This week the U.S. Supreme Court may have delivered refugee asylum a knockout blow when it affirmed a new Trump Administration initiative severely limiting entry of Central American migrants.
The initiative, reversing decades of U.S. policy, requires that the refugees, even when fleeing violence and poverty, must first be denied asylum in another country. It is being challenged in lower courts, but it became effective immediately.
“What we see is a global race to the bottom in meeting humanitarian obligations. And it’s led by the U.S. … we see an increasing trend of extreme pressure on refugees to return to unsafe and unstable regions … a tremendous risk to their safety and to global security and stability.”- Nazanin Ash, vice president for global policy and advocacy at the International Rescue Committee
The new U.S. policy is the latest Administration executive order issued under its “national emergency” designation of immigration at the southern border. It seeks to achieve what the delayed, and perhaps doomed, controversial proposed border wall — which, since Mexico won’t pay for it — is being partly financed by arbitrary transfer of Department of Defense and FEMA funds for projects previously approved by Congress.
The American Civil Liberties Union, challenging this week’s U.S. limit to asylum: “The current ban would eliminate virtually all asylum at the southern border, even at ports of entry …The court should not permit such a tectonic change to U.S. asylum law.”
Sadly, the Trump U.S. border policies, fueled by nativist populism, add to the world’s tragic and seemingly unsolvable refugee problems. The U.S. is by no means the only country withdrawing refugee asylum opportunities.
For example, in “Australia’s Shame” Nobel Laureate author J.M. Coetzee condemns that country’s current refugee policies and laments the prospects for the world’s refugees:
“What is more of a mystery is why so many Australians wish refugees ill … Cross-border migration is a fact of life in today’s world and numbers will only increase as the earth heats up, former pastures turn to desert, and islands are swallowed by the sea. There are messy but humane — or at least human — ways of reacting to this world historical phenomenon, just as there are neat but inhuman ways.”
To be fair, the scale of the refugee phenomenon is astonishing. Global migration tripled between 1960 and 2017, rising from 77 million to 258 million, according to the Migration Institute.
The institute has outlined five options for addressing the extremely troubling and complex challenge at the U.S. Mexican border — options with potential for adaptation at other international borders under duress: rethinking asylum; strengthening immigration institutions; developing a regional approach to addressing smuggling networks; creating legal pathways; and investing in development and public safety in the very troubled countries generating refugees flows.
The institute especially supports the “investing in development” recommendation.
That, of course, raises a host of other questions concerning global “interconnectedness” in the foreseeable future.