by Heidi M. Pascual
|Stepping Back on Migrant-Asylum Policy
Recently, the Trump Administration issued a rule that requires asylum-seeking immigrants to first apply for refugee status in another country
en route to the US. Clearly, this is another hurdle that aims to slow the entry of immigrants. While the rule specifically targets asylees passing
through the Southern Border, it also affects all the rest coming from other countries.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines asylum as “a discretionary benefit offered by the United States Government to those
fleeing persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
This tradition reflects the humanitarian side of our country that has become a refuge for many people persecuted in their home countries for
reasons stated above. While the same could become abused by political despots friendly to the US but ousted from power by their own people
(or military uprising), in most cases, the beneficiaries of this traditional policy are truly those unjustly persecuted and whose lives (as well as
their families’) are in danger.
I therefore see no reason why there is a need for an asylee to seek for a refugee status in a third country before applying for asylum in the US,
except to put another bar to immigration. Asylum seekers are running for their lives, why require them to seek refuge in a third country first
when they can be protected by the US right away? Our DHS and immigration people are supposed to be experts at checking the backgrounds
of asylum seekers, so I am confident no one that fall under the category of “US enemy” will be permitted to enter our country. A refugee
status from another country just means the background check will be done by the third country. How sure are we of the efficiency and
accuracy of this initial check? And once disapproved in third country, there’s no way the asylum seeker can enter the US. Time is of the
essence here. It’s like getting oblivious to whatever happens to someone asking for help, or asking for protection. Our country is therefore
turning its back on its traditional practice of helping people in distress, those knocking at our doors, sometimes those getting away from wars
which we are involved in ourselves.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is planning to question this rule in court, as it believes that the new rule is not only unlawful but a
unilateral reversal of the US “legal and moral commitment” to protect people facing grave danger in their countries.
This new Trump rule has also received negative response from Guatemala and Mexico, countries through which many Latin migrants and
refugees pass through before reaching the US. These governments expressed disagreement against measures that limit asylum and refugee
status for those fearing for their lives and safety.
We in the Asian American community also question the moral basis of this new hurdle for immigrants seeking asylum in the US. The present
Trump government should rethink this action which takes us back to the years when our civil rights activists had to fight for the right to live
in a safe environment.
Congratulations to my granddaughter!
I’d like to congratulate one of my grandchildren, Alyssa
Gabrielle Pascual, a 13-year old student of Miriam College,
Quezon City, for winning 11 medals and a trophy at the
World Scholars Cup country elimination round (academics
and the arts) held in Metro Manila Sept. 2. She will compete
at the world championship round to be held at Yale University,
USA, this coming November. More power, and win some
more medals for the Philippines, Aly!!!!!!