Worse than anyone thought: Trump's 'compromise' bill would actually destroy asylum in this country

Worse than anyone thought: Trump's 'compromise' bill would actually destroy asylum in this country
Donald Trump/Shutterstock
Donald Trump/Shutterstock

On Saturday, President Donald Trump gave a speech to the nation, announcing his idea of a compromise to end the government shutdown he started in an attempt to bully Congress into giving him the money for his border wall. His basic pitch: give me the full $5.7 billion I demanded, and I will issue a three-year extension of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status (TPS) for Central American refugees.

From the start, this idea — which was negotiated between Republicans and Republicans with no Democrats involved in the talks — was a complete nonstarter. Trump didn't meet Democrats' singular demand to reopen the government before negotiating on the border. He didn't even try to meet Democrats halfway on the amount he was asking for the wall. And the only concession he offered was to temporarily extend two programs for immigrants and refugees that are only ending because he unilaterally canceled them in the first place.

But it gets worse. Much worse.

On Monday night, Senate Republicans unveiled the 1,300-page bill putting Trump's proposal into action, titled the "End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act." And not only does the bill contain only the most barebones extension of DACA and TPS, Republicans threw in a bunch of new provisions that would essentially dismantle the asylum process and shut millions of refugees out of the United States forever.

According to Gabriel Malor, an attorney and contributor at the conservative Federalist, the bill would eliminate the system — prescribed by international law — where anyone fleeing violence can apply for asylum even if they entered the country illegally. Instead, it would establish "processing centers" in foreign countries and force people to apply for U.S. asylum there, even if they are facing imminent threat of violence. And according to American Immigration Council analyst Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the bill would set a hard cap of 50,000 asylum applications a year and just 15,000 approvals — and rather than use the existing immigration courts, asylum seekers would be funneled into a secretive Homeland Security process would could not be appealed or even reviewed by federal judges.

Some provisions of this bill don't even make logical sense. For example, one portion of the bill says that only "unaccompanied" minors (those with no parent or guardian in the U.S.) have the right to an attorney in their hearing at a processing center — and another portion says that unaccompanied minors are ineligible for asylum period.

But it doesn't stop there. The bill also changes the standard for granting asylum, requiring proof that any case be "in the national interest," and redefines a "frivolous" asylum request to include basically any that are filed at the wrong time, in the wrong country, or in order to avoid being deported. And the bill makes it substantially harder for anyone with refugee status to apply for a green card — and permanently bans anyone from the United States if their status is revoked at any time for any reason.

The bill even cripples an essential part of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, by allowing the government to forcibly deport unaccompanied minors in a majority of cases.

Ultimately, these provisions are so extreme and so devastating to migrant rights that temporarily extending DACA and the status of existing asylees arguably wouldn't even be worth it. Even if this bill did not include a wall, it would be a brutal, hard-right turn in immigration law that would cripple due process and make the fundamental right to seek asylum all but meaningless. This bill is not a "compromise" — and the media cannot treat it like one.

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