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Congressional Leaders Ignore Asylum Laws Protecting Border Children. By Roger Algase

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

Whether motivated by cowardice, as I contend, or by right wing extremism, as my colleague Matt Kolken argues in his comment to my July 8 post about the White House response to the human rights crisis at the border involving more than 50,000 child refugees from violence in Central America, it is clear that the president is nervous, to say the least, about the idea of affording these children the right to asylum hearings which they are guaranteed under current law.

Nor is he alone among Democratic leaders. Now, Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, is also reluctant to grant these children their legal rights. The Hill reports that Hoyer wants these children to be deported except in "extraordinary circumstances". See Hoyer: Most Kids should be sent home (July 8).

The only problem is that this is not what our law says. As I have mentioned previously, the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Protection Act of 2008 provides that children who are not from contiguous countries cannot be summarily returned when they arrive at the US border, but must be given hearings first to determine if they have the right to asylum or other relief. Section 235 of this law also provides that the best interests of the children concerned, including access to counsel, shall be the paramount factor in conducting these proceedings. It also waives some of the usual statutory bars to applying for asylum, such as the one-year deadline.

There can be no question that allowing children from non-contiguous counties to apply for asylum protection is not just an incidental afterthought, but is central to the purpose of this law. This makes attempts by either the White House or Congressional leaders in either party to ignore or flout the asylum laws in the cases of children arriving at the border from Central America all the more reprehensible.

The Hill
also reports (UN pushes for migrants to be called refugees, July 8) that the Obama administration now wants to change the law and replace it with one which would allow Border Patrol agents to deport the children or allow them a hearing. One can imagine how many children would be given hearings in those circumstances; 1 out of 1,000 would probably be an overly high estimate.

There is also no shortage of hypocrisy about enforcing the immigration laws on the Republican side of the aisle. When the law calls for mass deportation of unauthorized immigrants, the Republicans are in favor of draconian enforcement and critical of the president for making any exceptions at all.

But when the law affords children fleeing gang violence in their home countries the right to an asylum hearing, then following the law is apparently the last thing that the Republicans are interested in doing. According to the above article in The Hill, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R. Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, stated:

"Most of the money requested in the president's supplemental [appropriations request to Congress] seems geared toward processing Central Americans than stopping the surge itself."

But "processing" these children for asylum hearings is exactly what the law requires.

However, while America's politicians in both parties are focusing on finding ways and means of depriving Central American children fleeing gang violence of their rights under US law, the UN is advocating a more humanitarian approach to the law, based on the reality of the danger that many of these children would face if returned to their countries.

The Hill quotes UNHCR official Leslie Velez as saying in testimony submitted to the House Judiciary Committee last month:

"Unaccompanied children and families who fear for their lives and freedoms must not be forcibly returned without access to proper asylum procedures."

The Hill also reports:

"In El Salvador, at least 135,000 people, or 2.1 per cent of the population, have been forced to leave their homes, the vast majority due to gang extortion and violence. according to U.N. figures. That's more than twice the percentage displaced by Colombia's brutal civil war, the U.N. says."


The Hill
continues:

"Immigration experts in the US and Central America say the flow of migrants from Honduras and El Salvador is likely to rise as the two countries experience more gang-related violence.

'They are leaving for some reason. Let's not send them back in a mechanical way, but rather evaluate the reasons they left their country', Fernando Protti, regional representative for the U.N. refugee agency, told the Associated Press."

For at least the past three decades, ever since some three million unauthorized immigrants were granted legal status during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the American public has been hearing endless speeches from pundits and politicians in both parties about how important it is to enforce our immigration laws, not to disregard or ignore them. Anyone who is serious about enforcing the immigration laws of the United States should be doing everything possible to make sure that not one single Central American child is turned away at our border, or sent home, without first being given the right to a full and fair asylum hearing before an immigration judge.

