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  1. Trump's Attacks on Clinton as "Weak" on Muslim Refugees Helped Him Win. Should the Courts Ignore This in Muslim Ban Lawsuits? Roger Algase

    The following comment, which has been revised and expanded as of May 21, will continue with some of the points I discussed in my earlier comment on this topic dated May 9.

    http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?9884

    Amid the countless reasons put forth by innumerable pundits for Hillary Clinton's losing an election that even Donald Trump has (accurately, for once) said she should have won, ranging from the Alpha of alleged Russian hacking of the DNC to the Omega of a letter by a certain government official by the name of James Comey, there is one important factor that has been largely overlooked by the media, but should not be overlooked by the Federal 4th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals.

    This is the role that the use of specifically anti-Muslim attacks directed against Hillary Clinton by Trump and his supporters may have had in determining the outcome of the election. The nature of these attacks, and their importance, deserve to be among the factors that the 4th and 9th Circuit Courts should consider in determining the legality of Trump's latest six Muslim country entry ban order.

    While Trump's revised executive order's actions against refugees, also blocked by the Hawaii federal judge's order now under review by the 9th Circuit, have received far less publicity, they are also arguably just as important to a judicial assessment of Trump's real motives for the entry ban order as the six almost 100 per vent Muslim country ban itself.

    Which of Trump's and his supporters many attacks on Muslims, and, especially Muslim refugees, am I referring to, and why are they so important to the six Muslim country and world-wide refugee ban litigation?

    Let us take a close look at an October 2016 article, appearing just a month before the election, in Breitbart News, then under the direction of Stephen Bannon, who, as every Muslim and non-Muslim in America knows, is now Trump's senior presidential adviser. The article bears a title typical for this publication, which has never been known for using restrained language:

    Critics: Hillary Clinton Plans to Flood U.S. With Muslim Refugees

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-governm...slim-refugees/

    The article begins with a dire warning:

    "More than 45 per cent of the refugees resettled in the United States in FY 2016, 38,556 out of 84,995 were Muslim, according to the Department of State's interactive website. Of the 12,587 Syrian refugees who were resettled in the United States in FY 2016, more than 99 per cent, 12,487, were Muslim."


    The article then, after quoting from a National Review piece attacking the Democrats for supporting "aggressive multiculturalism" (an obvious code word for Latino, Middle Eastern, Asian and black immigrants) as opposed to "patriotic assimilation" (i.e. European immigrants, as were favored by the discredited and long since repealed 1924 Immigration Act which Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions had such high praise for as a Senator only two years ago, in his 2015 Immigration Handbook for Congressional Republicans), continues with a direct attack on Hillary Clinton.

    Breitbart
    quotes from an article by Ann Corcoran, who specializes in blogging against Muslim refugees, when she is not warning that America is in danger of being taken over by Sharia law. See:

    https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-04-...ainst-refugees

    According to Corcoran, as quoted in Breitbart's above referenced article:

    "If Clinton is elected, she will certainly bring in at least 200,000 refugees in her first year, the majority of whom will be from Muslim dominated countries...

    Hillary Clinton is clearly hiding her real plans from the American people. If she wins the election, she...will...flood the country with refugees from countries that hate us..."

    Breitbart also states:

    "Voters strongly oppose President Obama's plan to bring 110,000 Middle Eastern and African refugees to this country next year, up from 85,000 this year, and view that decision as an increased danger to national security, according to a Rasmussen poll."

    Is there any question about which religion the overwhelming majority of Middle Eastern Refugees and a large percentage of anticipated African refugees would belong to?

    But, as Breitbart News also makes clear in the same article, wildly inflated numbers of refugees whom Hillary Clinton allegedly planned to bring to the United States were not merely bandied about by Donald Trump's surrogates or supporters, but by Trump himself and his top immigration adviser, Jeff Sessions:

    "On September 20 in High Point, North Carolina, GOP nominee Donald Trump, citing a Senate study, said: 'Altogether Hillary Clinton's plan would bring in 620,000 refugees in her first term, alone, with no effective way ti screen or vet them. Her plan would cost $400 billion in terms of lifetime welfare and entitlement costs.'"

