Michelle and Swapna write:
“What would you do if your brother was murdered, and your child had received death threats? How would you respond if you had been repeatedly raped, and your government did nothing to protect you?
These are the situations our clients have faced. They have traveled hundreds of miles to the United States to save their families’ lives. And they have done so legally, seeking asylum through our nation’s immigration courts.
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called these families liars. He bemoaned the role of “dirty immigration lawyers” and described the U.S. asylum system as an “easy ticket” to entry.
Nothing could be further from the truth. When these families arrive in the United States they are held in private prisons. Young children and their mothers live in cells with strangers. Fathers and children over 18 are detained on their own. Few receive adequate medical care, and any legal help they obtain is largely provided by overworked nonprofit agency staff.
Despite these conditions, the families persevere. Children celebrate their first birthdays and take their first steps in detention. Spouses write love letters from their respective cells.
And for families who secure their release from detention — after establishing a “credible fear” of return — they want nothing more than to comply with our laws to avoid family separation once more.
Sessions claimed the federal government found a credible fear in 88 percent of cases, and said that any system with such a high passage rate means the system is “inherently flawed.”
But this reasoning is false. Each year, more than 90 percent of medical students pass their board exams. They do not pass because they cheat, or because the exams are inherently flawed. They pass because they are self-selected, having excelled despite years of challenges and setbacks.
The same is true of asylum seekers. Few would be willing to endure family separation and the incarceration of their child unless the stakes were life and death. Those who make it through the credible fear process are self-selected, with genuine fear of return.
Unfortunately, a credible fear interview is just the first stage in seeking asylum. And the government does little to explain to asylum seekers what they must do next.
. . . .
Asylum seekers have every incentive to comply with our laws. If they cannot win their asylum cases, they must live in the shadows, with no pathway to citizenship and little guarantee of avoiding deportation back to the danger they fled. They simply cannot navigate our dense, complex, and at times contradictory, immigration system on their own.
Michelle Mendez is Training and Legal Support Senior Attorney and Defending Vulnerable Populations Project Manager of Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. Swapna Reddy is Director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project at the Urban Justice Center, an Echoing Green Fellow and an Equal Justice Works Emerson Fellow.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Folks like Michelle and Swapna are the “real American heroes” of our justice system, working tirelessly and for modest compensation to preserve the rights of vulnerable asylum seekers. We need more of them and less of Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and his malicious and ignorant attacks on asylum seekers and their already-limited due process and statutory rights.