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The ACLU Is Challenging The Trump Administration’s Attempts To Block People Seeking Asylum

Less than 24 hours after President Trump ordered suspending granting of asylum to migrants crossing the U.S. border, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is seeking to block these new restrictions. The order would ban migrants from applying for asylum outside of U.S. official ports of entry. It would also suspend the granting of asylum to migrants who cross the U.S. border with Mexico illegally for up to 90 days. The proclamation will stand for 90 days or until the U.S. reaches an agreement with Mexico concerning asylum seekers.

The ACLU says the “new asylum ban is illegal” and “neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override the clear commands of U.S. law.”

The ACLU, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed the lawsuit on behalf of several immigrant advocacy groups in federal court Nov. 9. The advocacy groups are seeking a court order that would temporarily prevent the government from restricting asylum applications as restrictions have gone into effect. The ACLU released a statement challenging President Trump’s new asylum ban.

“President Trump’s new asylum ban is illegal. Neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override the clear commands of U.S. law, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. This action undermines the rule of law and is a great moral failure because it tries to take away protections from individuals facing persecution — it’s the opposite of what America should stand for,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a press release.

The Immigration and Nationality Act says that people may apply for asylum “whether or not” they enter the U.S. at a port of entry. The Trump administration wants  to change that “or not” part.

There has been a massive backlog in recent months at border crossings in California, Arizona and Texas. In some cases some people are waiting five weeks to try to claim asylum at San Diego’s main crossing. When someone enters the U.S. without papers they are subject to deportation without a court hearing, unless they say they want to claim asylum or fear persecution in their home country. In those cases, they’re entitled to an interview with an asylum officer. It’s there where the person makes their claim for asylum and the officer determines if there is “credible fear”.

Yet this new rule in place would change the way an individual would claim asylum. A person who enters the U.S. from Mexico without papers between ports of entry would still get an interview with an asylum officer. But the asylum officer is required to check not for a “credible fear of persecution” but instead a “reasonable fear,” which is a higher standard. It requires not just a significant chance of persecution but a determination that persecution is more likely than not. The “reasonable fear” screening has historically been used for immigrants who’ve already been ordered deported and returned to the US, and immigrants who have crime records.

The ratio of both interviews shows huge contrasts with one another. About 75 percent of all asylum seekers pass when it comes to credible fear interviews and a little more than 25 percent pass reasonable fear interviews.

This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has tried to change immigration polices.

The Trump administration has tried to change immigration policies before and most have been put on hold or taken down by federal judges. The first travel ban back in January 2017, the family separation policy in June 2018 and the administrations continued efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, have all been met with legal roadblocks.

President Trump’s plan to change border laws might have bigger implications when it comes to all that seek asylum.

Although the rule change was aimed at the caravan of families from Central America moving slowly toward the U.S. border, it will have huge implications for asylum seekers of all kinds. The U.S. rules for asylum seekers were designed in cooperation with the United Nations and are protected by federal law. If President Trump is allowed to change the rules for one group of asylum-seekers, he may try to do that for all of them.


READ: More Than 200 Migrant Children Are Still Separated From Their Families Awaiting Asylum Requests

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Despite Trump’s False Claims, Facts Are Facts: More Than 99% Of Asylum Seekers Show Up To Their Court Dates

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Despite Trump’s False Claims, Facts Are Facts: More Than 99% Of Asylum Seekers Show Up To Their Court Dates

Jorge Benez-Ramon / Getty

One of the biggest myths that the Trump administration has perpetuated is that asylum seekers do not conform to the legal requirements and processes required to guarantee their cases are being heard in court. The Trump administration has claimed that the only way to guarantee that asylum seekers’ cases will reach the court is to keep them in detention centers (yes, you read that right).

This seems a bit counterintuitive: if they are seeking asylum it is because they have a cause they find justifiable for entering the United States undocumented in the first place. A recent study sheds light on the fallacy of “missed court appointments” and reveals that if not in detention, a vast majority (let’s just say the totality) of asylum seekers do show up for their hearings.  

Numeritos hablan: 99% of who were not detained or who were released from immigration custody show up to their hearings.

Credit: AZFamily / Instagram

New data from Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC, a think tank that tracks data in the immigration courts) at Syracuse University reveals that most of asylum seekers who are not detained do attend their court hearings.

This finding basically trumps Trump’s assertion that they do not, which misrepresents them as individuals who prefer to live in the shadows and at the risk of being deported rather than doing due legal diligence. On average, migrants who are caught at the border or who hand themselves in have to wait for more than two years before their cases are dealt with in court.

But there are some others who have to wait even longer, as the TRAC report tells us: “Overall, asylum applicants waited on average 1,030 days – or nearly three years – for their cases to be decided. But many asylum applicants waited even longer: a quarter of applicants waited 1,421 days, or nearly four years, for their asylum decision.” Four years is a long, long time… wouldn’t anyone want the wait to be over?

Other previous research also disregards the idea that migrants want to live in the United States illegally rather than seeing their cases go through.

For those who have been lucky enough to never have to flee their home country or live in constant fear of being deported, it might feel like migrants would rather hide than face the law. This is also the driving rationale behind the Trump administration’s move to send asylum seekers to Mexico and wait there until their cases go through court. However, studies have shown that they want their migratory status to be cleared so they can go on with their lives, free of worries of being deported at any time. 