    And what "Senate study" did Trump have in mind when he made this speech? Breitbart reports:

    "But the 620,000 estimate does not come from the Trump campaign. Instead, it comes from a statement released by the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest chaired by Sen, Jeff Sessions (R-AL)"

    And this was not Trump's only attack against Clinton based on the issue of predominantly Muslim refugees: Mother Jones reported the following about a speech Trump made at a September, 2016 rally in Ft. Myers, Florida:

    "Trump attacked Clinton as weak on immigration and terrorism, saying the Democratic nominee 'has the most open borders policy of anyone ever to seek the presidency.' He also falsely claimed that ISIS prefers that Clinton win the election. "They want her so badly to be your president, you have no idea.'"

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/...bings-refugees

    The same report also states:

    "Later in the day, the Trump campaign issued a statement that called for 'extreme vetting' of refugees and keeping the number of Syrian refugees in the United States at their current low levels."

    Here are some excerpts from Trump's statement referred to in the above story:

    https://twitter.com/SopanDeb/status/777951703614185472

    "Today, Hillary Clinton showed that she will say anything - and blame anyone - to shift attention away from the weakness she showed as Secretary of State. The Obama-Clinton doctrine of not taking ISIS seriously enough has emboldened terrorists all over the world. They are hoping and praying that Hillary Clinton becomes president so they can continue their savagery and murder...

    That's why I've proposed extreme vetting for immigrants from troubled parts of the world where terrorists live and train and oppose Hillary Clinton's 550% increase in the number of refugees from the conflict in Syria."

    What, exactly, did Trump mean by the term "extreme vetting"?

    Is it anything other than a Muslim entry ban?

    It is nothing other than that, according to Trump's response at his October 9, 2016 debate with Clinton: Here is the exchange, as reported in the transcript of the debate:

    http://fortune.com/2016/10/09/presid...llary-clinton/

    "RADDATZ: Would you please explain whether or not the Muslim ban still stands?

    TRUMP:
    It's called extreme vetting." [Italics added.]

    After this bald admission that the Muslim ban and "extreme vetting" are one and the same thing, Trump continued as follows, according to the debate transcript:

    "We are going to areas like Syria where they're coming in by the tens of thousands because of Barack Obama. And Hillary Clinton wants to allow a 550 percent increase over Obama. People are coming into our country like we have no idea who they are, where they are from, what their feelings about our country is [sic], and she wants 550 percent more. This is going to be the great Trojan Horse of all time...

    But I don't want to have...hundreds of thousands of people coming in from Syria when we know nothing about them. We know nothing about their values and their love for our country."

    In addition to Trump's utterly baseless claim that the US was letting in refugees from Syria "when we know nothing about them" (after the normal 2-year screening process which was in place for Syrian refugees under Obama!), the last sentence of Trump's above response goes beyond the specific issue of terrorism and into the larger "cultural" attack which has been used to exclude unpopular minority immigrants from the time of the anti-Irish Know-Nothings in the mid-19th century, the Asian exclusion laws around the turn of the 20th century, and the anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924.

    Here, Trump is suggesting that, even apart from any alleged terrorist connections or sympathies, Syrian refugees may not fit in with American "values", or may be lacking in "love" for America, just as Chinese immigrants were accused by the US Supreme Court of being unable to assimilate in is notorious Chae Chan Ping decision in 1889, and as every other minority immigrant group in our history has been accused of at one time or another.

    Taken as a whole, Trump's above remarks show a clear pattern of using the terror issue as an entry way to excluding all members of an entire major world religion from the United States (just as Trump is now using "crime" as an excuse to ramp up the deportation of 11 million mainly Latino immigrants).

    Is this something that the 4th Circuit, 9th Circuit and other federal courts which may be deciding the legality of Trump's Muslim ban orders can be expected to turn a blind eye to?

    There is a powerful case to be made for the proposition that Trump's rhetoric accusing Hillary Clinton of being "weak" against the alleged danger of admitting Muslim refugees did more to help him win the electoral vote last November (while losing the popular vote to Clinton by almost 3 million votes) and become president than any other factor (including, to be sure, Clinton's own perceived weakness as a candidate, symbolized by her vapid, meaningless and now totally forgotten campaign slogan: "Stronger Together" ). (Oy!)

