A Culture of "No"
Here's an example. In the 1980s Cuba bustled with Soviet-backed industriousness. The industries worked, but much of the population suffered under political and social repression. In El Salvador, chaos reigned. An oppressive military dictatorship and its right-wing militias engaged in warfare with rebels that devastated the country, massacred uninvolved civilians, caused a refugee crisis, and disrupted the economy. U.S. immigration policies at that time allowed any Cuban who touched U.S. soil to stay, and our government furnished many with discounted college tuitions and other aid to help the transition to life here. On the Salvadorans who managed to reach our country we slammed the door. Why? Because we were playing politics. The USA supported – in training and weapons – the homicidal Salvadoran dictatorship, while it vehemently opposed Cuba's communist ties. So we welcomed Cubans in order to highlight the negative sides of Fidel's government but rejected those Salvadorans with legitimate asylum claims because it might embarrass the "friendly" government that they fled.
Now, it seems, our politics instruct us to reject legitimate asylum claims in a way that we remain consistent with the fear-peddling that has characterized much of our government's activities since 9/11/01.
According to this study, since the beginning of 2000 we still rejected a vast majority of Salvadoran asylum claims (80 percent), "while fewer than 30 percent of asylum seekers from Afghanistan...were denied." What's special about Afghanistan in that period? Oh, right, we were thinking about deposing their government.
The study claims: "Ten percent of the nation’s immigration judges denied asylum cases in 86 percent or more of their decisions, while another 10 percent of judges denied asylum cases in 34 percent of their rulings during that same time period."
Also, it seems that the Cuba/El Salvador bias continues:
"The study echoes a report released last year by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an agency created by Congress in 1998. The commission study, which examined the processing of asylum cases from 2000 through 2004, found that more than 80 percent of Cubans were given a permanent right to stay in the United States, along with more than 60 percent of Iraqis. By contrast, just more than 10 percent of those from Haiti and fewer than 5 percent from El Salvador were granted asylum."
And I'm going to quote a whole chunk of Ms. Swarns's article because it's so important when considering the problems associated with undocumented immigration and with the behavior of our federal government:
"The handling of asylum cases has become a delicate issue recently as federal appeals judges have assailed what they have described as a pattern of biased and incoherent decisions from immigration judges in asylum cases, which make up the bulk of immigration appeals.
"In September, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia said it had been repeatedly forced to rebuke immigration judges for “intemperate and humiliating remarks.” Citing cases from around the country, the court described “a disturbing pattern” of misconduct in immigration rulings that sent people back to countries where they had said they would face persecution.
"In November, Richard A. Posner, a prominent and relatively conservative federal appeals court judge in Chicago, concluded that the handling of asylum cases by immigration judges had “fallen below the minimum standards of legal justice.”
"Concerned about what he described as 'intemperate or even abusive' conduct by some immigration judges, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales called for a comprehensive review of the immigration court system in January."
Read that again. Alberto Gonzales criticized officials for abusive behavior.
An AP article in The Washington Post adds that:
"'The goal of any court system is evenhanded justice,' said Susan Long, a Syracuse University professor and co-director of the clearinghouse. 'The results certainly raise questions about whether that goal is being achieved.'"
It quotes Gideon Aronoff, president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, as saying that "success in asylum claims is a matter of "luck of the draw.'" That's not how our legal system should work.
This is what happens when we let judicial decisions rest solely in the hands of the politicized executive branch, which, headed by the President, also serves as the prosecutor in these cases -- and do so without legitimate oversight or any real opportunity for appeal. If we unjustly reject those for whom our laws already provide, whose lives are directly in danger if they stay in their home countries, what choice do those for whom we won't even nominally provide have, aside from dodging a system they know won't work?
Technorati tags: Immigration, Politics.