US Homeland Security changes stance on immigrant asylum seekers

The United States federal government is moving to make it harder for asylum seekers at the border to enter the country, according to an Associated Press story publishedon the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Officials said the asylum system is being overwhelmed, which has led them to encourage a stricter interpretation of “credible fear” instead of fixing the system to handle different levels of credible, but possibly less immediately pressing, fear among asylum seekers.

Officials say they are not changing policy, but a memo sent out on Feb. 28 by Homeland Security offical John Lafferty encourages immigration officals to be more diserning in chosing which cases to send on to immigration judges.

Here is a quote from the memo:

“In light of concerns that the application of the ‘significant possibility’ standard has lately been interpreted to require only a minimal or mere possibility of success, the revised (guidance) clearly states that a claim that has no possibility or only a minimal or mere possibility does not meet the … standard,” Lafferty wrote.

The number of claims have more than quadrupled from 2012 to 2013, with those cases sent on to a judge living at the border for years before actually seeing a judge. But the waiting is much better than the “expedited removal” of those with denied claims.

Desperately needed immigration reform is obviously part of the issue with this change in stance toward asylum seekers, but this blog is dedicated to refugee issues so we will focus on that side of this issue.

This change in stance shows just how clueless American lawmakers are to what is happening just south of the border.

Many leaders of Mexican drug cartels have been captured or killed, as reported by Forbes (the public also owes Forbes, a financial news group, for continuing to monitor the situation in Mexico when many other national news organizations are not). But violence in these areas controlled by cartels have not decreased. Instead a power vaccuum has been left, meaning more violence for government officials, the families of officials and cartel members as well as regular citizens.

The government is also working to disband the self-made militias citizens have created to defend their towns, though sometimes they are connected to cartels as well. Bellow is a part of the article explaining the current situation with these militias.

At the end of 2013, self-defense militias in Michoacan had already expanded into nearly a dozen municipalities as part of a strategy of ejecting the Knights Templar from specific areas and then holding onto the newly won territory. With the expansion, the militias challenged government authority in many towns by taking charge of public safety, often detaining local law enforcement authorities whom the militias viewed as having links to the Knights Templar.

It should come as no surprise that Mexican citizens are trying to enter the United States as asylum-seekers. Central American nations like Venezuela have also been experiencing recent unrest and asylum seekers are likely to come to the US from this country as well as from other Central and South American nations with continued instability and “credible fear”, like Guatemala, Costa Rica and, most recently, Belize.

The United States of America needs to acknowledge the issues faced by immigrants and, specifically, asylum seekers, from Central and South America instead of treating the people trying to find refuge like an administrative problem that can be fixed with a memo.

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