Stop blocking Venezuelan asylum seekers


“These were children, they were moms, they were fleeing communism,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said a few weeks ago in proper criticism of the election-time grandstanding on the part of the governors of Florida and Texas, who were shipping Venezuelan immigrants to northeastern states.

And now President Joe Biden has invoked a Donald Trump-era rule known as Title 42 — which the Associated Press notes Biden’s own Justice Department is fighting in court — “to deny Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-torn country the chance to request asylum at the border.”

The United States has always and properly treated those escaping communist tyranny in the Americas differently than other would-be immigrants — thus the longtime rule granting those escaping the horrors of Cuba asylum once they could make a footprint on wet sand.

And during his successful election campaign, as the AP notes, Biden loudly denounced Trump for immigration policies that inflicted “cruelty and exclusion at every turn,” including toward those fleeing the “brutal” government of socialist Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

So what’s so different now?

Probably, the mid-term elections. Contrary to popular impression fueled by hysterical media (and politician) reports, there is no particular “crisis at the border” just now. But in a nailbitingly close race for control of the House and the Senate, the thought is that the White House wants to look tough on immigration in order to secure precious votes of fence-sitters for whom the issue is important.

Title 42, “first invoked by Trump in 2020, uses emergency public health authority to allow the United States to keep migrants from seeking asylum at the border, based on the need to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

But the coronavirus threat has greatly lessened. It’s a bad excuse to use to keep out those escaping tyranny. The AP report continues: “Under the new Biden administration policy, Venezuelans who walk or swim across America’s southern border will be expelled and any Venezuelan who illegally enters Mexico or Panama will be ineligible to come to the United States. But as many as 24,000 Venezuelans will be accepted at U.S. airports, similar to how Ukrainians have been admitted since Russia’s invasion in February.”

OK — so it’s a class-based scholarship? Those who can afford to fly are in, those who are running from the Maduro regime instead are nixed?

“Rather than restore the right to asylum decimated by the Trump administration … the Biden administration has dangerously embraced the failures of the past and expanded upon them by explicitly enabling expulsions of Venezuelan migrants,” said Jennifer Nagda, policy director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.

Thomas Cartwright of Witness at the Border adds: “We are extremely disturbed by the apparent acceptance, codification, and expansion of the use of Title 42, an irrelevant health order, as a cornerstone of border policy. One that expunges the legal right to asylum.”

Every American should understand, beyond the propaganda around this issue, that our great legacy of asylum is precisely the mechanism that should be used for refugees fleeing a totalitarian regime in the Americas.

An additional lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union is aimed at ending Title 42, which if successful could stop the administration’s efforts.

“People have a right to seek asylum — regardless of where they came from, how they arrive in the United States, and whether or not they have family here,” said ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt.

He’s right. Stop the false pretenses under which Title 42 is being used and keep compassionate American asylum open to its legitimate applicants.

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