    In issuing the original and revised Muslim ban orders, was Trump's real concern one of national security? Or was he instead fulfilling a campaign promise (yes, even presidents sometime do that, now and then) that he made in his notorious worldwide Muslim ban speech of December 7, 2015?

    Isn't this something that the federal courts, under the doctrine of separation of powers on which our democracy depends, have not only the right, but the duty, to look into?

    And wouldn't this be the case even if Trump had not, after becoming president, continued his previous anti-Muslim policies by appointing Michael Flynn, who said that the Muslim religion was a "cancer", and Stephen Bannon, the Breitbart News chief who believes that the "West" is in a "War of Civilizations" with the Muslim world, to the highest level advisory positions in his administration?

    And this is not to mention Trump's appointment of Jeff Sessions, the source of the above inflated figures quoted by Breitbart News, whose only purpose was to scare American voters into thinking that this country would be inundated by hundreds of thousands of America-hating Muslim refugees if Hillary Clinton became president, as his Attorney General (with responsibility for defending the Muslim ban orders in court)!

    Are the federal courts obliged to pretend, to adopt a legal fiction that flies in the face of all reality and truth concerning the history of this issue, to the effect that none of the president's Islamophobic statements or actions, before and after his becoming president, have any meaning or connection with the origin and purpose of both the initial seven country version and his latest six Muslim country entry ban order?

    In Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972) a leading Supreme Court decision involving the capacity of the federal courts to review a State Department visa denial, the Court quoted a statement by Justice Felix Frankfurter, to the effect that the power of the courts to review executive branch immigration decisions might be different if the "slate" (of judicial precedents) were "clean". But, referring to a line of decisions dating from the dark period of the Chinese exclusion laws, Frankfurter said that the slate was not clean.

    In the case of Trump's Muslim ban orders, the issue, to be sure, involves a different "slate" - the president's own speeches and actions, both before and after taking office. Who can possibly say that that slate is clean?

    In conclusion, let us suppose that both of the above Circuit Courts, or the Supreme Court, accept the president's meretricious (from the Latin word meretrix - look it up) argument that the courts have no power to look behind the surface language of the latest six Muslim country entry ban order in order to ascertain its true purpose, and that they are instead required to accept the national security pretext set forth in the order at face value.

    Can there be any possible doubt that if the Muslim entry ban is upheld, the president, whose relationship with the truth has been tenuous at best in most of his immigration statements (as even many of his own supporters would admit), would seize on such a decision as an endorsement of his campaign statements that all Muslims are suspect, including several million loyal American citizens, and that the rights of these US citizens to free exercise of their religion, or their personal freedom from surveillance, or even from WW2 Japanese-American style internment if the untrammeled will of the president so determines, are no long recognized in Donald Trump's America?

    And if the rights of Muslim Americans disappear, how secure will be the rights of the rest of the American people who are not Muslims?

    This is the ultimate danger of Trump's Muslim ban orders, as well as his mass deportation agenda against mainly Mexican and other Latino immigrants. On the surface, they may only appear to affect the rights of non-citizens.

    But history, as well as so many of Trump's own attacks on the media, the judiciary, and just about anyone else who opposes him, show that once the rights and freedoms of immigrants start to vanish, the rights of the American people will soon follow.
    ____________________________________
    Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, Roger has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants from diverse parts of the world receive work visas and green cards.

    Roger's practice is concentrated primarily in H-1B specialty occupation, O-1 extraordinary ability and J-1 trainee work visas; and in green cards through labor certification, and through opposite sex or same sex marriage. His email address is algaselex@gmail.com





    Updated 05-24-2017 at 07:52 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  2. Two New House Bills Support Trump's Racial Profiling, Mass Incarceration and Demonizing Immigrants Agenda. Roger Algase

    Two leading members of the House Judiciary Committee, Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, (R-Virginia) have introduced nightmare "immigration enforcement" bills which would give massive support to the agenda which Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions have been promoting that would lead to increased racial profiling, mass incarceration and demonizing immigrants in general as criminals, terrorists, fraudsters and people who take away jobs from Americans.

    The two bills, by vastly increasing the size of Trump's "Deportation Force" and, in the case of the Labrador Bill, authorizing state and local governments to enact their own anti-immigrant legislation along the lines of Arizona's notorious S.B. 1070 law and the recently passed, arguably even worse, Texas S.B.4 law, would come even closer to actualizing the long held goals of an anti-immigrant movement which has never accepted the demographic changes brought about by the immigration reform law of 1965 abolishing the "Nordics"-only "national origin" racially motivated immigration quotas of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act.

