Politics

Washington Monthly | The Trump Administration Is Forced to Give Asylum-Seekers a Second Chance

During these days when the only news seems to be bad, here’s a bright spot:

The Trump administration has just agreed to give parents who were separated from their children at the US-Mexico border earlier this year a second chance to make asylum claims in the US.

The Department of Justice has negotiated an agreement that covers three lawsuits filed against the government over the family-separation policy. Parents in the US who’d been ordered deported would get another chance to pass an interview demonstrating a “credible fear” of persecution — the first step in the asylum process.

If either the parent or the child passes the screening interview, families will be allowed to apply for asylum together. Some parents who don’t pass will be allowed to remain with their children in the US while the children’s cases are adjudicated.

And in some cases, the government is even willing to consider reopening cases for parents who were already deported from the US.

Immigration advocates who filed these law suits on behalf of asylum-seeking parents believe that the agreement could give more than 1,000 families another chance.

Let’s be clear: The Trump administration didn’t negotiate this agreement out of the goodness of their hearts. The family separation policy was so cruel and unnecessary that they could see the writing on the wall when it came to these court cases. The victory here belongs to the families who have suffered so much, and to the advocates who took up their cause.

To demonstrate that this administration hasn’t suddenly had a change of heart, here are some other important items in the news:

* The $10 million transferred from FEMA to ICE for detention and deportation is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Department of Homeland Security transferred $169 million from other agencies to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detention and removal of migrants this year, according to a document sent to Congress by DHS.

Many of the transfers came from key national security programs, including $1.8 million from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, $9.8 million from FEMA, $29 million from the U.S. Coast Guard and more than $34 million from several TSA programs. DHS also transferred $33 million from other ICE programs to pay for detention and removal, making the total amount of money transferred $202 million.

* The Trump administration has reached another historic milestone: more migrant children in detention that at any point in our history.

Even though hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing the border have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded — a significant counternarrative to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce the number of undocumented families coming to the United States.

Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017.

* Remember how Trump was going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it? Instead, he wants the U.S. to pay Mexico to deport more migrants before they even arrive in this country.

In a recent notice sent to Congress, the administration said it intended to take $20 million in foreign assistance funds and use it to help Mexico pay plane and bus fare to deport as many as 17,000 people who are in that country illegally.

The money will help increase deportations of Central Americans, many of whom pass through Mexico to get to the American border…Under the program, Mexico would be responsible for detaining and providing judicial review of immigrants before deporting them. The sometimes cumbersome and lengthy legal process in the United States to deport asylum seekers has long frustrated Mr. Trump, who has often said the laws must be changed to speed deportations. Getting Mexico to do deportations instead would bypass that process.

When I see these kinds of stories, I can’t help but think that Stephen Miller has been a busy little beaver lately. It has always seemed clear that Trump put him in charge of coming up with anti-immigrant schemes to “make America white again.” But at least in the case of asylum-seekers on our southern border, the resistance just fought back and won.


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