Supreme Court Makes it More Difficult for Refugees To Find Asylum Here

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The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to enforce a new anti-asylum rule while a legal challenge to the policy proceeds. The change makes it harder for Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty to be admitted into the U.S. legally—all but ensuring more suffering for migrants and more illegal immigration. Like so much of Trump’s immigration policy, this one presents another lose-lose.

Under the previous policy, refugees seeking asylum are not allowed to apply from within their own countries; they must do so at an American port of entry or from within the United States. That’s what has led many migrants looking to get out of El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras to make the trek all the way to the U.S.–Mexico border and present themselves to U.S. immigration officials in person.

Now such individuals will be turned away if they don’t first apply for asylum in any country they pass through on the way here. The new policy “screens out asylum seekers who declined to request protection at the first opportunity,” said U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, portraying this as a way to weed out scammers.

But there are many valid reasons why people fleeing Central America would want to come to the U.S. instead of countries closer to home. Many of these refugees are trying to escape violence from gangs and cartels, which often have a strong foothold in nearby nations too. Those subject to political persecution may find their foes are better able to reach them when they’re close to their home countries. And of course, many Central Americans have family here already, making a move to the U.S. desirable not just for emotional reasons but for practical ones, such as having a place to stay and folks to help them find work.

Besides, a large number of asylum seekers from Central America are already turned away. This suggests that our process for evaluating such requests—and separating those who “genuinely fear persecution or torture” from those who “are simply economic migrants,”  as Francisco put it—is already working. (“Economic migrants” should of course be more welcome here, too, but that’s a subject for another day.)

The new asylum rules were announced in July but were temporarily blocked by a federal court in California. The Department of Justice appealed the decision, and that appeal is still pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. But the Justice Department also asked the Supreme Court for permission to enforce the new policy as it awaits the outcome of the 9th Circuit case.

Canada says it will admit asylum seekers who are rejected from the U.S. under the new rule.


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OK, who gave Barron a Juul? The Trump administration plans to ban vaping anything other than tobacco-flavored products—you know, to stop people from turning to tobacco! Geniuses, these people. The president’s interest in this topic apparently stems from a freakout by First Lady Melania.

“The ban, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will impose through regulatory ‘guidance’ it plans to issue soon, will dramatically reduce the harm-reducing alternatives available to smokers who are interested in quitting and is likely to drive many people who have already made that switch back to a much more dangerous source of nicotine,” writes Reason‘s Jacob Sullum. More:

The flavor ban is aimed at preventing underage vaping, which increased sharply last year….Since selling e-cigarettes to minors is already illegal, a more reasonable approach would have been to improve enforcement of age restrictions. Companies such as Juul, the leading e-cigarette maker, have already taken steps in that direction through robust age verification. If some retailers are still selling e-cigarettes to minors, a logical response would have been to crack down on them. Instead the Trump administration is depriving adults of potentially lifesaving products that seem to be nearly twice as effective in facilitating smoking cessation as alternatives such as nicotine gum and patches.


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