    Attorney General Sessions, in particular, as a Senator, had high praise for the 1924 law as a basis for current US immigration policy.

    Summaries of both bills are posted on the official website of the House Judiciary Committee

    www.judiciary.house.gov

    A news story about the two bills is also available at:

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/18/politi...use-committee/

    The Labrador bill is called:

    The Michael Davis, Jr. And Danny Oliver In Honor Of State And Local Law Enforcement Act

    The Goodlatte bill is called:

    H.R. 2406, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authorization Act.

    In addition to the dangerous and destructive provision authorizing state and local governments to enact own ant-immigrant legislation, mentioned above, the Labrador bill would do the following (again based on the official summary - I have not seen the full text):

    1) Contains provisions punishing "Sanctuary" cities and states by cutting off their DOJ and DHS grants, and exposing them to private lawsuits;

    2) Makes it easier to detain and deport drunk drivers, among other "criminal aliens";

    3) Makes it more difficult for foreign citizens to obtain legal visas by imposing extra layers of security screening, including social media checks. This could, potentially, give consular officers even more excuses for arbitrary visa denials based primarily on nationality or religion, as well as slowing down the visa process in general;

    4) In a major move toward making Trump's much vaunted "Deportation Force" a reality, the bill also provides for hiring an additional 12,500 ICE officers and for (according to the summary) "strengthening their ability to make arrests", i.e. create even more fear and panic in immigrant communities than there has been at present in the first four months of the "Donald Trump Era".

    According to the official summary, the Goodlatte bill would:

    i) "...ensure that ICE is dedicated to enforcing all immigration laws, not just a select few", i.e. that ICE does not leave anyone out of its mass deportation dragnet;

    ii) Beefs up ICE's investigation responsibilities, including, among other things, worksite enforcement and "immigration benefits and document fraud". This appears to be intended to put ICE further into the business of not only deporting unauthorized and criminal immigrants, but also intimidating and harassing employers and other sponsors of legal visas in order to discourage them from hiring immigrants. As Donald Trump said: "Hire American" (or go to jail)?

    iii) In connection with item ii) above, the Goodlatte bill would set up a division within ICE to be called Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). This division would be tasked with responsibility for, among other things, "identifying, apprehending, detaining and removing aliens unlawfully present" regardless of whether or not they have any criminal history or otherwise pose a danger to public safety.

    iv) In support of the above, the Goodlatte bill would also provide for major increases in Trump's Deportation Force, to the tune of 10,000 more ICE deportation officers and 2,500 detention officers.

    v) In addition, the Goodlatte bill codifies Trump's VOICE office, whose only real purpose is to publicize alleged crimes committed by or charged against immigrants. This is in the same spirit as that of the notorious German 1930's and 1940's publication "Der Stuermer", which did the same thing with regard to alleged crimes committed by Jews, and whose director, Julius Streicher, was ultimately executed as a war criminal.

    The above highlights from the summaries of these bills do not detract from the fact that certain specific features of the bills may, arguably, be marginally useful in providing protection not already contained in our strict immigration laws against dangerous criminals and potential terrorists.

    But the language of the bills (again on the basis of the provided summaries - the bills themselves reportedly amount to some 200 pages) lumps all immigrants together with the criminals and terrorists (as well as drunk drivers, "fraudsters" and "job stealers") in order to demonize America's primarily Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern and black immigrants as undesirable in America in every way imaginable.

    America's law enforcement officers will not fail to get the message that immigrants from parts of the world other than Europe are no longer wanted or welcome in Donald Trump's America; and federal, state and local police police will have carte blanche to go after immigrants in any way they wish, as much as they want.

    As the propaganda saying in Germany during the above mentioned period (1933-1945) went:

    Die Juden sind unser Unglueck! ("The Jews are our misfortune!")

