There’s been a lot of talk about compassion to the migrant caravan at America’s southern border, but what about compassion for those put at a disadvantage by specious asylum claims?
In the ongoing debate about the column of migrants, those who are skeptical of the asylum claims being made and those who simply want a more measured approach to handling those claims are told that they have no compassion for people coming from Central America looking for a better life in the United States.
But if we’re really going to have a conversation about compassion, we need to get a few things straightened out.
First, unless those looking for a better life have either suffered or have legitimate reason to believe they will suffer persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinions, they do not meet the legal baseline for refuge or asylum. Period.
Second, there is reason to believe that a majority of those claiming asylum from Central America do so with no intention of following through. According to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security regarding the migrant caravan:
The low statutory requirements and legal loopholes in our laws encourage aliens to claim credible fear at our Southern border knowing they will be promptly released into the interior with work permits pending the determination of their full claim. In recent years, data shows that more than 65 percent of asylum seekers at our border are from Central America – of those 89 percent pass their initial credible-fear interview. Yet, the harsh reality is that 31 percent of aliens who pass that initial interview do not even show up for their hearing, while a staggering 40 percent of aliens who pass their initial interview do not even file an application.
This suggests that too many of those who claim asylum while crossing the border appear to be using our asylum process as a fallback after being apprehended.
Third, having previously worked at a nonprofit that advocated for persecuted religious minorities as well as reported on the state of global religious persecution, I have seen firsthand the need for a substantive asylum process, because I have met the people it is meant to serve: Religious minorities from oppressive regimes, political dissidents, survivors of genocide.
Looking at religious persecution alone shows how bad things are worldwide. A 2018 Pew Research study shows that 28 percent of countries had “high” or “very high” restrictions on religion and 27 percent show “high” or “very high” social hostility to religion.
It is good that we have a means for people fleeing persecution to seek and find asylum on our shores. It’s awful to see the process for those legitimately in danger clogged by those who aren’t. Our asylum process should never be a plan B for those who seek to circumvent or break our immigration laws for economic benefit, especially when it puts the legitimately persecuted at a disadvantage.
It’s a simple fact (and one that both my colleague Jon Miller and I and have previously discussed) that resources are finite, and when government agents spend time sorting out frivolous asylum claims from economic migrants at the border, it takes up time and resources that could be otherwise applied to other applicants who don’t have the geographic advantage of being able to form a caravan and travel over land.
G.K. Chesteron once wrote: “The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.”
This is apparent in our ongoing debate about immigration. Compassion is important, but it can’t be separated from the truth of who needs our compassion the most.