Congress Must Take Charge of Immigration

President Donald Trump’s message to would-be immigrants massing along the U.S.-Mexico border is loud and clear: Stay out.

And on Monday, federal judges in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco started hearing arguments challenging recent Trump administration moves to make it harder for would-be immigrants to seek asylum in the United States.

This complicated, emotional issue raises fundamental questions for all Americans: Is the United States still a beacon of freedom for the persecuted? And should it be?

Regardless of the answers, Americans must demand that Congress take up comprehensive immigration reform. Until it does, a range of unresolved immigration issues will continue to lurch between the courts and the executive branch.

It’s clear the president has broad powers over immigration, at least in the short run as affirmed by the Supreme Court in upholding President Trump’s travel ban. But whatever the federal courts decide will only be temporary.

The administration also has taken aim at the Temporary Protected Status program, which provides temporary relief for people who have been affected by natural disasters or political strife. With Congress failing to take action, the president ordered an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which the Supreme Court is expected to take up during its current term.

Being granted asylum is already hard and time consuming. Of 20,573 “credible fear” cases considered in the past fiscal year, only 5,639 applicants were granted asylum, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The rest were ordered to be deported, though many remain illegally in the country.

Despite highly publicized controversies involving immigrants at the border, including the current “caravan,” they continue to flee their homelands and head for the United States.

Between 2000 and 2016, an average of 26,651 foreigners were granted asylum annually, but applications have spiked from about 5,000 in 2008 to 97,000 in fiscal 2018.

In the past fiscal year, 396,579 people have been caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. In September alone, a record 16,658 people were apprehended.

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