    The same spirit of antagonism toward the great majority of America's immigrants, including those who have legal status in this country as well as those who do not, runs throughout the above two immigration bills.
    ____________________________________
    Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, Roger has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants from diverse parts of the world receive work visas and green cards without regard to ethnicity, religion or nationality. Roger's email address is algaselex@gmail.com

    Updated 05-19-2017 at 08:44 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  3. ICE Arrests Return to 2014 Obama Levels

    by , 05-19-2017 at 07:37 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement has issued statistics relating to enforcement during President Trump's first 100 days:

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the 100 days since President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Orders (EOs) regarding immigration enforcement priorities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested more than 41,000 individuals who are either known or suspected of being in the country illegally. This reflects an increase of 37.6 percent over the same period in 2016.

    Between Jan. 22 and April 29, 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) deportation officers administratively arrested 41,318 individuals on civil immigration charges. Between Jan. 24 and April 30, 2016, ERO arrested 30,028.


    It should be noted that the current enforcement activities are a return to the levels seen under President Obama from 2014.

    Via NPR's Latino USA:

    Although the ICE arrests listed in the latest release reflect an increase from 2016, the 41,318 individuals arrested from January 22 to April 29, 2017 are more in line with statistics from 2014 and earlier:

    Updated 05-19-2017 at 07:51 AM by MKolken

  4. What are Mike Pence's Views on Immigration? Roger Algase

    At the time that Vice President Mike Pence was selected as Donald Trump's running mate in July, 2016, there was a good deal of focus on the fact that Pence's stance on mass deportation was significantly different from that of Trump's.

    Newsweek quoted the following from a speech that Pence gave at the Heritage Foundation in 2006, which strongly contrasted with the emphasis that Trump and AG Jeff Sessions have been placing since Trump's inauguration on putting every unauthorized immigrant in the United States in fear of deportation, regardless of whether or not they have ever been charged with a crime or otherwise pose any threat to the peace and safety of America:

    "It is not logistically possible to round up 12 million illegal aliens. We know that this idea of putting everybody on buses and conducting a mass deportation is a non-starter."

    http://www.newsweek.com/pence-trump-immigration-480983

    This statement, and a related proposal by Pence to grant legal status (not citizenship) to immigrants who "self-deport" briefly before coming right back to work as guest workers in the jobs they has been working in illegally did not exactly endear Pence to hard line anti-immigrant groups such as FAIR, which issued a July 2016 statement that it had some "concerns" about Pence's stands on immigration.

    http://www.fairus.org/legislation/fe...n-of-gov-pence

    This is not to say by any means that FAIR found nothing to like about some of Pence's immigration positions. For example, FAIR's statement commended his (unsuccessful) court battle to keep Syrian refugees from resettling in his state as governor of Indiana.

    FAIR was also happy with Pence's vote as a Congressman against the DREAM Act, and with his opposition as governor to President Obama's DACA program, which FAIR called an illegal use of executive power to grant amnesty to "millions of illegal aliens".

    FAIR'S statement did not mention Pence's strong condemnation of Trump's world-wide Muslim ban proposal in December, 2015. In a tweet, Pence denounced that proposal as "offensive and unconstitutional".

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/us-...ld-8378977.php

    Of course, as many have pointed out, even if some of Pence's proposals on immigration are more reasonable and less extreme than the Trumps/Sessions agenda which now holds sway in Washington, Pence, as Vice President, has no choice but to support Trump's agenda of mass deportation of mainly Latino immigrants and ban from entry to the US by 100 million Muslim immigrants from six countries (or as many of these as the federal courts may allow him to get away with).

    Therefore, we can expect Pence to be a loyal supporter of Trump's immigration agenda for as long as Trump is president.

    However long that might be.

    http://thehill.com/policy/national-s...-investigation

    http://thehill.com/homenews/administ...rumps-troubles

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law

    Updated 05-18-2017 at 08:12 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  5. Illogical Fears Generate Illogical Policies: Notes from the Center for Immigration Studies “Asylum Fraud” Panel

    This article is by Josh Rigney, the Legal Services Program Manager at the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC). Josh has worked with survivors of torture seeking asylum since May 2012. He holds a Master’s in International Relations and a Juris Doctor from American University. He is a member of the Virginia State Bar. The opinions expressed in this article are his alone, and do not represent the opinions of TASSC.
    Taking asylum policy advice from CIS is like taking urban planning advice from Godzilla.
    On May 10, I attended a panel discussion organized by the Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”) and titled Asylum Fraud and National Security. Described on the CIS website as a discussion on the threat posed by “the vetting – or the lack thereof” of asylum applicants in the U.S., the panel included three speakers who, at least on paper, appeared to have impressive expertise on immigration issues. Two of the speakers, Andrew Arthur and Mark Metcalf, formally served as immigration judges in Pennsylvania and Florida, respectively. The final panelist, Todd Bensman, is a long-time journalist with degrees in journalism and homeland security studies.

