It's time to rethink our asylum claims policy

A federal court decision coming out of southern California yesterday didn’t draw much press attention, but it could have a major impact on U.S. immigration policy. It also puts more of a spotlight on the need for comprehensive improvements to our system of processing legitimate asylum claims by those seeking to legally enter our country across the Mexican border. Judge Dana Sabraw ordered a one week delay in any deportations of recently reunited families who were previously split up under President Trump’s zero tolerance policy for illegal entry. Some of the cases in question definitely involve illegal aliens while others affect those presenting asylum claims.

A federal judge on Monday ordered a temporary halt to deportations of immigrant families reunited after being separated at the border, as the Trump administration races to meet a July 26 deadline for putting more than 2,500 children back in their parents’ arms.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw imposed a delay of at least a week after a request from the American Civil Liberties Union, which cited “persistent and increasing rumors … that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification.”

Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart opposed the delay but did not address the rumors in court.

Judge Sabraw is a Bush 43 appointee without a notable, controversial paper trail prior to this case. But he’s also the same judge who previously ruled in favor of the ACLU when they sought to have their suit against the Trump administration dismissed. He was also the judge who issued the national injunction ordering the reunification of all migrant families. In the course of this case, Sabraw sought to significantly expand the rights of migrants by ruling that they had a, “constitutional right to family integrity“.

The problem is that our own policies have put us in a position where massive numbers of migrants, including both illegal aliens and asylum seekers, have been able to swamp our resources for processing them. Insisting that everyone receive an individual hearing when the border crossers outnumber the available immigration judges by 10,000 to 1 has left us with few viable options. We’re either scrambling to construct new detention facilities or going back to a catch and release program. (Something which has already happened in all but name.) That means releasing illegal aliens into the interior and hoping they show up for a court hearing at a later date.

Politically this works out wonderfully for the Democrats who offer no solutions but are free to criticize. They carefully ignore the illegal aliens who have multiple deportations, serious criminal records or gang involvement and focus on the media-friendly, sympathetic families who are split up. At this point, it seems as if something has to give.

We’ve always needed to be ready to modify our approach to any government policy when it’s not working and the situation with asylum claims on the southern border is no different. Currently, asylum seekers who qualify under a variety of definitions do have certain rights when they present themselves at an authorized port of entry. But those rules are not some sort of constitutional mandate. They exist because of provisions added to the Refugee Act of 1980. This means that Congress can modify the rules if the situation demands it.

The fact that people are having to wait for extraordinary amounts of time to receive a hearing and determination of their disposition is not a reason to abandon the rule of law. Allow me to draw a parallel found in daily life around the country. When I show up at the DMV to renew my license and (yet again) find a line stretching out into the hallway just to take a “next served” number, that number will inevitably be vastly higher than the one currently at the window. That doesn’t mean that I get to demand the “right” to barge to the head of the line or that I’m free to leave and just start driving without a license. If we want the service to be better at the DMV we have to demand that the state government invest in improving the efficiency of the offices.

Similarly, if we want every alien seeking asylum or every illegal alien apprehended at the border to be handled quickly, the Democrats need to join in with the GOP and fund a massive expansion of the number of courts, judges and offices handling these cases. Otherwise, the only viable option is the dreaded “mass deportation” idea where we are forced to tell asylum seekers that they will simply have to find somewhere to wait in Mexico until they can be seen to. We don’t currently have that option, but it could be imposed through congressional action.

Pick one direction or the other. We need to either process everyone individually and in a reasonable amount of time or we need to be able to send people back across the border in larger numbers. It’s a politically toxic conversation and the first option is going to require a lot of resources, but the only other choice is going back to how we handled things before. That didn’t work, so a new solution is called for.

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