When in doubt, use science! 

As Vox reports, the numbers gathered by TRAC are pretty definitive: “The latest data from TRAC shows that nearly every migrant who applied for asylum and whose case was completed in 2019 showed up for all of their court hearings”. Boom! However, the Department of Justice has raised concerns about the accuracy of TRAC’s data analysis. TRAC does not disclose its methodology but uses information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. 

The Department of Justice claims numbers are much lower.

FILE PHOTO: Children walk inside an enclosure, where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Data from the Department of Justice contradicts the stunning 99% published by TRAC. According to 2018 numbers, the government says actually 75% of asylum seekers show up to their court hearings, a significant drop compared to TRAC’s analysis. And Trump’s numbers are even lower… yes, really.

He has said: “Tell me, what percentage of people come back? Would you say 100 percent? No, you’re a little off. Like, how about 2 percent? And those people, you almost don’t want, because they cannot be very smart… Those two percent are not going to make America great again, that I can tell you”. Wow, can you imagine a more deceitful way of framing reality?

TRAC’s report also reveals that more asylum seeker cases were decided in 2019 than in any other year… 46,735 people were denied asylum.

Yes, the courts are being busy. As the report reads, in 2019 “judges decided 67,406 asylum cases, nearly two-and-a-half times the number from five years ago when judges decided 19,779 asylum cases. The number of immigrants who have been granted asylum more than doubled from 9,684 in FY 2014 to 19,831 in FY 2019.”

But it is not all good news, as “the number of immigrants who have been denied asylum or other relief grew even faster from 9,716 immigrants to 46,735 over the same time period.” The three countries of origin that top the charts of successful asylum seekers are China, El Salvador and India. 

There Is No Citizenship Question In The Census 2020 But People Are Still Cautious About Answering The Survey

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There Is No Citizenship Question In The Census 2020 But People Are Still Cautious About Answering The Survey

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April 1 is officially Census Day. That means between April and the end of July you can expect someone to knock on your door and ask you a couple of questions such as “The number of people living or staying at your home” and “is your home owned or rented?” and “The sex of each person in the household.” This month, however, people are already getting notices to let them know what will be taking place in a couple of months. There are some people in the country that are not looking forward to this kind of intrusion. Some of those people are actually quite afraid of answering personal questions. 

Even though the Census 2020 will not include any citizenship questions, people are still suspicious about answering the survey at all.  

On January 10, Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, spoke in front of Congress to inform them that the Latino community is afraid of opening their doors to Census workers and answering their questions. 

“They believe there will be a citizenship question on the form despite its absence and many fear how the data will be used,” Vargas said. His entire statement was posted on Facebook. “This is exacerbated by a hostile environment toward immigrants propagated by this administration.”

But it’s not just the Latino community that is cautious about answering the Census questions but Asians too. 

“When the administration proposed to add the citizenship question without any testing, we knew right away we had a five-alarm fire … like any fire, the damage that has been done takes time to repair,” John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, also told Congress, according to NBC News

The hearing last week took place in an effort to understand why there are difficulties in getting accurate information from people living in the U.S. One of the obstacles that were discussed, aside from their fear of citizenship questions, is that Census workers are not reaching out to “hard-to-count” communities. 

“Hard-to-count communities are in every state and district, from large urban areas to rural and remote communities, including American Indian tribal lands and reservations,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told NBC News. 

So why is it important for everyone to answer the Census 2020 questions accurately?

Credit: naleoedfund / Instagram

Some people might not truly grasp the severity of answering the Census 2020 questions. It’s not just a survey but a way to track every person living in the U.S. to get proper funding for programs, schools, and a lot more. 

“The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be taken every ten years to count all people—both citizens and non-citizens—living in the United States,” a PBS report states. “Responding to the Census is mandatory because getting a complete and accurate count of the population is critically important. An accurate count of the population serves as the basis for fair political representation and plays a vital role in many areas of public life.”

Aside from public funding, having an accurate assessment of each individual will help in times of natural disasters and emergency responses. Federal funds are also distributed based on population. Another crucial factor in gathering accurate information is that when it comes to voting, the government understands how many representatives are needed for each district. 

While the Census has always faced issues in trying to gather the most accurate information, it was during the Trump Administration that minority communities became distrusting of information the government was requesting. 

Credit: naleoedfund / Instagram

Since 2018, the Trump administration pushed to have a citizenship question added to the Census 2020 but got immediate pushback from virtually everyone. Even the Supreme Court ruled that a citizenship question was off the table. He still pushed for it. Several immigration organizations, however, went after Trump’s agenda and sued against his tactics. 

“President Trump is adding the citizenship question into his toxic stew of racist rants and draconian policies in order to stoke fear, undercount, and strip political power from immigrant communities,” Sarah Brannon, Managing Attorney, ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement last summer. 

Steven Choi, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition, added to her sentiment by saying, “A citizenship question on the U.S. census is toxic to New York’s four million immigrants and all New Yorkers, who stand to lose millions of dollars in federal aid and representation in Congress. We will use every tool at our disposal to fight for a fair and accurate count. This is our New York and we’re not going to lose a dime, or our voices, to the Trump administration in Washington D.C.”

About a month later, Trump gave up his Census fight. Yet still, people remain fearful and untrusting of government questions. But can you blame them?

READ: Latinos NEED to Count All Their Children for the 2020 Census