Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Mel Pearlman

Political Asylum-Are we ready to welcome the world to America?


The idea to fully enforce the immigration laws of the United States, a fundamental right of every sovereign nation, even democratic ones, is not only good policy, but obligatory under our notion of the rule of law.

The Trump administration however, has an uncanny ability to pursue a sound public policy idea only to implement it with disastrous results. The idea to separate children from their parents or alleged parents before vetting each “family” unit is not only contrary to generally accepted American values, but in fact, makes it more difficult to ultimately determine who should get asylum and who should be denied the privilege of entering the United States.

Let us not forget that these seekers of political asylum began their path to American citizenship by breaking American law. Let us not forget that they jeopardized the safety of their children by not lawfully seeking asylum through available ports of entry, and crossed into the United States surreptitiously, hoping to evade contact with U.S. border authorities and local law enforcement. The path they chose does not bode well that many of them will pass the vetting process.

Under U.S. law, a refugee is generally defined (with a number of statutory exceptions) as a person who is outside his or her country of such person’s nationality... and who is unable or unwilling to return to and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

It does not appear that many of those seeking political asylum unlawfully entering the country from our Southern border would meet the above criteria. It has already been reported that many have come here from Latin America because of poverty, domestic violence, gang activity and generally unsafe living conditions in their respective home countries, none of which appear to consist of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution by the governing authority in their country of origin.

Congress and the president must act now and not wait for the mid-term elections to pass. What can be done?

First and foremost the president needs to table his requirement for the building of a wall on the Southern border. High fences may make good neighbors in the neighborhood, but not necessarily at international borders. Mutual cooperation between the two countries to secure the border from both sides is paramount if we are ever to get a handle on reducing or eliminating unlawful entry into the U.S.

If any section of the U.S. Code cries out for reform and simplification it is our immigration laws. The two political parties, paralyzed as they are, immediately must set aside their differences in this time of crisis, and act for the benefit of the country to clearly define and simplify our immigration laws so they can be properly enforced going forward. A joint committee of both houses of Congress should also be established to separately, and without linkage, deal with the lingering and festering effects of a defective statute weakly enforced over the last two decades or longer.

The administration should open negotiations with Mexico to establish a bi-national commission to deal with undocumented immigrants illegally attempting to cross the border so they can be vetted before entering the U.S.; and they should remain in Mexico with U.S. assistance until their case is determined. Additionally, Mexico should be persuaded to liberalize its own political asylum laws to embrace those legitimate applicants passing through Mexico from Latin America and grant to those who truly need it political asylum in that country.

Under no circumstances should children be separated from their parents during any stage of the proceedings, but adults falsely claiming parenthood of accompanying children should be arrested, if probable cause is found, and charged with appropriate crimes of child endangerment, abuse and kidnapping.

Strong, clear and enforceable provisions of a new and effective immigration law, robust vetting and cooperation with Mexico in securing the safety and unity of families can restore America’s reputation not only as the land of the free and home of the brave, but also as a refuge for the truly oppressed.

If you wish to comment or respond to any of the contents herein you can reach me at melpearlman322@gmail.com. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner. If you wish to respond by ranting and raving, please go into your bathroom, lock the door and shout your brains out.

Mel Pearlman has been practicing law in Central Florida for the past 45 years. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; on the District VII Mental Health Board, as Special Prosecutor for the City of Winter Park, Florida; and on the Board of Directors of the Central Florida Research and Development Authority. He was a charter member of the Board of Directors and served as the first Vice President of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as its first pro-bono legal counsel.


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