In her column on Aug. 4, titled “How can God-given rights only apply to Americans?”, Tribune columnist Holly Richardson implies a general proposition that all asylum seekers are entitled to the unalienable rights our founding fathers established in the Declaration of Independence and refined in the Constitution. In making her case, Ms. Richardson relates how eyewitnesses and advocates visiting the Brownsville-Matamoros International Bridge between Mexico and the U.S. in June met Laura and her 6-year old son, Nicolas. Laura was fleeing a violent police officer husband whose colleagues turned the other way when she sought help. Ms. Richardson goes on to make the case that Laura’s unalienable rights have somehow been denied — because she was not promptly granted asylum, but rather asked to return in five or six hours.
How would Ms. Richardson suggest that officials at the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services Asylum Office handle Laura’s request for asylum from domestic abuse in her home country? A refugee, as defined by Section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion or national origin. Domestic abuse is not included in the statute. By granting Laura, and similarly situated applicants, refugee status for domestic abuse, their home country law enforcement failures notwithstanding, U.S. Asylum officials would be violating U.S. law.
Congress sets limits on and funds the processing of asylum status grants. The current limit is 85,000 per year or 232 per day. Until Congress (1) amends the INA to include asylum seekers like Laura, (2) increases the number of annual grants of asylum status, and (3) increases funding for the foregoing, we should be grateful for the overworked women and men at U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement doing their difficult and currently thankless jobs of enforcing U.S. law. Those who feel differently might have a better chance of changing the status quo by lobbying Congress to amend the relevant statutes, limits and funding — rather than implying that our U.S. border employees are somehow incompetent, heartless, or even thuggish.
Fred W. Fairclough Jr., Salt Lake City