Lindsey Graham Has Final Asylum Solution
Let's do some history, shall we? Donald Trump recently marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day by delaying the official ceremony so he could go on Fox News and lie about Robert Mueller, as great leaders will. But the D-Day anniversary, June 6, also marks a darker, less glorious chapter in the struggle against fascism, when America and the western allies failed badly to help people fleeing Nazi terror. June 6, 1939, was the day the MS St. Louis, a ship crowded with Jews fleeing Germany, gave up in its attempt to get its passengers to safety in North America, and began sailing back to Europe. About a third of the 937 passengers were taken in by Great Britain. Of the passengers who found temporary refuge in Europe, some made it to safe countries before Germany overran Europe, but nearly a quarter of those who'd set sail in 1939 -- 254 people -- were murdered in the Holocaust.
During the week and two days the St. Louis was offshore -- first in Havana harbor, and later sailing so close to the US that the lights of Miami could be seen at night -- some passengers telegraphed the White House, begging Franklin Roosevelt to grant them asylum. Roosevelt never replied, but the State Department cabled one passenger to say sorry, America is Full:
[The telegraph] stated that the passengers must "await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States." US diplomats in Havana intervened once more with the Cuban government to admit the passengers on a "humanitarian" basis, but without success.
Honestly, Yr Wonkette has no idea why sitting down to write about Lindsey Graham's bill to "solve" the border crisis created by Donald Trump brought the St. Louis to mind. We just think weird thoughts sometime.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on Graham's bill, the "Secure and Protect Act," which seeks to reduce the number of Central American families seeking asylum in the US by imposing harsh new restrictions on asylum and harsher conditions for anyone who applies for asylum, as well as making it far easier to deport both families and unaccompanied minors back to Central America, where they can die without being our problem. Let's briefly review the horrendous guts of this bill, which we imagine would easily win the "America First" endorsement of President Charles Lindberg, from Philip Roth's The Plot Against America.
The bill's limits on asylum include several ideas the Trump administration is pushing, like a fee for asylum applications, since people fleeing for their lives usually have plenty of spare money. Graham's bill would only allow people to request asylum if they cross the border at a port of entry, whereas current policy says asylum can be claimed "whether or not" the applicant entered the US at an official entry. When Donald Trump tried to force that change with an executive order, it was blocked by a federal judge. Beyond that, Graham would establish at least four refugee-processing centers in Central America and Mexico, so asylum applicants wouldn't even set foot in the USA. So much more convenient to stay home and apply, while hoping the local gang doesn't murder you and your kids.
Graham's bill would also put in place a much higher standard for even allowing asylum cases to go forward -- it's a bit technical, but instead of having a "credible fear" of harm if sent back to their home countries, would-be asylees would have to demonstrate a "reasonable fear" of harm. The National Migration Forum explains the difference:
This change would require asylum seekers to meet a higher standard of proof showing they are "more likely than not" to face persecution in their home countries, rather than the current standard of showing only a "significant possibility" of being persecuted or tortured if returned home.
As we noted when Trump and Miller started pushing this fuckery, the higher standard is seldom used today, and it would flat-out disqualify many people from even having their cases heard. About 75 percent of claimants can meet the initial "credible fear" standard -- as designed by Congress when it wrote the immigration laws. But only about 25 percent of those currently subjected to the higher standard can meet it.
Then there are the provisions cracking down on asylum seekers once their cases are in the system. Graham would eliminate the protections for minors under the Flores agreement, which currently allows minors to be held no more than 20 days in detention facilities. Instead, kids and their parents could be held up to 100 days in detention, and Graham would mandate that all asylum claims be adjudicated within those 100 days. (Please ignore the reality, which is that even before Trump started trying to end asylum, cases took months or even years, and there's a huge backlog.) Just to turn the screws a little harder, states would have no power to require detention facilities have a state license.
Unaccompanied minors would really be screwed, too! Graham would make it easier to deport unaccompanied minors who are currently entitled to "due process," which is a loophole. In addition, kids would have to meet that higher "reasonable fear" standard too, and to make it less likely they will, Graham's bill would have those decisions made by immigration officers instead of dedicated asylum officers. And once a minor's asylum case is accepted, the minor would have to stay in a baby jail until it's completed, with none of those stupid releases to a US sponsor that are supposed to be the standard now, although more kids are already detained longer already. For good measure, all immigration officers' decisions would be final, with no appeal to the courts.
During today's Senate hearing, Republicans mostly harped on a lot of bullshit myths, such as the notion that very few asylum seekers attend their hearings (the real rate is over 80 percent). Lots of Rs insisted there's a HUGE CRISIS of human traffickers posing as parents of children, but while it does happen -- and it's terrible that it does -- it's extremely rare, as the National Migration Forum's Aaron Reichlin-Melnich explains, poking holes in Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan's claim that it's a vast problem requiring radical curbs on asylum:
I've got to say, @DHSMcAleenan's numbers really, really don't seem to support what he's saying. If CBP is flaggin… https://t.co/nQ84INs6qs— Aaron Reichlin-Melnick (@Aaron Reichlin-Melnick) 1560266263.0
Also, a bit of hope from Dianne Feinstein, who touted her own immigration bill as an alternative to Graham's horrorshow. Co-sponsored by Kamala Harris, Mazie Hirono, and Amy Klobuchar, Feinstein's "Protecting Immigrant Families and Improving Immigration Procedures Act" would hire more immigration judges (as would Graham's, though his bill emphasizes more denials of asylum), and would take affirmative steps to protect migrant families, like preventing a repeal of the Flores agreement, providing lawyers for young children so there'll never again be toddlers "representing" themselves in immigration courts, and allowing judges to prioritize cases that will require courtroom resolutions, to help clear the backlog of cases.
Also worth a bit of a laugh: McAleenan at one point told Graham the border would have been more secure if Congress had passed the 2013 immigration reform bill, which would have hired more border patrol agents. Yes, the bill that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, so the far Right had to make sure it died in the House under John Boehner. Funny, Graham voted for it, although now that's a mortal sin for Republicans. It'll be interesting to see if McAleenan keeps his jerb after saying anything good about the AMNESTY bill.
For a more complete view of the dishonest behavior of the Judiciary's Republicans, see this excellent thread by Reichlin-Melnich. It's disgusting how baldly they lie, claiming that weak laws have somehow caused the recent surge in family migration, even though the current laws have been in place for decades. But now we've got a crisis on our hands, possibly because Central Americans have heard the border is about to close forever so they need to hurry north. No problem, we can solve it by sending them back and letting them take their chances.
Besides, no reason to get all dramatic -- a good three quarters of the St. Louis's passengers survived, so by historical precedent, as long as no more than a quarter of the Central Americans we refuse to help end up dead, we're golden. Also, we're not allowed to invoke "Never Again," since there is no systematic genocide going on in Central America, just pervasive gang violence and governments that won't do anything about it. Besides, the Central Americans are all dangerous criminals, while the passengers on the St. Louis were portrayed at the time as dangerous communist infiltrators. Totally different situations.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.