Asylum Officers Work for the American People, Not Foreign Nationals
Opponents of the Trumpadministration have filed suit to block the president’s Migration ProtectionProtocols (MPP) program – known colloquially as the “stay in Mexico program.”That’s not surprising. Neither is the fact that the suit is being pursued inthe notoriously activist Ninth Judicial Circuit.
What is surprising, however, is that U.S. Citizenship and ImmigrationServices asylumofficers have jumped on the anti-Trump bandwagon. The American Federationof Government Employees Local 1924, the union representing asylum officers,filed a friend of the court brief claiming that, “[The MPP] violates ourNation’s longstanding tradition and international treaty and domesticobligation not to return those fleeing persecution to a territory where theywill be persecuted.”
Aside from the questionable ethicsdemonstrated by federal employees who insert themselves into a lawsuit betweenthe government and foreign nationals pressing bogusclaims for refuge in the U.S., there are also a number of egregious legalflaws in that assertion:
International law doesn’t obligatethe U.S. to accept all migrants who allege that they are fleeing persecution.Nations who are parties to the 1951 UnitedNations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees must refrain fromreturning people to a territory where they will face threats to their life orfreedom on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particularsocial group, or political opinion. This is referred to as the duty of non-refoulement.
However, the duty of non-refoulement pertains only to genuinerefugees. It does not apply to individuals who are emigrating to escape“generalized conditions of civil strife” (i.e.,the general breakdown of order, that frequently accompanies things like cropfailures, droughts, civil wars and contested regime changes).
And domesticlaw doesn’t require the U.S. to let in everyone who arrives at the borderrequesting asylum either. Asylum is a discretionaryform of relief. That means that the United States is notrequired to grant it to anybody, even individuals who establish that they areeligible. Discretion in approving asylum applications allows asylum officersand immigration judges to take into account the legal, publicsafety and national security interests of the United States whileallocating a limited number of asylum slots.
Most of the people currentlystreaming north from Central America aren’tfleeing anything, they’re emigrating in search of better economic opportunities– and the U.S. would be well within its rights to turn away economic migrants.But the fact is, that the U.S. isn’t turning anyone away, it is simply askingthem to wait their turn in Mexico.
While Mexico may have its own problems, claims that asylum seekers aren’t any safer in Mexico because they face persecution there are utterly baseless. Both the Mexican government and Mexican civil society have been furnishing food, shelter and other assistance to migrants waiting to be interviewed by U.S. immigration officials.
It’s profoundly disturbing when officials hired by the federal government to conduct full and fair reviews of asylum applications stop seeing themselves as guardians of the American people and start acting as advocates for foreign nationals who are trying to find a way around our immigration laws.