Tuesday, July 30, 2019

There is a story that Donald Trump told Howard Stern on his radio show.  An 80 year old man was dining at Mar a Lago and fell and hit his head on the marble floor.  Blood was all over the floor and the president’s first thought was that the man was dying.  Trump said he was disgusted by this and turned away from him.  He did not try to help the man or see that anyone helped him.  He showed not even the slightest bit of pity for the man.  Instead, he complained about the blood all over his clean marble floor.  He and Howard had a good laugh about it.  We don’t know what happened to the old man and no one apparently cared.  Trump said he forgot to call the next day to see if the man was o.k.  But he did call immediately for a cleaning crew to take care of that blood on the floor.  Fortunately, some marines did rush forward to help the man to an ambulance. 

This story seems to me to be a metaphor for the president’s immigration policy, particularly with respect to those neighbors at our southern border and applicants for refugee and asylum status.  They are going to make a mess, stain up our pretty white, and expensive, floor.  The wall will help us not to have to see them bleeding out.   It’s our way of turning away from them.  It won’t help them, but then again, that is not our concern is it? 

The president has sought to reduce or eliminate immigration since the first day in office, but he has a particular animus toward refugees and those brown-skinned asylum seekers coming from the south.  He announced his campaign run with those now famous and oft repeated words about Mexico sending rapists, drug dealers, and murderers (but some, he assumes, are good people).  He believes a wall is the only thing that will help, despite evidence to the contrary.

It should be clear now, the president particularly hates refugees and asylum seekers.  One of his first actions as president only 8 days into office was to dispute with the Prime Minister of Australia over the U.S.’s commitment to take 1250 refugees being held in detention there, a commitment that President Obama had made.  The president dismissed the agreement (and hung up on the Prime Minister) stating it was “a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would never have made.”  Notice again his reaction is one of “disgust” – the same as his reaction to the man on his marble floor. 

Remember also that the first presidential pardon was for Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Maricopa County, Arizona.  He openly bragged that his detention of immigrants in Arizona were his own “concentration camps.”  He was convicted of criminal contempt for continuing to detain immigrants in contravention of a judge’s order limiting that.  The stories of his cruelty to immigrants are countless, but in the eyes of the President, he was a faithful public servant.  In his pardon the President stated Arpaio was “protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”  Apparently, the law be damned.

The administration has already cut the number of available slots for refugees by over 2/3rds of the previous number, to 30,000, and many fewer than that are actually approved because of the slow walking of the process by the administration.  The administration is now proposing to cut refugee admissions to zero for fiscal year 2020.  That’s correct, zero. 

It is worth pointing out that Canada, with about a tenth of our population, now admits more refugees each year than does the U.S., the wealthiest country in the world.  Germany, about ½ the size of the State of Texas (and much more densely populated), has admitted 1.4 million refugees last year.  France admitted 402,000, and Sweden 328,000.   The president said recently, “[they] can't come in - our country is full. What can you do? We can't handle any more. Our country is full - can't come in. I'm sorry. It's very simple.”

Maybe it’s time to abandon the fictitious conceit of how generous we are.  Isn’t it true that the wealthiest people are often the greediest and most selfish, and the poorest are often the most generous with what little they have?

You may think from this discussion that refugees and asylees are a burden on the U.S.  That’s certainly what the president thinks.  But numerous economic studies have shown that even low skilled refugees admitted to the U.S. are a net economic positive for the country, paying more in taxes and other contributions than the public assistance they may qualify for.  Surprisingly, that’s also the case with those in the country without authorization.

But then again, they might bleed out on our pretty white floor.

The administration’s attack on asylum seekers is just as dramatic and draconian. The latest attempts by the administration show their desperation to shut off completely those fleeing persecution in Central America. Those actions have included several unconstitutional (as found by the courts) attempts to eliminate the possibility of applying for asylum if not entering legally, and then metering those attempting to enter legally so that they could not enter and apply.  Also, some 12,000 or more asylum seekers have been sent to Mexico (they aren’t Mexicans) to wait possibly years for asylum hearings, and U.S. lawyers have been prevented from going to them.  They have no resources, and don’t even have work authorization, or basic food and shelter other than what is provided by humanitarian organizations, while waiting to have their asylum hearings held.  Judges are given quotas for expediting cases.  The president rails against due process being accorded to asylum seekers (something the Constitution requires).  The Attorney General has sought to redefine what qualifies for asylum so that the great majority of those seeking asylum from the southern border can no longer qualify.  Children are separated from parents (this is still happening) and parents are forced to give up their asylum claims to be reunited with their children.  The government still can’t even track what has happened to all the children they have taken custody of. 

And now, the administration seeks to implement two more policies aimed at U.S. immigration.  The first is to disqualify from asylum eligibility anyone who passes through a third country (such as Mexico or Guatemala) on their way to the U.S.  This should be plainly unconstitutional, but it once again shows a determined effort to completely eliminate any person from ever claiming asylum in the U.S.  They are also pressuring Guatemala to agree that it’s a “safe third country” that will accept our asylum applicants, despite the fact that many of our asylum applicants come from Guatemala and no independent observer or human rights organization considers it a safe third country.  That agreement was apparently signed just today.

And just yesterday, the Attorney General issued an opinion that family units cannot qualify as a “particular social group” and thus qualify for asylum as the subject of persecution.  This flies in the face of decades of judicial precedent on this issue and is yet another attempt to eliminate any possibility of asylum for those trying to cross the southern border.  It’s a peculiar feature of our immigration courts that the Attorney General can step in and overrule the decisions of judges as he or she sees fit, thus taking away any real independence of judges deciding asylum cases.  But that’s a separate topic for discussion.

The desperate actions by the administration to prevent anyone from attaining asylum in the U.S. are being added to on almost a daily basis, such that what is written here is probably already out of date. 

Most immigration policy for this administration is attributed to White House advisor, Stephen Miller.  He was quoted as saying that he would be happy if no refugee ever set foot on U.S. soil again.  The administration is working hard to make this a reality.

All of this is deliberate government action to try to discourage anyone from coming here to seek asylum or refugee status, and to eliminate any possibility of successful asylum applications.  The president has been found to have acted unconstitutionally in so many of his executive orders directed against immigrants that it begs the question of who is the real “illegal” here.

But then again, we wouldn’t want to mess up our clean white marble floor.

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