How Presidents Bush and Clinton dealt with a much smaller wave of ‘asylum’ migration

· March 22, 2019  
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Asylum seekers and Border Patrol
John Moore | Getty Images

After just a handful of Haitian migrants successfully landed on the shores of Florida, President George H.W. Bush issued the “Kennebunkport Order” (Executive Order 12807) on May 24, 1992, to affirm the sovereignty of America and protect our people against harmful effects of such migration. The order directed the Coast Guard to seek out and interdict any Haitian boats and promptly return them to Haiti or another country of origin, irrespective of their claims, in light of the fact that most were coming for economic reasons. Fast-forward 26 years to a Central American migration built on the same asylum fraud, with hundreds of thousands more people and more harmful effects on our border and interior. Isn’t it time for a similar strategy?

President Clinton called the policy “cruel” and “illegal” during his campaign and promised to treat the Haitian boat migrants like refugees and process them. Then, after Clinton won the election, his promise spawned a new wave that looked like it would bring in as many as 125,000 migrants. Clinton recognized the real-world consequences of his words, and on January 15, just five days before his inauguration, Clinton announced that he would continue Bush’s policy of a closed door and warned migrants that “leaving by boat is not the route to freedom.”

It’s important to remember that there was a bipartisan notion, built on 200 years of history, that immigration should never burden Americans in any way. That is why, even before Bush’s order, most of the Haitians were taken to Guantanamo Bay, off our soil, so that the pending adjudication would not place the American people on the hook for their fiscal burden, potential diseases, crime, social problems, and children born in the U.S. When the facility at Guantanamo became full is when the Bush administration began the policy of completely ignoring their claims and sending them straight back home.

While the liberal groups did challenge the order in lower courts, the courts declined to place an injunction on the policy as they do today. The Second Circuit eventually sided with the migrant groups on the merits, but the Supreme Court, in Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, Inc. (1993), categorically reversed it 8-1. The high court noted that the president’s delegated authority under 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) override any asylum considerations and that the president had full authority to exclude anyone from our shores. This case was cited by Chief Justice Roberts in the travel ban case of Trump v. Hawaii last year. This should be the end of the story as it applies to today’s problem.

In fact, the case is even stronger with the Central Americans. The Haitian migration coincided with the military coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and some were concerned his supporters would legitimately be persecuted under the new government, which was actively opposed by the Clinton administration. Indeed, 10,000 of those processed at Guantanamo eventually won the right to come to America. No such dynamic has unfolded in Central America. In fact, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales is an ally of America and close with President Trump. This mass migration today is all about economic migration. And whereas the exclusion of Haitians was implemented before any harm was done to our homeland, nearly one million Central Americans coming as families or teens have been brought over our border, into our communities, and into our schools since 2014. The influx is now on pace for 1.2 million a year if nothing is done to stop it, as DHS Secretary Nielsen now predicts 100,000 will have arrived by the end of this month alone.

In 1993, Clinton promised to beef up more processing centers in Haiti itself to adjudicate asylum requests, but he would not allow them to come here and make the American people foot the bill. Moreover, he made it clear that much of his flip-flop was based on the fact that these people were economic migrants, not victims of political persecution.

As Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said in defense of Clinton’s change of heart, “When you’re faced with new realities, then you have to deal with them. … Clinton the candidate did not have the benefit of much information that President-elect Clinton has.”



The lesson from the Haitian migration is twofold. All our political leaders, including judges, understood that when there is a mass exodus of economic migrants scamming us with asylum requests, we need not commit national suicide and let them in to make those requests on the American people’s dime. There is no reason we can’t dismiss the migration from Central America wholesale as not subject to asylum law, just as Bush and Clinton did with Haiti. The delegated power accorded to the president to block all entry overrides even legitimate asylum considerations and certainly fraudulent ones.

There is simply no reason, based on settled law, that the president can’t give an address directly to the Central Americans and inform them, as Clinton did with the Haitians, that endangering your families to come here through the cartels is “not the route to freedom.” He should promise to set up processing in their home countries for them to apply, but state unequivocally that it will not be done on our soil. He should then beef up the military at our border to block anyone from entering and immediately turn them back. Rather than plucking them from the border and bringing them to our territory, we should return them to the other side.

What about if they step foot on our land nevertheless? If the president uses his lawful powers to bar entry, that means, by definition, nobody could have effected a lawful entry. The Second Circuit already said this. On January 14, 1998, President Clinton issued a terse one-page order invoking 212(f) and 215(a) to shut down all immigration from Sierra Leone until the military coup agreed to reinstall the democratically elected government. Clinton viewed the security of that government as sufficiently in America’s “national interest” to shut down immigration. The Second Circuit (Sesay v. Immigration and Naturalization Service INS, 2003) tossed out a claim of asylum from a Sierra Leone national, noting that he could not have lawfully entered the country at the time, given the president’s order. Thus, irrespective of the merits of his claim, he could not be eligible, entirely because the president shut off the spigot, even though the man managed to step foot in our country. As we’ve noted so many times, nothing trumps sovereignty, and nobody can unilaterally assert jurisdiction.

Congress’s own research arm, the Congressional Research Service, states that “Collectively, Sale and these other decisions suggest that Section 212(f) gives the Executive significant power to bar or impose conditions upon the entry of aliens ‘on our shores seeking admission’ or ‘on the threshold of initial entry.’”

Besides, the president has inherent Article II powers to prevent anyone or any product from entering our shores. As Justice Thomas wrote in his recent concurrence in Trump v. Hawaii, which is being ignored by the lower courts every day, “Section 1182(f) does not set forth any judicially enforceable limits that constrain the President. … Nor could it, since the President has inherent authority to exclude aliens from the country.”

Just a few weeks of this policy would grind the current invasion to a halt, as it did with the Haitians in 1993.

Trump should give an address to the nation from the Rose Garden with his attorney general, making this case to the American people. None other than Attorney General William Barr was also attorney general at the time of the Haitian boat crisis. He of all people should be able to make the constitutional and precedent case to the American people and show how lower courts have no right to interfere.

Some things never change in life, and history does indeed repeat itself. The only thing that has changed is our resolve as a nation to preserve our sovereignty and to protect Americans first and foremost from the ill effects of mass migration.

Earlier this decade, when courts were preventing Arizona from defending its sovereignty when Obama refused to enforce federal immigration law, Justice Scalia asked, “Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws? A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding?”


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.