September 11 marks a sobering anniversary in American history that left the world shellshocked. This day now also marks one of the most dramatic shifts in U.S. immigration policy of the twenty-first century, creating the already arduous process of applying for asylum even more complex. Just a few weeks ago the Supreme Court established new rules that will now bar asylum applications from anyone who has not already been denied asylum in any countries through which they have passed on their way to the United States. Only five votes in favor of the new regulations were needed and of the nine justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the only two justices who dissented from the majority. It remains unknown how the two remaining left-leaning justices, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, voted.
A person who seeks asylum is someone who flees their country of origin because of fear of prosecution. According to the American Immigration Council, a person seeking asylum can be classified as a refugee because they are “unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future.” In 1967, the U.S. established protocol that states that they are obligated as a nation to provide asylum to those who qualify as refugees. The Trump administration initially tried to halt the flow of asylum-seekers into the U.S. in November 2018.
This initial ban dictated that those who did not present themselves at a legal point of entry such as through airport customs or at a border checkpoint would be barred from asylum applications. Within a month this ban was declared illegal and was therefore invalidated. The administration made its second attempt to slow asylum migration in July was when an updated form of this policy was announced. It faced immediate backlash and was tried in East Bay Sanctuary Covenant et al. v. Trump. While the U.S. declared it would provide asylum to refugees. Clearly, the Supreme Court took issue with the precedent set by lower appellate courts because this ruling was overturned and the Trump administration policy signed into U.S. law, effectively barring entry to the offending asylum applicants.
As previously stated, this new policy prevents people from applying for asylum in the U.S. if they have not already been denied asylum in a country of transit. In other words, if a family has fled their home country (because they are being prosecuted or fear they will be persecuted) and stops in another country on their way to the U.S., they must first apply for asylum in that country and be denied before they can apply for asylum here. The difficulty with this policy is that it predominantly targets people from Central America, primarily Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala because of the route refugees follow through those countries. However, this policy can also affect migrants from other countries also experiencing political and social unrest who travel through countries of transit to get to the U.S. In this way, the Trump administration has effectively stalled a large proportion of U.S. asylum-seekers for the time-being.
The effects of this new policy are still becoming evident, but it is clear that many of America’s migrant communities will be greatly impacted and Holland is no exception. Home to a growing population of migrants, Holland as a city is incomplete without the added enrichment to our community and contribution to and support of our local economy. Countless churches around the Holland-Zeeland area sponsor refugees and resettle them into the community so that they become fully integrated into American society. The Zadran family, who migrated from Afghanistan through a refugee camp in Pakistan to American, is supported through Holland’s
First Presbyterian Church (FPC). The family’s story, documented on FPC’s website, is an excellent example of a family whose journey would not t be possible under the new policy.