    CIS’s tagline is “Low-immigration, Pro-immigrant,” and it bills itself as “an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, research organization.” However, CIS is reliably biased, and produces shoddy “research” prone to support any policy that will decrease all immigration to the United States, regardless of the heartless nature of the policy. For example, a recent Washington Post article quoted Executive Director Mark Krikorian speaking in favor of limiting immigration by breeding fear of U.S. immigration policies amongst potential immigrants. Krikorian stated that only if Trump follows through on the fear inspired by his pronouncements on immigration will CIS’s preferred immigration levels be realized.


    As an immigration attorney who works with survivors of torture seeking asylum, turning the asylum process into a national security witch hunt would obviously impact those whom I serve. But that is not the only reason the panel’s viewpoints should matter to the broader asylum-seeker community and its supporters. As a recent New York Times article stressed, CIS – designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – and other anti-immigrant hard-liners now have the ear of the White House and congressional policy makers on immigration.


    The panelists stressed several points during the event. First, immigrants are a threat to the safety of the United States. Second, while refugees pose a danger, asylum seekers are an even greater threat to U.S. national security. Third, fraud is rampant among asylum seekers. Therefore, the panelists agreed that U.S. policymakers must make it harder for everyone to receive asylum, whether or not a particular individual has a legitimate claim.


    Immigrants are Dangerous


    To convince the small crowd at the event that all immigrants – asylum-seeking or otherwise – pose a threat to the safety of the United States, each panelist took turns describing his favorite scary immigrant story. Andrew Arthur spoke about Ramzi Yousef, one of the perpetrators of the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in 1993. Bensman spoke of Pakistanis with potential terrorist ties crossing the southern border with the help of a smuggler named Rakhi Gauchan. He stressed that Gauchan believed one of the Pakistanis was a terrorist, and Bensman stated that this person later received asylum.


    Of course, relying on scattered anecdotes to draw broad conclusions about all asylum seekers does not make for sound policy. For example, Bensman did not mention whether he actually knew the Pakistani was a terrorist. Indeed, according to his own master’s thesis, American investigators never determined whether Gauchan’s terrorism suspicions were accurate.


    As with any policy issue, harping on the inevitable few bad apples does not support throwing all of them out. Overall statistical trends must be analyzed, particularly when the goal is to punish an entire group of people, and particularly one as large as asylum seekers. In the first three months of 2017 alone, 40,899 people filed asylum claims with the Asylum Office. The handful of cases the panelists cited in their comments cannot justify making the asylum process more difficult for all of these people.


    What Do the Numbers Tell Us?


    A study published by the Cato Institute, an organization founded by one of the Republican mega-donor Koch brothers, determined that the chance that you will be killed by a foreign-born terrorist who is in the U.S. because of a grant of asylum is 1 in 2.7 billion. Between 1975 and 2015, over 700,000 people were granted asylum in the United States. Of those, just 4 have been “convicted of planning or committing a terrorist attack on U.S. soil…”


    So what statistics did the expert panel use to support their assertion that all asylum seekers are dangerous? In the only notable mention of actual numbers, Mark Metcalf provided data released by EOIR on the number of immigrants with pending court cases who failed to show up in court for their hearings. However, at no point did he provide any breakdown of the numbers for asylum seekers; nor did he explain how failing to show up for a court hearing is equivalent to committing asylum fraud or posing a threat to U.S. national security.


    One of the panelists, in a nod to those in the crowd who felt the U.S. is too generous to immigrants, mentioned that the U.S. “accepts more refugees than the rest of the world combined.” For the record, the U.S., a country of more than 325 million people, resettled 66,500 out of the 107,100 total refugees resettled by all countries in 2015. Canada, a country with a population of approximately 36 million people, resettled 20,000 refugees. Furthermore, Turkey (2.5 million), Pakistan (1.6 million), and Lebanon (1.1 million) all host over a million refugees each. For asylum seekers, the United States received only slightly more applications (172,700) than Sweden (156,400), a country of only 10 million people. Meanwhile, Germany (population of 81 million) received 441,900 asylum applications.


