bill I ran across this great story and I think it’s real too…
        With Trump closing in on a record second impeachment in 4 years, he is now close to filling out his impeachment punch card that grants him a free sub sandwich of his choice in the Capitol Building cafe.

        “It’s a little-known addition to Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution you may not have heard of,” said Constitutional scholar Jenna Ellis. According to Ellis, the full section reads as follows:
        “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. And also, if they get impeached three times in one term, we ought to give them some kind of consolation prize because that’s pretty impressive. A foot-long sub, maybe.”
        According to sources, Pelosi has expressed interest in impeaching Trump a third time after they finish the second impeachment. If she is successful, Trump will be the first President in history to get three card punches and qualify for the special offer.
        Sources close to Trump say he has chosen a pastrami sandwich from the Capitol Building cafe. Unfortunately, authorities found that rioters stole all the pastrami in the riot last week.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Their website (based in Sacto) seems to be ‘dead’ or at least inactive…

      That said, Home Covid-19 – Yolo Food Bank

      is always open to volunteers… physical or financial… the exec Director is Davis-based… we volunteer @ STEAC physically and financially… these days, I suspect YFB has made connections with growers that supplant the need for individuals to do the ‘gleaning’, but contact them… they seem to be the most viable organization… they and STEAC and others coordinate…

      Very cool you wish to help… it is an across-the-board-need, for those who have lost jobs due to Covid, the working poor (some of whom are recent immigrants, regardless of ‘status’), and yes, the homeless (with or without the adjective ‘so-called’).

    1. Bill Marshall

      BTW… although they get some ‘grant-funding’ from time to time, from the public sector, they mainly rely on private support…

      I checked the D St location, but by the time I got there ~ 1:30, no-one in sight… I don’t think it is a ‘regular’ thing @ that site.  But was definitely DCC… folk from there, and a number of other faith-based groups formed STEAC in the mid-late 60’s.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Maybe a tiny KumBaYah PSA… but some find it, “to be racist, dehumanizing  and offensive”… damned if you do, damned if you don’t… whatever… moving on, here…

  4. Ron Glick

    “How many of those you saw were “free range immigrants” [an estimate, +/- 30 % would be more than fine”
    “I’m really not for sure I left my official Biden Harris melatonin color chart at home and besides I really couldn’t get close to them cuz all this coronavirus stuff.. ”
     

    I find these remarks to be racist, dehumanizing  and offensive.

    1. Bill Marshall

      The first part was mine… first line… you took it way out of context from the full post, and subsequent… the other line comes from someone very interested in supporting Yolo Food Bank…

      Same problem with some ‘evangelicals’… focusing on one ‘passage’, and missing the ‘corpus’… one thread, and not seeing the tapestry… measure twice, cut once, is my advice… FWIW

      Apologize if my assertion that all should have access to food, offends you as,

      racist, dehumanizing  and offensive.

      Note that I wrote,

      Very cool you wish to help… it is an across-the-board-need, for those who have lost jobs due to Covid, the working poor (some of whom are recent immigrants, regardless of ‘status’), and yes, the homeless (with or without the adjective ‘so-called’).

      If that is “racist, dehumanizing, and offensive” no apology offered… and I hope and pray that you are or will be part of the ‘solution’ as Craig appears ready to do… ball is in your court… literally, and figuratively… ‘you walking the talk’?

      1. Ron Oertel

        You did note that Ron G was not referring to your comment, right?  😉

        It absolutely was “dehumanizing” – but still made me laugh.

        And by the way, let’s hear if for the chickens as well, don’t you think?

        1. Ron Oertel

          And if you really want to examine it more “deeply”, maybe the underlying point is that the cages were dehumanizing in the first place.  (But when you start analyzing a joke, it becomes less-and-less amusing, pretty fast.)

        2. Alan Miller

          And if it’s dark humor, nobody here laughs . . . they just shame those making the joke and take up their position on the next level of Moral High Ground.

          How are things up there? Do you enjoy the view . . . looking down . . . on me?

  5. Ron Oertel

    What just happened?  Did we have a happy ending in the Davis Vanguard?

    I was starting to become uncomfortable with that possibility, but I think Ron G’s comment just brought it back to its usual state.  Whew!  😉

    “Free-range immigrants” – it just hit me, what that’s being compared to (in regard to cages).

    But seriously – I wouldn’t take the comment so seriously.

    1. Alan Miller

      “Free-range immigrants” – it just hit me, what that’s being compared to (in regard to cages).

      Maybe, but I’m not sure free-range babies are a good idea (that’s not to say they should be in cages either, cribs perhaps, strollers, papoose; but crawling around on the range, with deer and antelope, unsupervised? . . .  not so much)

      1. Ron Oertel

        Point noted, but I’m still trying to figure out how they’re going to keep that “ice wall” (referred to in that same comment) from melting in the hot sun.

    2. Alan Miller

      I was starting to become uncomfortable with that possibility, but I think Ron G’s comment just brought it back to its usual state.  Whew!

      I actually wrote my comment before that comment, so I was optimistic, but then when I hit send, there it was.  Proving . . . there are no happy endings here?  #sniff#

      1. Ron Oertel

        As far as this blog is concerned, my “happy endings” are the ones that make me laugh.  In my opinion, this should be allowed, if not encouraged (as long as it’s not directed at any person in particular). In any case, it’s hard for me to take anything seriously on here, except for local development issues I guess. And even then, I laugh at comments such as the “moat around Davis” – also referred to above. (Though I’ve heard that one, before.)

        On a separate note, I’m pretty sure that the “shot clock” ends prematurely when another comment is (also) being submitted.  (Either one’s own, or from another commenter.)

    3. Bill Marshall

      No, Ron O… Ron G’s comment seems more like misunderstanding context, not a true ‘conflict’ in values…

      I was starting to become uncomfortable with that possibility (“happy ending”), but I think Ron G’s comment just brought it back to its usual state.  Whew!  

      So, you seem to like divisiveness… you must have enjoyed the acts last Wednesday, and look forward to more (or greater?) of the same in the next weeks… that is piteous, if true…

      But I still wish you and yours a healthy, safe, 2021.

      And I’d characherize it as a ‘hopeful beginning’, rather than a ‘happy ending’….

      1. Ron Oertel

        I did enjoy the costumes.  And I find the comment (above) regarding impeaching Trump a “third time” amusing, as well.

        The killings and injuries – not so much.

        But on here, I think it would get boring pretty fast if everyone took it seriously (and completely “respectfully”). Actually, that might be part of the reason that there’s fewer comments on the other blog. (It’s also not set-up for the back-and-forth exchanges that occur on here.)

        It might be interesting to go through a sample of comments on this blog, and see how many were “cooperative”.

      2. Alan Miller

        So, you seem to like divisiveness… you must have enjoyed the acts last Wednesday, and look forward to more (or greater?) of the same in the next weeks… that is piteous, if true…

        I think it has to do with ‘fear of change’, as the ‘fear of change shamers’ may point out.  A happy ending here would have represented change, which is celebrated by the fear of change shamers.  The insurrection at the Capitol represented CHANGE for our country.  And change, such as new ugly buildings, is always good, in the eyes of the fear-of-change shamers.  Therefore the insurrection was . . .

        . . . and that, children, is why logic sucks.

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