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Trump’s Holiday-Season Attack on Asylum-Seekers

The Trump administration continues to upend decades of U.S. asylum practice with a stroke of its pen, placing untold lives at risk.

By on December 21, 2018

In a surprise announcement just before the holidays, the Department of Homeland Security declared on Thursday, December 20 that asylum-seekers crossing the southern U.S. border will be returned to Mexico for the duration of their court proceedings. If implemented as written, the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) would overthrow decades of established asylum practice and violate a host of U.S. and international human rights commitments, while placing asylum-seekers at further risk of being persecuted or returned to the very dangers they have fled.

Despite the extreme nature of this move, the change was announced without any accompanying regulation or notice-and-comment period to allow for public input. Instead, the administration revealed its radical overhaul just days before the Christmas holiday – when many faith communities call us to welcome the stranger and honor the persecuted and destitute among us, seeing in these individuals parallels to the story of a family who sought shelter in a Bethlehem manger.

The MPP is a version of the administration’s earlier announced “Remain in Mexico” plan, and follows through on threats President Trump first made in an executive order in January 2017. Across the various iterations of this policy, the fundamental issues remain clear as the U.S. government attempts to abdicate its legal and moral responsibility to provide asylum-seekers refuge from violence and persecution.

The fact that Mexico is not a safe place for asylum-seekers and other migrants to be forced to wait was tragically underlined earlier this week when two Honduran children were murdered in Tijuana. Both had traveled as part of the recent exodus of asylum-seekers hoping to reach safety in the United States.

Several legal experts have already raised fundamental objections to proposals to push back asylum-seekers to Mexico. The administration’s move therefore stands as only the latest of many proposals that are blatantly contrary to U.S. and international law and values. Recent court decisions overruling these policies such as an attempted ban on asylum eligibility for some border crossers and efforts to roll back protections for asylum-seekers fleeing domestic violence and gang persecution have made that abundantly clear.

Thursday’s announcement came with no guidance as to how such a proposal could be realistically implemented, or how it will work in practice. It is the very essence of bad policy: impracticable, immoral, and cruel. UUSC demands that this protocol be immediately rescinded and is committed to seeing it overruled.

Photo Credit: iStock – Brad Greeff

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