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Matt Malone, S.J.July 14, 2020
Guatemalan migrant mother Claudia holds 2-year-old daughter Alma Aug. 23, 2019, after turning themselves over to U.S. Border Patrol with fellow asylum-seekers following an illegal crossing of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo, Texas. (CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters)

If the Trump administration’s recently proposed rules on asylum take effect, asylum seekers could be denied applications without seeing a judge and could be refused asylum if they are fleeing domestic violence or gangs, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The new law, proposed on June 15 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Justice, would also raise the standards for the initial asylum interviews. Responses to the new rule are due July 15.

“These proposed asylum regulations will have devastating consequences for those seeking protection in the United States,” Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, said in a statement. “We cannot turn our backs on the vulnerable.”

The faithful must stand against measures that dehumanize asylum seekers and welcome immigrants among us.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that asylum seekers apprehended near the border do not have the right to appeal deportation rulings to a federal judge. Immigration officials deport them through a process known as expedited removal if these asylum seekers fail their initial asylum screenings.

The editors of America have criticized the Trump administration’s approach to refugees—and immigration in general—on many occasions. The editors emphasize the contributions immigrants and asylum seekers make to U.S. society, the government’s failure to address the root causes of migration and our moral duty to protect those fleeing persecution.

For example, a 2019 editorial responded to claims by D.H.S. that immigrants are gaming the system:

The notion that asylum seekers are traveling thousands of miles to exploit this so-called loophole is absurd. These migrants, increasingly from agricultural backgrounds, are not legal experts who have devised a way to crack our nation’s complex immigration system. They are desperately fleeing gang violence or dire poverty. Twelve-year-old girls are dismembered for not accepting the advances of gang members. Fathers’ lives are threatened for reporting police officers who rape their daughters.

When the Trump administration tightened green card restrictions for legal immigrants who receive government benefits, the editors wrote:

The Trump administration’s immigration policies consistently betray not only a profound misunderstanding of what drives the tired and poor to our shores and borders but what they long for—and have historically achieved—when they arrive. It also trades on hostility to public benefits, falsely portraying them as a handout for the undeserving rather than recognizing them as forms of solidarity that ultimately strengthen the social fabric of the country.

When in 2019 the Trump administration drastically cut the number of refugees the United States would accept each year, the editors wrote:

This is a stark reminder that our contemporary U.S. policy is completely at odds with our national rhetoric around resettlement—that we are a refuge for “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The Trump administration’s antipathy toward refugees and immigrants is, of course, a matter of public record. President Trump promised a “Muslim ban” in his presidential campaign and argued that Syrian refugees could be a danger to the country. He has also decried immigrants from African nations, which he called “s***hole countries.” But this new ceiling still manages to shock and dismay. It is 15,000 lower than even in 2018, when the United States resettled the lowest number of refugees since the creation of the program.

The proposed rule from D.H.S. would join a long list of measures enacted by the Trump administration to reduce the number of immigrants in the United States. The list includes attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors from deportation; the zero-tolerance border enforcement policy, which led to thousands of children being separated from their parents; the Migrant Protection Protocols, which keeps asylum seekers in Mexico until their court date; and restrictions on immigrants likely to become a “public charge”—that is, a person who is at least partly dependent on government assistance.

“The greatness of America has always been built on the strength of its immigrants,” the editors wrote earlier this year. “It is time for Congress to ensure this greatness continues.” The faithful must stand against measures that dehumanize asylum seekers and welcome immigrants among us.

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