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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Center for Immigration Studies: Unaccompanied Minors Are Mexico's Problem

Rating: 6 votes, 5.00 average.
A recent article by Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies posits that even if the unaccompanied minors arriving at our Southern border are refugees, they should be sent back.
Mr. Krikorian's view of Mexico.


I find that CIS in general and Mr. Krikorian in particular are usually fairly reasonable in their arguments (though there are exceptions; and more exceptions). However, Mr. Krikorian's recent article is long on insults and short on insights.


First, the insults (they're more fun to deal with, no?). He refers to the "anti-borders Left," which I suppose means that to him, anyone who advocates for immigrants opposes all borders. This is kind of like saying that anyone who advocates for a speed limit opposes driving. He also refuses to acknowledge that children arriving at the border are unaccompanied (he refers to them as "unaccompanied" - damning them with quotation marks). What he means by "unaccompanied" is that the children are brought here by smugglers who (and this is a real quote from CIS - check the link if you don't believe me) "watch over the children until they are taken into custody by U.S. authorities as part of a process that turns the children over to relatives in the United States." I guess technically, the children are accompanied, though having a smuggler "watch over" my kids is about as desirable as having them spend a night at Neverland Ranch. Finally, here's a good one:

Asylum is for people willing to go anywhere to get out of where they are; just as a drowning man doesn't pick and choose among life preservers he sees in the water, a genuine asylum-seeker doesn't pick and choose among countries.

Au contraire, mon Krikorian: Drowning men who hope to survive are actually quite picky about their life preservers. Think about Leonardo DiCaprio in that movie with the boat. Had he been a bit more choosy, maybe he and Kate Winslet would have floated off together into the happily ever after. In the same way, asylum seekers must be very choosy about where they plan to spend the rest of their lives. Just ask all those poor Eritrean refugees in Sudan, who are subject to exploitation, attacks, and expulsions. Probably they are wishing that they had found a better life preserver.


A Central American refugee's view of Mexico.

OK, enough of that. Now to Mr. Krikorian's "insights" (sorry for the quotes, I was feeling snarky).


Mr. Krikorian's main point is that even if the children from Central America are refugees, a point that he does not concede, they can be turned away under international law. Why? Because the 1951 Refugee Convention provides:

The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.

According to Mr. Krikorian, the underlined language means that an alien who flees persecution and passes through one country should not be allowed to apply for asylum in another country because the alien is not "coming directly" from the territory of feared harm. In other words, Central Americans who pass through Mexico cannot seek asylum in the U.S. because they are obliged to seek asylum in Mexico.


There is one teeny tiny problem with Mr. Krikorian's idea. As he himself notes, United States law "unfortunately" only allows asylum seekers to be turned away if they come from a "safe third country." U.S. law recognizes only one "safe third country," Canada. He thus suggest that the statutory fix to the border surge is to "bar outright any asylum claim from someone who passed through a third country where he should have made that claim first."


While I think this is an idea worth discussing, I don't see it as the simple solution that Mr. Krikorian does. For one thing, while Mr. Krikorian wants to convince us that Mexico is a "safe" country, there is a lot of evidence that it is not safe. So if such a law were implemented, I would expect the battle would shift from the applicant's fear of return to her country to why she would not be safe in Mexico (much as the battle in many asylum cases is about the one-year filing deadline, not the fear of return). All this would make Central American cases more--not less--difficult (and time consuming) to adjudicate.


Also, there is the more philosophical question about how we, as a country, want to treat people coming to us for help. While we cannot solve all the worlds problems, we also cannot ignore those problems. Especially when they are in our backyard (remember the Monroe Doctrine). And especially when our policies contributed to those problems (remember the Monroe Doctrine).


Mr. Krikorian and I do, I think, agree on one thing: The influx of asylum seekers at our border needs to be addressed. We need to have a rational policy debate about how to treat such people. In my opinion, that debate should protect the integrity of our asylum system (it should not be used as a way to get around normal immigration procedures) and it should also respect the people coming to us for help and protect bona fide refugees. Even though I generally disagree with them, I believe that groups like CIS--groups that advocate for more restrictive immigration policies--have an important role to play in the debate. That role would be more constructive if they focused more on policy and less on polemics.

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

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Comments

  1. Jack2's Avatar
    "anti-borders Left,"

    I think he just means open borders. To be anti-borders implies something like terra nullius. Based on context, I think Krikorian is referring to those who would prefer formal virtually unlimited immigration, or in the meantime informal (by not enforcing law which controls entry into and presence in the U.S.)
  2. Jack2's Avatar
    I believe that groups like CIS--groups that advocate for more restrictive immigration policies--have an important role to play in the debate.
    That opinion may not go over well!

    The most fundamental aspect of immigration policy is the number. The premise that that the number must always be the same or higher is preposterous yet, for some, the very idea of lower is beyond the pale. That view is dismissed as "poisonous" or "extremist" or presumed to be motivated by "hate" and thus whoever holds it should be excluded from the debate. The claim that lower immigration is "extremist" is an odd one considering that more Americans favor lower immigration than higher.

