Recently, the Trump Administration has moved to block victims of abuse and trafficking from seeking asylum in the United States with several unprecedented announcements that will jeopardize these survivors’ ability to safely enter the United States to seek available legal protections. The Trump administration has made the claim that the entry of migrants is a matter of national security – however, there is little evidence to suggest that the vast majority of migrants who seek entry to the U.S. pose any threat to the country.
Minors as well as victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault who applied for but were denied protective status may now be subject to deportation – a policy that was up to this point widely viewed as inhumane. This will have a chilling effect on applications for humanitarian relief – longstanding forms of protection for vulnerable families created by Congress. We have already witnessed this chilling effect on law enforcement’s ability to detect, investigate and prosecute domestic violence and sexual assault of immigrant families in our communities because they have gone “underground” with the fear that by reporting these crimes, they will be deported.
As the Tahirih Justice Center has noted, migrants traveling from Central America are coming from one of the most dangerous regions in the world for women and children and are often specifically targeted for rape, sex trafficking, domestic abuse, and other crimes. The families who approach the southern border seeking asylum therefore qualify as refugees under the 1951 International Refugee Convention. They are often fleeing for their very lives.
“The idea that we as a nation are implementing limits on the ability of families fleeing abuse, trafficking and sexual assault to seek refuge here in the United States is an affront to human decency,” said Patti Seger, Executive Director of End Domestic Abuse WI. “We hope people across the country will stand up and take action to oppose these policies which represent the absolute worst of our nation’s legacy of white supremacy, nationalism, xenophobia, bigotry and violence.”
We want to encourage citizens to contact their elected representatives to demand bi-partisan common sense immigration reform that upholds our highest ideals as a nation of immigrants. Common sense immigration reform must of course find ways to continue to strengthen our borders while cracking down on those companies that flaunt our laws and hire undocumented workers. We should expect that undocumented immigrants are held accountable before they can earn their citizenship and require them to pay their taxes, learn English, and pass background checks. And finally, we need to streamline the legal immigration system for families who come to our shores seeking asylum as victims of abuse and human trafficking. Together we can build a fair, effective and commonsense immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
Steve Vickman, Executive Director, HELP of Door County, Inc.
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.