Kobach: Congressional Republicans Torture the Definition of Asylum

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

It has happened again. For some reason, when it comes to immigration, congressional Republicans routinely lose their ability to reason coherently and fall all over themselves to demonstrate how “compassionate” they can be.

This time, it’s the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee. In their infinite wisdom, they agreed to a Democrat proposal to expand the legal the definition of asylum to include victims of domestic abuse and people afraid of gang violence.

At first blush this might seem reasonable — until one actually looks at what asylum is. Asylum (and its counterpart, refugee status) is intended to provide aliens a place to escape persecution by the government in their home country. The definition of what it takes to gain asylum is not a creation of American law. Instead, American law reflects a long-standing international definition derived from conventions and protocols dating back more than fifty years.

To obtain asylum, an alien must demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution” in his country of origin, based on race, nationality, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. With asylum comes the most prized American immigration document — a green card, which affords the alien permanent residence in the United States and a short path to citizenship.

Asylum is designed to provide refuge when there is no way to find relief in one’s own country, because the government itself is persecuting the alien, or the government is willfully turning a blind eye to persecution by its agents.

Domestic violence at the hands of one’s spouse or partner is horrible, but it is not persecution by the government. And generally one does not need to leave the country to find relief. Indeed, the vast majority of countries prohibit domestic violence in their criminal codes, and they punish those who commit the crime. It isn’t necessary to also provide victims a green card allowing them to live in the United States.

This should have been reason enough for House Republicans to reject the Democrat proposal to expand the definition of asylum, but there’s more. This type of asylum claim would be particularly prone to fraud. In contrast to the political persecution of certain groups, which is well documented and easily verified, domestic violence claims cannot be easily proven or disproven. Many fraudulent claims will be made, and disproving them will be nearly impossible to do.

It would also provide an easy avenue for terrorists to enter the country. It just so happens that countries where radical Islamism is prevalent tend to have high incidence of domestic abuse. A claim of being the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of a Islamist man in Somalia would be entirely plausible. But the whole story could also be a perfectly-manufactured fraud in which the man and woman collaborate to obtain asylum for the woman so that she can carry out a suicide attack in the United States.

It bears mentioning that 2017 saw a record number of suicide terrorist attacks by women. The ISIS-affiliated terrorist group Boko Haram uses women to commit the majority of its suicide bombing attacks. If the proposed change to American asylum rules becomes law, it is a certainty that terrorists will use this loophole to enter the United States. It’s an open invitation to Boko Haram.

As I have written previously, terrorists seeking to carry out attacks in the United States prefer green cards and often make up bogus asylum claims to get them. One of the most important is that with asylum comes a green card. This allows the alien to exit and enter the United States freely. She can easily travel abroad and coordinate with foreign Islamist organizations.

At least 30 terrorists have used asylum claims or refugee status to carry out their terrorist activities in the United States since the 1993 World Trade Center attack. Foreign terrorist organizations know how to manipulate the system. Their applicants make up fake stories and carry fake documents. If domestic violence is made a basis for asylum, the fake stories will be much easier to fabricate.

The proposal to make exposure to gang violence a basis for asylum is also deeply flawed. It, too, shatters the normal definition of asylum. Gang violence is not government persecution.

Gang violence is also extremely widespread around the world. Indeed, by some estimates, 32 million Central Americans would qualify for asylum under this standard. And, of course, if they settle in Los Angeles, Chicago, or a dozen other places, they may find that the gang violence is just as bad in America. Asylum is not the answer.

Hopefully, this asylum proposal will be stopped before it becomes law. If not, American lives will be put at risk; and our immigration system will be made worse than ever.

Kris W. Kobach is the elected Secretary of State of Kansas. An expert in immigration law and policy, he coauthored the Arizona SB-1070 immigration law and represented in federal court the ten ICE agents who sued to stop Obama’s 2012 executive amnesty. President Trump has named him Vice Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. His website is kriskobach.com.


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