December 5 to 11
Just before Thanksgiving, my daughter, the lawyer, returned from a week’s work on the southern border as a volunteer assisting asylum seekers—mothers and children—in their interviews with asylum officers. The law requires that these seekers prove they fear returning to their home countries and that the fear is materially connected to persecution there that would qualify them for asylum. The asylum officer’s job is only to make an initial credibility determination—that is, whether they believe the mothers or not. Given the officer’s approval, at a later appointed time, a U.S. immigration court will decide whether in fact the mother (or child) qualifies for asylum and can stay in the United States.
Of course, the experience is very difficult for everyone. Truthfully, it is not solely the fault of the asylum officers (many of whom are simply following orders) nor the border agents (though there are certainly those who seem to take pleasure in being mean to these women and children seeking refuge). It’s the current interpretation of asylum and immigration law that is problematic, crude and cruel.
In my daughter’s words, “For me, who can see the anguished look on a mother’s face as she pleads with an asylum officer not to be deported, it is heartbreaking and difficult to comprehend how such mothers should not receive our help. As an American mom, I feel sad that my child is growing up in such a heartless world. As the descendant of Italian and Russian immigrants who came here in the last century and who were then subject to the scorn of others already here, it is hard for me to understand how short our collective memories are. In many ways, the women at our borders now are not that different from our own mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers back then.”