Earlier this summer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions took action to stop the chaos at the border by narrowing the grounds for claiming political asylum in the United States. A 2014 ruling by the Obama Justice Department cleared the way for foreign nationals claiming to be fleeing an abusive spouse or partner, and people fleeing gang violence in their homelands, to seek asylum in the U.S. That ruling resulted in a surge of such claims – most of which are impossible to prove or disprove.
In June, Sessions ruled that a system designed to protect people from political persecution at the hands of their governments could not reasonably be applied to people in bad personal relationships, or to generalized lawlessness in other countries.
Last week, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted to torpedo Sessions’ effort to regain control of the border and restore the grounds for seeking political asylum to those that existed prior to 2014. With the support of Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and Homeland Defense Subcommittee Chair Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), the committee approved a Democratic amendment that would block implementation of Sessions’ ruling.
Moreover, rather than torpedo the administration’s efforts to restore control of the border in the clear light of day, renegade Republicans opted for the backdoor approach of doing it through the appropriations process and on a voice vote.
The vast majority of people claiming asylum on these grounds will have their petitions denied. And the vast majority of them will remain in the country illegally, even after they are denied asylum. Thus, if the amendment is not stripped from the Appropriations bill that reaches the floor of the House, the numbers of people entering asylum claims on these distinctly non-political grounds will continue to grow.
Dan Stein is the president of the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform.