Thursday, October 6, 2022

In defense of asylum as the last hope

For some time now, particularly during the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, Republicans have conducted an orchestrated attack not only against undocumented immigrants, but against immigrants with documents and those seeking asylum. This, from the same United States that prides itself on being a beacon of hope for the needy and persecuted.

One only has to remember that by November 2019, during the Trump administration still—the most anti-immigrant administration of the modern era—more than 24,000 people sought asylum at a time when the “Remain in Mexico” program was still in place. However, the sad reality is that only 117 of those applicants received asylum; that is, 0.4%, according to information shared recently by Syracuse University. Things today, of course, have not changed much, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to accelerate asylum processes, since there are at least 1.5 million cases pending.

In that sense, the attack on asylum laws is real. Maybe you, a family member, or someone you know is an asylum beneficiary and perhaps you think what happens now and going forward doesn’t matter to you, since you are already guaranteed your place in the United States. But you should remember that life is like a wheel: sometimes we go up and other times we go down. Or maybe it isn’t you who needed asylum, but some other relative, acquaintance, fellow compatriot, or any human being from another latitude, because instability remains latent in many parts of the world, including Latin America.

You can see it in the thousands of migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti and other nations who have been stranded for months at the U.S.-Mexico border, intending to make applications for asylum but impeded from doing so by Title 42, that health measure that permits the expulsion of migrants without the possibility of requesting asylum because the Trump administration, and then Biden, decided that the COVID-19 pandemic warranted its implementation.

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Add to that the fact that despite migration policies intended to deter undocumented immigrants, the original reasons that sent thousands of people from their respective nations—from poverty and a lack of employment to endemic violence that consumes entire populations—intensify every day.

It’s a vicious cycle that those who, from their Twitter or Facebook accounts simplistically condemn the right that these thousands of human beings have to exist and sustain their families, refuse to analyze and understand. A vicious cycle in which the United States also bears responsibility, due to its continuous invasions in the Central American region last century, which few remember when it comes to justifying the safeguarding of the American  way of life.

Finally, the Biden administration announced that it would stop implementing Title 42 as of May 23, which generated favorable reactions but also negative ones, from those who argued that the United States cannot handle the increase in migrants that is anticipated at the border when the Title 42 restriction is lifted.

In Congress, Republican legislators and moderate Democrats have joined forces to ensure Title 42 is not eliminated. The Democratic senators from Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, presented a bill that would delay the date to end Title 42 for 60 days. The measure is cosponsored by Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and John Thune (R-SD).

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On the other hand, recent polls seem to indicate that people in the U.S. want Title 42 to remain due to the perception, fueled by Republicans, that eliminating it would produce an “invasion.” The other perception is that a powerful country like the United States would be incapable of managing an influx of migrants at the border line. Those same people in the U.S.—56%—support allowing Central American migrants to request asylum.

Let’s just say that the Title 42 controversy has come in handy for Republicans planning to undermine asylum law, this time with the pandemic as an excuse—which they use for political reasons when it suits them, but then protest it angrily and fanatically when it’s recommended that they wear facemasks and get vaccines for public health reasons; they argued that it was an “imposition” that “violated” their rights, as if the world turned on the axis of their endemic egotism and lack of global understanding about the true significance of a pandemic.

But those who have benefited from asylum, including many Latin Americans who support the Republican Party, should question the true intentions of the politicians to whom they are giving their support and their vote. Because citizens of countries like Venezuela or Cuba, who have been able to flee and found asylum in the United States, which allows them to continue on with their lives, contribute to this nation, and in many cases, fight for freedom in their countries while living here, should not support policies that, in reality, try to limit other people like them, including their own countrymen and women, from having the opportunity to seek asylum.

That would be a contradiction that directly harms the very philosophy of extensive and unrestrictive help—which the United States has promoted throughout its history—and one that provokes an inevitable clash of forces between those who want the country to keep its arms open to the downtrodden and those who want to close the doors, grotesquely, turning this nation into a type of anti-immigrant fortress.

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Republicans’ real intention is not to limit immigration for economic reasons, like they always argue, because it has actually been revealed that limits on migration imposed during the Trump administration produced a labor shortage—after the loss of 2 million immigrants who are needed today—which in turn caused a drop in supply and resulted, logically, in an increase in the price of products.

The Republican plan is more Machiavellian, since it consists of limiting the entry into the country of migrants who they believe would undermine their goal of keeping this nation from continuing to be diverse and inclusive. Their false theory of “cultural replacement” reveals nothing more than an obtuse fanaticism with which they show a deep anti-immigrant sentiment and unabashed racism.

Those who have benefited from asylum and those who want this nation to continue being a beacon of hope must raise their voices, not go along with those who promote nativist, discriminatory, and racist agendas.

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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