Brief #61—Immigration

On November 9, the Trump Administration signed a policy that would temporarily bar migrants who illegally cross into the US through the Southern Border from attempting to seek asylum, unless they crossed through designated ports of entry. However, the Supreme Court has blocked this ban, despite 4 of t conservative justices  who  voted in favor of  it. In upholding the decision to prevent Trump’s ban, the Supreme Court, with Justice Roberts carrying the swing vote, says it  hopes the ruling will save lives and keep vulnerable families and individuals from unnecessary persecution.  The ruling also sends a signal that the intended asylum ban exceeds Trump’s statutory authority, regardless of how he portrays his seemingly limitless power.

The Refugee Act of 1980 stated that “any alien who is physically present in the US or who arrives in the US, whether or not at a designated port of entry…irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum.” Thus, Congress allowed individuals who could credibly claim they were fleeing persecution to apply for asylum in the US and shielded those fleeing persecution based on race, religion, or political beliefs. However, because it is not originally explicitly stated, the lack of languagd on individuals escaping violence or poverty created a loophole that those who strongly oppose such migration latch on to. Such a loophole has caused  a lot of back and forth between those who think the asylum laws in place are too loose and those who think individuals fleeing violence (whether gang or domestic) and poverty have credible enough reasons to seek asylum in the US. Many of the individuals who have come to the US – and continue to – with the migrant caravan from Central America are pre-dominantly fleeing various forms of violence and the lack of socioeconomic opportunity.

In the past, the practice of catch and release had been utilized by our government when there were smaller numbers of migrants and less widespread xenophobia. Catch and Release originally implied that a migrant would be released to the community while they awaited hearings in immigration court instead of being held in immigration detention. However,  immigration detention centers are filling up and the Trump Administration has fueled a deep rooted fear of immigrants in much of the President’s support base. So the administration is moving away from  catch and release  to the practice of catch and remain, meaning remain in Mexico. The Trump Administration and the President of Mexico recently announced a joint new policy called “remain in Mexico” which implies migrants will stay in Mexico while they wait for their petitions to process – which can take over a year. There is no concrete or clear plan laid out as to the housing and resources that would be made available to these migrants but that humanitarian visas and work permits would be provided by Mexico.

The proposed waiting period in Mexico leaves many people extremely vulnerable and can endanger more lives and cause more harm than good if not executed properly. Migrants kept waiting in a foreign land with no permanent home of their own are in a vulnerable position. Individuals who have been helping the migrant caravan as they pass through have been a huge help providing food and water; but on  migrants in transit also are exposed to potentially violent bandits and robbers looking to exploit such individuals. Additionally, given the hostile relations between President Trump and leaders of the Mexican government, using Mexico as a waiting room for those who intend to continue on to seek asylum in the US, is bound to cause tension.

Resistance Resources

  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • an organization that aims to promote the tech community to support policies that keep the American Dream alive. They specifically and currently focus on immigration reform.

This Brief was authored by Kathryn Baron. For inquiries, suggestions or comments email

Photo by Martino Pietropoli

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