    The point is that while the U.S. does offer refuge to a significant number of people fleeing persecution every year, that does not justify the draconian policy recommendations supported by the panelists.


    Asylum Seekers vs. Refugees


    I can actually agree with some of the panel’s comments comparing the relative threat posed by refugees against the threat posed by asylum seekers. Arthur stressed that the primary difference between refugees and asylum seekers is that refugees are fully vetted prior to ever setting foot in the United States. In contrast, asylum seekers make it to U.S. territory, then seek protection while waiting for their asylum claim to be granted or rejected. Depending on the court or asylum office with jurisdiction over the applicant’s claim, that process can take many years (one survivor from my organization recently received asylum after a ten-year struggle). During this time, asylum seekers remain in the United States without undergoing security checks like those that refugees must pass before entering.


    Of course, none of this really matters unless you accept the idea that immigrants are truly a threat – which takes us back to the previous point. Yes, in theory, asylum seekers have the potential to pose a greater security threat than refugees – but that threat is already extremely low to begin with. In actuality, objective evidence that asylum seekers as a group are a threat to U.S. national security is weak at best.


    For example, the panelists claimed again and again that fraud is rampant in the asylum system – relying, again, on a handful of selected stories. As evidence of potential security threats, they correctly pointed out that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice do not conduct regular system-wide fraud risk assessments. But without such assessments, how did the panelists conclude that fraud is rampant?


    “Pro-immigrant”


    At times, at least one panelist expressed sympathy for the plight of the tens of thousands of asylum seekers with legitimate claims. For example, Arthur correctly stated that each fraudulent asylum application filed by someone without a claim will cause further delay in the process for another asylum seeker with a legitimate claim. He also paid lip service to the reality that the United States is a nation built by immigrants. Overall, however, the panelists expressed support for several policies that would have a disastrous impact on all asylum applicants seeking safety in the U.S.


    Arthur promoted the use of detention for asylum seekers, stating that the longer a person is detained, the less likely that person is to obtain asylum fraudulently. He failed to mention the devastating psychological repercussions detention will have for the thousands of torture and trauma survivors—many of whom are already suffering from PTSD—who would inevitably be thrown into such facilities.


    Arthur also declared that any person that transits through another country on the way to the United States lacks true fear, but instead seeks economic opportunity. In response, Mark Krikorian, in the role of moderator, asked if the U.S. should categorically deny asylum to anyone that transited through another country. Arthur suggested that could be achieved through legislation to change the eligibility requirements for asylum.


    Bensman suggested that only when we can guarantee the identity of people through unimpeachable ID documents should we allow them to seek asylum. But in reality, the lack of such documentation often stems from the chaos that forced asylum seekers to seek safety in the first place. In other words, his suggestion would bar those in greatest need of protection from accessing the asylum system at all.


    Finally, all the panelists suggested that DHS and DOJ commit significant resources to assess the fraud risk in the asylum system.


    Ignoring the Elephant in the Room


    Notably absent from these policy recommendations was the hiring of additional Immigration Judges and Asylum Officers. Assuming, for the moment, that asylum seekers waiting in the asylum backlog are a threat to U.S. national security, I can’t help but wonder why the panelists never suggested the only solution that would make it easier for immigration officials to spot fraudulent asylum claims.


    Mark Metcalf tacitly recognized this concept when he highlighted that good cross-examination, either by a prosecutor or an Immigration Judge, can expose fake asylum claims. The same principle holds for intelligent questioning by Asylum Officers in asylum interviews. With the current backlog of nearly 600,000 cases at the Immigration Courts, and another 250,000 claims before the Asylum Offices, each official responsible for testing the credibility of these claims is heavily overburdened. Relieving that burden by hiring more Immigration Judges and Asylum Officers will help these officials spot the fraudulent asylum claims that do cross their paths.


    This solution can lessen the actual problem of immense backlogs and long waits for people seeking asylum. As an added bonus, it would simultaneously address the speculative and over-exaggerated threats that the panelists identified, without denying a path to safety for tens of thousands of people fleeing persecution.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
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