News & Politics

Report: Border Agents Ignoring Asylum Law and Returning Migrants Immediately to Mexico

Central American migrants, part of the caravan hoping to reach the U.S. border, move on a road in Tapachula, Chiapas State, Mexico, Thursday, March 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Isabel Mateos)

How much power should we give the government to override the Constitution in times of national crisis? Purists would argue that the government should never exceed their constitutional authority while others recognize that only dire necessity would justify measures that override constitutional mandates.

If reports from the White House are true, restrictions on the movement and behavior of American citizens is about to get even more severe, calling into question their legality, if not their efficacy. Should we wait until the crisis is over before challenging authorities on constitutional grounds? Or do we possibly risk people’s lives by trying to keep the government in line?

These are not black and white issues, regardless of what simple-minded liberals would have us believe. But there will almost certainly be a challenge to the Trump administration’s new policy on turning asylum-seekers away at the border without giving them a hearing.


The Trump administration has created numerous obstacles over recent years for migrants to claim asylum and stay in the United States. But it had not — until now — allowed Border Patrol agents to simply expel migrants with no process whatsoever for hearing their claims.

The administration gave the Border Patrol unchallengeable authority over migrants seeking asylum by invoking a little-known power given to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. public health agency, to ban the entry of people or things that might spread “infectious disease” in the U.S. The CDC on March 20 barred entry of people without proper documentation, on the logic that they could be unexamined carriers of the disease and out of concern about the effects if the novel coronavirus swept through Customs and Border Protection holding facilities.

There is absolutely no doubt that tens of thousands of people abuse the asylum laws of the United States every year. Telling INS that you’re in danger if you return to your country when you’re not, or allowing an asylum request from people who were caught trying to sneak into the country are far too common.

But there are legitimate asylum requests that are being ignored, and that’s a problem.

“The Trump administration’s new rule and CDC order do not trump U.S. laws passed by Congress and U.S. legal obligations under refugee and human rights treaties,” Eleanor Acer, of the legal advocacy group Human Rights First, told ProPublica. “But the Trump administration is wielding them as the ultimate tool to shut the border to people seeking refuge.”

There is a legitimate concern about people showing up at the border being infected, but those people could be quarantined before being issued their court date and sent to Mexico or released in the U.S. Denying people due process is unconstitutional, even in times of war, and should remain so.

Lincoln ignored habeas corpus orders from U.S. courts and FDR imprisoned Japanese-Americans using dubious legal reasons. Trump shouldn’t be using this national emergency to push his border policies.