    Obviously, many in The Establishment only want to debate the fine points of what they all generally agree upon, e.g., how to do a mass legalization, not whether to have one at all.
  3. JDzubow's Avatar
    Thanks, Jack2. I don't see why we cannot debate any level of immigration - even 0. In a democracy, we (theoretically) debate issues, learn stuff, and then come to some type of consensus. Obviously, we are not working that way these days, if ever, but that does not mean we shouldn't aspire towards the ideal. I have no problem with those who oppose immigration, but I sometimes have difficulty with how they oppose immigration.
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I cannot understand why some people think that the Center for Immigration Studies is any different from, or entitled to any more respect than, many other anti-immigrant hate organizations.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
  5. Retired INS's Avatar
    You say Canada is the only country recognized as a 3rd country from which we will not take asylum seekers. I have been retired from USCIS for two years so maybe I missed something. Years ago we denied Southeast Asians who had been granted refugee status in France, then came to America as tourists and asked for asylum. When was France taken off the list of acceptable countries to take refugees?
  6. Retired INS's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ImmigrationLawBlogs
    I cannot understand why some people think that the Center for Immigration Studies is any different from, or entitled to any more respect than, many other anti-immigrant hate organizations.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has well researched, yet one-sided, reports that often give very good information. As a former INS manager, I received their reports for years. I almost always found something wrong with them, but they were much closer to the truth than the left leaning Southern Poverty Law Center. CIS is also better than FAIR. FAIR was behind proposition 187 in 1994. The proposition was not unconstitutional because of the 1982 Plyler decision, but because of the 1875 Supreme Court decision saying immigration was a federal issue. California had no legal right to impose any immigration restrictions. Of course, liberals were too busy collecting donations from Hispanics who thought they might be discriminated against to tell the truth. Why let the truth interfere with a good fund raising tool?

    As an immigration manager I found very few groups I would trust to honestly represent aliens with immigration problems. Catholic Charities was one, but only if they had a good immigration specialist. Groups representing farmers are also pretty good. I often worked with the NISEI Farmers' League. The Mexican Consul also hired good attorneys to help their citizens, they just aren't able to help very many.

    Don Riding
    USCIS Field Office Director, Fresno (retired)
  7. JDzubow's Avatar
    Roger - I judge them based on what they say, not their origin. While some of their writers are intellectually dishonest (as I noted), I think it is a stretch to call them a hate group. Also, I think it is important to respond to them, as they are one of the voices in the conversation. I usually do not like what they have to say, but that is life in a democracy - we engage with people who we disagree with.
  8. JDzubow's Avatar
    Don - I am speaking here specifically of the safe third party agreement. We have such an agreement only with Canada. As for CIS reports, while I think they do contribute useful information, I believe it is important to be careful with their reports, as they are not always reliable and a reader who is not familiar with the subject matter may be misled (sometimes this appears to be deliberate). As I argue here (and as I have argued previously), I think CIS has a role to play in the conversation, that is why it is very disappointing when they put out less-than truthful statements. I do not know why they do that, as it just detracts from their credibility, and perhaps if they exercised a bit more quality or editorial control over some of their more "enthusiastic" bloggers, they would put out a more consistent and reliable product.
  9. Retired INS's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by JDzubow
    Don - I am speaking here specifically of the safe third party agreement. We have such an agreement only with Canada. As for CIS reports, while I think they do contribute useful information, I believe it is important to be careful with their reports, as they are not always reliable and a reader who is not familiar with the subject matter may be misled (sometimes this appears to be deliberate). As I argue here (and as I have argued previously), I think CIS has a role to play in the conversation, that is why it is very disappointing when they put out less-than truthful statements. I do not know why they do that, as it just detracts from their credibility, and perhaps if they exercised a bit more quality or editorial control over some of their more "enthusiastic" bloggers, they would put out a more consistent and reliable product.

    Thank you - I was not familiar with the same third party agreement, but I last supervised officers doing asylum interviews before the asylum corps was created in the INS, about 25 years ago. I agree with your comments about CIS, they have lots of good information in their reports, but purposely leave out anything that contradicts their point of view. Unfortunately, most politicians, both republicans and democrats, do the same. Since I spent many years in both enforcement and benefits, I have a better understanding than most, and get frustrated with most proposals. I fully support the Dream Act and AgJobs. I object to proposals that would have new immigrants wait until everyone else has waited their turn. The sibling category for some countries has waiting times that could take decades to clear out unless more visas are added to that category. Besides, I know from personal experience that about 80% of all legal immigrants would not have qualified unless they, or an immediate relative, had not violated our immigration laws. The idea of putting your name on a list and waiting your turn ended in 1965, and even that law primarily helped Europeans.
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