Crossing Confusion: Trump Asylum Policy in Limbo

Whomever is in the White House come January 20 will face an unsolved issue at the border. The Trump administration's rules for asylum seekers are going before the U.S. Supreme Court, after they were challenged in lower courts. The new rules require asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their case is decided, and mandates that asylum seekers from countries that do not border the U.S. accept asylum in the closest country that offers it, rather than pushing through Mexico to reach the U.S.

Illegal border crossings are down sharply at the southern border this year, due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic. But those numbers were already dropping before the pandemic, thanks to the new rules put in place by the Trump administration. Now, with the prospect of Joe Biden taking office, those policies are in jeopardy of being reversed.

Mark H. Metcalf, former immigration judge, says U.S. asylum policy is regularly abused at the southern border. "Human smugglers will take children to the border or place them with groups that are headed to the border, so these children can be claimed as the children of the people who are traveling to the U.S.," says Metcalf. "And in some cases, authorities at the border discovered that children were being recycled---that is, they would cross with one group, then sneak back across with the help of smugglers, then cross again with another group."

Another change implemented by the Trump administration was ending catch-and-release, where illegal crossers were given a citation with a court date and released into the U.S. "Of the people caught at the border and ordered to appear in court, 90 percent of them failed to appear at their court dates," says Metcalf.

With a potential Biden administration likely to undo these Trump policies, the border will remain as volatile as ever. Metcalf tells KTRH the ultimate solution is for Congress to act, rather than having the issue see-saw back and forth depending on who is in the White House. "The Republican Party and the Democratic Party need to come together on this issue, but unfortunately I don't see that happening," he says. "I think the parties are so far apart at this point, that we're not going to find a solution anytime soon."

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