Saturday, February 4, 2023

A new trial by fire for Republican extremism

The Republican “border security” plan stalled in the House of Representatives is so extreme that even some members of that party have lamented that it puts in danger the asylum laws of a nation that—historically—has prided itself on opening its arms to those in search of refuge for various reasons.

As if the hurdles in today’s asylum process were not sufficient, the author of the legislation H.R. 29, Republican Congressman Chip Roy of Texas, wants to cede the power to prohibit the entry of migrants at any entry point in the country to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This means that people seeking asylum with credible applications could not even attempt to do so. Some Republicans have expressed opposition to Roy’s bill, including Tony Gonzales of Texas and the Cuban American congresswoman from Florida, María Elvira Salazar, because it undermines asylum laws.

Considering that it has been the Republican Party that has become the executor of the worst anti-immigrant policies in recent years, there’s no conclusion other than that this will be the beginning of a new rash of attacks, with eyes fixated on 2024. And if it’s true that Roy’s bill is causing a sort of flinching among his own, the truth is that the white nationalist machinery intends to roll over anyone that stands in its way, even if they are from the same party.

On the other hand, although the Biden administration established a process to try to bring migration of citizens from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti in order, so that they can seek asylum without having to arrive at borders irregularly, the reality is that this safety is something that thousands of human beings from diverse nationalities are searching for.

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That is, asylum is not a political issue that Congress or a government must accept or not, according to their political calculations and ideologies. It has to do with the issue of inalienable human rights, especially because of the massive displacement of human beings fleeing diverse situations that put their lives and their very being at risk, as well as those of their families.

In Puerto Rico for example, almost weekly we hear of harrowing examples. Migrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and other nations near and far are victims of traffickers who, after charging them thousands of dollars for the dangerous journey to try to arrive at the shores of a U.S. territory, abandon them to their fate among the smallest islands that comprise the archipelago that is Puerto Rico. Islands like Mona, Monito, and Desecheo. Other smugglers bring them near the shore and throw them to the sea like bait, resulting in the drownings of even babies just a few months old. And don’t forget the case of Haitians who, in the journey to Puerto Rico, saw their babies die and then be thrown into the sea and devoured by sharks, according to one of them who survived the ordeal.

The thing is, people who decide to run all of these risks don’t do it for frivolous reasons, like a change of scenery. They’re not leaving their country with the idea of going on a picnic or the goal of “traveling the world,” like those who have the economic opportunity to do so and boast about it. There are real and urgent reasons why they cross hundreds of miles to risk their lives, and it’s something that Republicans who now control the House of Representatives do not want to understand, demonstrating their human wretchedness and permanent attitude of rejecting the “other,” the vulnerable, the person in urgent need of help.

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In their eagerness to accomplish their promise of closing the border and returning to the Zero Tolerance policy that Donald Trump implemented, Republicans are saying that no one has the right to attempt to seek asylum. The egotism they have made their trademark has taken them through intricate political labyrinths that today put them in the crosshairs of history’s judgment.

For now, the Republicans have already aimed their cannons at the DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, with the goal of impeaching him, even though the process would have the effect of putting the security of the country at risk, as a recent report from America’s Voice concluded.

They are also planning hearings about the border, promoted by Republican legislators who shamelessly defend the conspiracy theories of white nationalists. This panorama becomes even more discouraging when we see the Democrats take one step forward and 1,000 back on the migration issue, and they have not yet accomplished what they promised in the campaign. And in the middle of all this, thousands and thousands of immigrant families are trying to readjust within a society where the political system still considers them to be a sort of election-time “prey.”

Roy’s bill is a new trial by fire for Republican leaders who seem to be continuing to bet on extremism and political theater, even though it continues to cost them so much at the electoral level.

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Maribel Hastings es asesora ejecutiva de America’s Voice y David Torres es asesor de medios en español de America’s Voice.

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