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Updated 07-09-2014 at 02:01 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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Comments

  1. Someone12's Avatar
    and soon, the US of A will be filled to overflowing with hundreds of thousands of brats from developing countries, and quickly become wards of the states and an enormous burden on US taxpayers....not that immigration attorneys care a fig about that....they just keep holding out their hands for the billable hours....
  2. Retired INS's Avatar
    When I was at the Border Patrol Academy in 1972, I had an opportunity to translate for some Brazilian nationals since nobody else in the area spoke Portuguese. I discovered early in my immigration career that mass deportation hearings can be held when the charges are identical. I would think we could have mass deportation hearings for the unaccompanied minors. It would speed up the process, as opposed to giving each child his or her own hearing.

    I am not advocating mass deportations. The IJ might well grant asylum to the entire group. Since the charges would be identical, one attorney could represent the entire group at the same cost of representing each individual child. It would save time and money for everyone, except maybe the immigration lawyers representing entire groups rather than individual cases.
  3. Intecon's Avatar
    Why doesn't the USA just send the Marines to Central America? . . . We've done it all over the world, and are doing it in the Middle East. But wait, there's little or no oil in Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras and Mexico won't give us theirs. Besides poverty and despotic governments, those countries have only Bananas and drugs, and the USA has an endless supply of Heroin from Afghanistan, the largest producer of the Heroin Poppy in the world, so why should we worry?

    Just let'em all in, and when they start coming up the pipeline from China through Central America, maybe we can let in a few million Chinese asylum seeking "refugees" and perhaps some Indians, Bangladeshis, Iraqis, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Northern Irish or South Malucans . . . . if they can get here, let'em all in . . . or not.

    So let the American government pay for hundreds of thousands of children, incapable of earning a living or providing food or shelter for themselves, come to the border and seek humanitarian aid. Who cares? The USA is already bankrupt, what's a few more billion to show the world how magnanimous we are? The savior of the world must not let the huddled masses, yearning to be free, down. So let'em in, each and every one. In fact, why all the formality? Just throw open the borders and let anyone who wants to come, come to America, the land of opportunity . . . for everyone but Americans.
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Retired INS, either we are a nation that believes in justice and laws or we are not. Mass hearings, however well meant the idea may be, are not consistent with American standards of justice, fair play and due process.

    Let's follow our laws, including the 2008 law providing the right to individual asylum hearings for Central American children, and not compromise our ideals in order to please the white supremacists who do not want any more Latino, Black or Asian people of any age to come here no matter what kind of rights they may have to gain legal status in this country.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 07-09-2014 at 05:28 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  5. NEDONN's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ImmigrationLawBlogs
    Retired INS, either we are a nation that believes in justice and laws or we are not. Mass hearings, however well meant the idea may be, are not consistent with American standards of justice, fair play and due process.

    Let's follow our laws, including the 2008 law providing the right to individual asylum hearings for Central American children, and not compromise our ideals in order to please the white supremacists who do not want any more Latino, Black or Asian people of any age to come here no matter what kind of rights they may have to gain legal status in this country.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    So if you don't agree with your interpretation of law you are a white supremacist??
  6. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Let me ask NEDONN a question. If we were dealing with 50,000 blond blue-eyed Scandinavian children at the Canadian border, wouldn't America be having a vastly different discussion about how to respond? Please be honest if you wish to answer.

    Also, concerning Someone12's complaint that immigration lawyers allegedly charge high fees for doing little or nothing, there is nothing would that make me happier than making the immigration laws and regulations less complicated so that it would be possible to obtain faster and more reliable results for my clients with less expenditure of time and with lower fees.

    Purely from a self-interested point of view, that would be good for business. More importantly, it would also make it easier to carry out a lawyer's mission of helping clients.

    If Someone12 would like to contact his/her Senator/Congressional representatives to ask them to make our absurdly complicated immigration laws and regulations more simple, that effort would have my enthusiastic support. I am sure that I also speak for other immigration lawyers in general.

    We want to get results for our clients, not to spend endless hours, days, weeks and months embroiled in disputes over technicalities which were put into the law only for the purpose of making immigration more difficult and expensive than necessary.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 07-10-2014 at 11:04 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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