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Photo: US Customs and Border Protection

The Trump administration is rolling out some truly evil fuckery on immigration today, rewriting how the US considers the cases of people asking for asylum at the southern border. In essence, the new directive will trash the asylum laws as written by Congress so that only people applying for asylum after crossing the border at an official port of entry will be considered. Those crossing outside ports of entry will be far more likely to be subject to immediate deportation. The new rules, expected to go into effect almost immediately, are likely to be challenged in court the moment they're implemented, since the Executive branch is attempting to override established law. Trump apparently figures his Supreme Court will let him do whatever he wants, and with his new crowd of creeps, he might even be right, who knows?


The administration is essentially trying to upend US law to please all the trolls in internet comments who insist no one can be allowed to claim asylum if they cross the border illegally, even if they immediately turn themselves in to the Border Patrol, because RESPECT FOR THE LAW. In mere reality, the actual language of the Immigration and Nationality Act is quite specific on the matter: it says people can apply for asylum "whether or not" they do so at an official port of entry. They simply need to be on US soil. That's how Congress wrote the law, but the folks who believe in strict constructionism and wanted Barack Obama impeached for tyrannical executive orders now say Congress clearly fucked up and the administration must eliminate that "or not" part.

So the administration has issued some neat new rules, modeled on Trump's travel ban restrictions (the fourth version, which was finally upheld by the Supremes), that will ban anyone crossing the southern border outside ports of entry from even asking for asylum. The new rule would permanently eliminate any chance of asylum for most of those people. Under the current system, if asylum seekers are found to have a "credible fear" of persecution if they're returned to their home country, they can get a hearing before an immigration judge. But thanks to a huge backlog of cases, it can actually take years before those hearings are held, during which the applicants are allowed to live and work in the US while their cases are pending. (And no, asylum applicants don't just vanish into the underground economy -- the vast majority of asylum seekers attend their hearings, which makes sense, because they want legal status.)

Under the new rule, a far more restrictive test than "credible fear" would be applied to determine whether to immediately deport border-crossers, as this excellent 'splainer by Dara Lind at Vox outlines. No matter what persecution the "illegal" border crossers say they face in their home countries, there would simply no longer be an option for asylum. Instead, asylum officers would screen for a "reasonable fear of removal," a tougher standard that "requires not just a significant possibility of persecution but a determination that persecution is more likely than not."

Despite the similar-sounding names, the "reasonable fear" test is currently used only rarely, and only about 25 percent of people can pass it, compared to the roughly 75 percent who can get a hearing under the "credible fear" standard. And here's the kicker: even those who get a hearing under the new rules will never, ever get a chance at asylum or legal status. The best they could hope for, even with absolute documented proof they'd be murdered by their government if sent home, would be a vague promise they won't be deported. And maybe that promise would be kept, at least until Trump's running for president again, which he already is.

As Lind explains, this is really a reach for the administration on constitutional grounds, because existing law and international treaties on asylum just might still carry some weight with the courts. even under Trump appointees.

It's the typical strategy on immigration under Trump: finding parts of the immigration system where the executive branch is given a lot of discretion, and use that discretion as aggressively as possible.

But this comes darn close to using executive discretion to override a specific thing that Congress wrote into the law.

Not surprisingly, this will result in lawsuits, and quick:

"Congress very specifically said you can apply for asylum if you arrive in the United States regardless of whether you're at a port of entry," said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project. "They clearly and explicitly meant to make asylum available to anyone who reaches the United States.
"
We do this because of our obligations under international law and who we are as a country, and what we understand our role to be in terms of protecting people fleeing persecution," added Jadwat, who said ACLU attorneys have been anticipating the new measures and reviewing legal options. "If the president doesn't like what the law says, the way to address it is to get Congress to pass a new one."

But the new rules will at least please the most vicious immigration haters, like Stephen Miller, whose fingerprints are all over this. They either believe (or pretend to) that really, no one deserves asylum because people from shithole countries simply aren't worthy of human rights. The administration and Fox News insist there's a vast conspiracy of people making fake claims of persecution after America-hating liberals coached them to invent fake cases, and now, anyone seeking asylum will have to do so at official ports of entry, hooray. Oh yes, and the administration is also doing everything it can to limit access to ports of entry, another tactic that's resulted in lawsuits against the government. Isn't that a beautiful Catch-22? You have to do it legally (although you were doing it legally before). So we'll change the definition of doing it legally, then make it impossible for you to do that, either. Damn, why are there so many people who just won't follow the law?

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week issued a formal apology for Canada's 1939 decision to turn away the M.S. St Louis, a ship carrying refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. Canada, like the USA, sent the ship back to Europe, where many of the passengers were killed in the Holocaust. Just a bit of historical trivia, no particular reason.

[WaPo / Vox / Vox]

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Doktor Zoom

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.

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HOLY ACHTUNG TWITTER IS FREAKING OUT! Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office (SCO) has issued a statement, almost 24 full hours after Buzzfeed's story on Donald Trump ordering Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the failed Trump Tower Moscow deal started blowing everybody's minds. Mueller's spokesman says actually BuzzFeed got it a bit wrong. This is significant because 1) Mueller's office NEVER talks, and B) well, they're not actually saying BuzzFeed got it WRONG wrong. Just, you know, kinda wrong.

Wow, that statement is lawyered as fuck. BuzzFeed described "specific statements" wrong, and its "characterization of documents and testimony" was just an eensy bit off, and maybe if BuzzFeed moved this sofa over here it would take advantage of more natural light in the room, and honestly, BuzzFeed should trim up this one paragraph of its article, because those sentences DO NOT SPARK MARIE KONDO'S JOY.

Otherwise, it's great!

First of all, we want everybody to relax. Donald Trump is still a criminal.

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It's been a joy watching the reactions come in from TrumpWorld about the news that Donald Trump has committed YET ANOTHER CRIME, in this case suborning perjury by instructing his former lawyer thug fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. How many other people did he do that with? WE DUNNO! But that's not what this post is about.

First of all, let's see what the big guy himself did. As with all presidential statements from the un-president, it happened on Twitter:

Oh wait, that's (grapes) not it. Here it is:

That's right, the president of the United States reacted to a bombshell news report exposing that he had tampered with a witness by suborning perjury by ... tampering with that witness some more in public, by threatening his father-in-law! (To be fair, Trump has been trying to intimidate the witness by encouraging the feds to investigate Cohen's father-in-law for a hot minute now. It's one of his things, like tweeting and pooping at the same time and comparing WALL to WHEEL.)

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