New "racist" asylum policy focuses on Central Americans, Spanish speakers

Get ready for another flurry of accusations of racism in immigration enforcement. The press has gotten hold of information on what’s being described as a “policy shift” in how immigration officials handle both illegal immigrants and those presenting themselves for asylum consideration at authorized border crossings. While none of this is actually new, it does provide clarification as to which migrants are allowed to remain in the United States while their cases are heard and which are returned to Mexico to await a hearing. But some of the language in the leaked policy certainly raises questions as to who’s coming up with these memos. (Associated Press)

Border agents have been told to explicitly target Spanish speakers and migrants from Latin America in carrying out a Trump administration program requiring asylum seekers wait in Mexico, according to memos obtained by The Associated Press that reveal some inner workings of a top government priority to address the burgeoning number of Central Americans arriving in the country.

The Trump administration launched the program in late January in what marks a potentially seismic shift on how the U.S. handles the cases of immigrants seeking asylum and fleeing persecution in their homeland. The program initially applied only to those who turned themselves in at official border crossings, but a memo from a division chief of the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector says it expanded Friday to include people who cross the border illegally.

Most of these procedures were already known before the leak of these memos from the San Diego Border Patrol division chief. The Trump administration has been working with the government of Mexico to have them keep asylum seekers on their side of the border while their cases are heard and Mexico has begun doing that. There are limits on how many such migrants can be returned, however. They currently accept a maximum of 20 per day from San Diego, Monday through Saturday, with the returned individuals going back to Tijuana.

What appears to be new in this memo is the list of individuals who will not be returned, but are instead allowed to stay in the United States. These include pregnant women, LGBT migrants, people with medical issues, Mexican citizens and children traveling alone. Wait a minute… I thought we were supposed to be racists, homophobes, misogynists and heartless monsters who hate children. But we’re letting all of those classes of individuals go into the catch and release program?

What’s really curious about the memo, just to be fair to the critics, is why they would specify “Spanish speaking people.” First of all, we’re talking about the southern land border here, not Canada or our nation’s airports and seaports. Pretty much everyone arriving there by land is coming from Mexico or points south. Unless they’re coming from Brazil (where they speak Portuguese) pretty much all of them speak Spanish, with the exception of a relative handful of people coming in from other continents and attempting to sneak across. It seems like a pointless distinction to make when clarifying border policy.

In any event, I’m sure the usual suspects on cable news will be running this up the flagpole as yet another example of racism in the Trump administration. The better question should be why it took so long to put these plans in place. We’re in the middle of a massive surge of migrants, both legal and illegal at our southern border and our courts are overwhelmed. Find some solutions for that problem and the rest of these questions will be dealt with.