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Trump speech closes door on refugees

5 February 20181 comment

President Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address has inflamed the US’ immigration debate while focusing comment on so-called “chain migration”.

President Trump’s speech, in which he said he wanted to fix his country’s “broken” immigration system, has been met with fierce criticism.

The President was booed by Democrats when he claimed America’s immigration system allowed “unlimited numbers of distant relatives” to join immigrants who have settled in America.

President Trump laid out plans which he claimed would “protect the nuclear family” and keep out “truly evil people” by “limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children”.

Prominent US immigration lawyer Rabia Chaudry accused Mr Trump of “lying” and pointed out that current law meant immigrants could sponsor children, spouses, parents and siblings, but not distant relatives.

Robert Reich, former Labour Secretary under President Bill Clinton, accused the 71-year-old of using “fear” to generate a “vicious cycle” of anger.

Human Rights First’s spokesperson Jennifer Quigley said the speech amounted to fear mongering.

“President Trump’s State of the Union address was filled with shameless fear-mongering aimed at undermining this nation’s long history of protecting persecuted individuals,” Ms Quigley said.

“Protecting our national security and offering refuge to those fleeing violence are not mutually exclusive—why should the most powerful nation on earth be afraid of the most vulnerable people in the world?” she said

“Our asylum system, which is full of safeguards that prevent against fraud and abuse, is a symbol of our nation’s compassion, not a ‘loophole’ as the president so flippantly dismisses.

“The president and his hardline immigration extremists are holding Dreamers hostage with demands that are not aimed at securing the border or closing loopholes.

“Instead they will close the door to refugees fleeing gang violence and terror, and punish those who seek protection in the United States by sending them to jails and detention facilities.

“Asylum and due process are not loopholes, they are fundamental American ideals,” Ms Quigley said

Leaving the rhetoric aside, what the Republicans are actually offering the Democrats is a deal to leave the so-called ‘Dreamers’ legislation – a scheme that allows 1.8 million undocumented migrants brought to the US as unaccompanied children – to stay in place in return for support to build a wall on the Mexican border.

President Trump also talked about “enforcement loopholes”  which he blamed for allowing into the US members of the notorious MS-13 gang  US — a connection he’s made before — as part of the wave of Central American migration that started in 2014.

But observers point out most of those who came were residents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and were seeking asylum — usually from criminal gangs like MS-13.

Since 1990, American law has provided protection to unaccompanied immigrant children.

Because these children are generally vulnerable to harm, such as child trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, drugs and gangs, Congress created certain legal protections for them in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. This law was passed with broad bipartisan support.

The Trump administration believes that many of these asylum seekers are frauds, and that they’re just trying to be released so they can escape instead of pursuing their asylum cases.

The President has aligned himself with conservatives who believe that the border can’t truly be secured, wall or no wall, unless more people are turned away.

Meanwhile the Trump administration has announced that it is resuming all refugee admissions, while at the same time implementing new security vetting procedures for 11 “high-risk” countries.

The new measures stem from President Donald Trump’s original so-called travel ban, which ordered a 120-day ban of all refugees entering the US.

None of this augers well for people seeking safety in the US.



Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist