The Patriot Post® · Reconsidering Asylum

By Michael Swartz ·

We’ve been talking about the impact that Joe Biden’s policies would have on immigration in general and the situation at our southern border in particular since before Biden moved into the Oval Office. One of the biggest drivers of this crisis doesn’t receive enough attention.

While building the border wall would be helpful, there’s also a large need to entertain the other elephant in the room: the rote claims for asylum that well-trained illegals regurgitate when apprehended by the Border Patrol. Federal policy at this time means the claimant receives a court date up to four years hence; otherwise, as the famous airline used to say, “You are free to move about the country.”

A recent piece in The Wall Street Journal took a lengthy look at this particular subject, and, unsurprisingly for a business-minded publication, looked at the issue through a sympathetic lens. To them, it’s a twofold issue:

Even if an application (for asylum) is ultimately rejected, migrants by then have put down roots, often had American children and are rarely deported because of the costs and logistical challenges. They are left in limbo — they lose the right to work legally but aren’t kicked out.

Yet with the road to legal migration increasingly difficult even for migrants with high-tech skills, asylum is for many seen as the most viable way into the U.S. “If it’s not asylum, there are very, very few options,” said Rebecca Press, an immigration lawyer in New York who frequently handles asylum cases.

As we discover in the WSJ story, asylum is a rather recent phenomenon, created as a “never again” method of protecting those who would otherwise be persecuted by government or uprooted by strife. It was in a delayed response to the forced diaspora of Jews in Germany and other territories annexed by the Nazi regime, otherwise peaceful non-combatants who had difficulty finding nations to take them in due to rampant global anti-Semitism. After World War II and the discovery of the atrocities of the “final solution,” rules for asylum were finally established. In decades past, America took in via asylum claims those who feared persecution from communist governments, including many thousands who fled as Vietnam fell in the mid-1970s.

Over time, though, the meaning of asylum has morphed. There are some who truly still fear for their lives in their home countries, but most of those who claim asylum these days have another goal in mind. And it’s not just America with the problem: As the article explains, it’s become a magnet attracting people to the wealth of the West.

That simple request is the main driver of record illegal immigration in much of the Western world. People travel thousands of miles, on foot and across seas, to turn up at the land borders of rich countries to ask for asylum, a form of legal protection for people who face persecution in their home country.

It’s also become a key loophole for economic migrants, who aren’t under threat but want better working opportunities. Quirks in the law and an overwhelmed processing system nearly guarantee entry, at least for a time.

The U.S. received more than 920,000 applications for asylum during its 2023 fiscal year, compared with just 76,000 in 2013. Since a single application can cover multiple members of a family, the figures underestimate the actual numbers of people seeking asylum.

Family groups, who now almost always ask for asylum, make up about half the roughly two million people encountered by authorities who illegally crossed the U.S. frontier with Mexico last year. Another half million came through legal ports of entry, many using a Border Patrol smartphone app that launched in January 2023 to make an appointment to cross and ask for asylum. [Emphasis ours.]

Yes, you can use a smartphone to request a “get out of jail free” asylum card and come to America. Moreover, the ubiquitous global presence of social media has become a roadmap for even more to make the journey and try to set up roots here, knowing that our government doesn’t have the resources to chase down everyone who is only seeking asylum from the poverty of their homeland. It’s the same in Western Europe, with several nations now having enclaves of Middle Eastern and Asian individuals and families who only assimilate when they have to deal with the legal system and cash government assistance checks.

As initially intended, asylum was supposed to be taken in the nearest safe country, but we perhaps stretched that limit with the situation in Vietnam and enhanced that by taking in Haitian and Cuban “boat people” refugees. (Since Cuba is just off our coast, arguably, for them, we were the nearest safe country.) In the latter case, it could be argued that the Haitians were indeed escaping a brutal dictatorship, but since they share an island land mass with the almost-equally poor Dominican Republic, they were skipping a presumably “safe” country to try to reach the United States and its wealth.

By the same token, President Donald Trump had established through negotiation a policy of “Remain in Mexico,” where those seeking asylum from more distant nations had to wait there for a decision. (Italy has recently made a similar deal with Albania, forcing asylum seekers to wait there.) One of Joe Biden’s first decisions upon taking office was ending Trump’s successful policy, and aside from a brief period during which the Supreme Court told Biden he couldn’t just abandon “Remain in Mexico” — a decision with which he half-heartedly complied — it opened up the floodgates to millions from all over the globe, many of whom come from enemy nations.

While the WSJ piece presents a mixture of stories — some coming to America simply for economics while others feared harassment for themselves or physical harm to their children had they stayed — the end result is a group of people who wait in legal limbo due to an overburdened court system. Some will ride it out and hope for a good result, but others simply won’t bother; they’ll disappear into a rapidly increasing population of those who have no legal status at all but survive through a combination of deception and indifference from law enforcement unless the crime they commit is serious enough for people to take notice, like the murder of Laken Riley.

While presidential initiatives have been used in the past, such as the legalization of “Dreamers” on one side and the “Remain in Mexico” policy on the other, in this case, it may be time for Congress to act. In the end, asylum is something that is adjudicated — a judge or magistrate hears evidence presented by the claimant and decides whether it’s convincing enough to award the coveted permission slip to stay. It may be time to expand those ranks on a temporary basis to shrink the backlog while returning to the successful “Remain in Mexico” default. However, the former solution is more likely under a second Biden term, with the judges carefully selected so as to wave everyone through. (After all, it’s a potential goldmine of Democrat voters-in-waiting.)

In the end, though, we as a nation have stretched the concept of asylum way beyond what it was meant to be. Our current definition of asylum as economic relief would have fit quite well back in the era when millions came through Ellis Island to be processed as potential citizens. However, that bygone criterion was more strict, meaning thousands of would-be immigrants were denied entry. Now, they would run to the Mexican border.

We shouldn’t necessarily turn away those who seek a better life for themselves, but we need to be more careful about the process and potential of those trying to come in.