Asylum Insanity

08-04-2019Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

This past Tuesday was World Day against the Trafficking of Persons. A most pertinent topic, unfortunately. With the flow of migrants through Mexico human traffickers are making a bundle. The whole system of human trafficking is pretty much under the control of the Mexican Drug Cartels. While their drug trafficking profits have been cut a bit by the legalization of marijuana in the many US states, they have more than compensated for the loss with human smuggling, including selling women and children into the sex trade.

And there is lots of money to be made, lots. Mexico recently agreed to cut off the Cartels access to various financial systems, which would make it difficult to launder money. But there is little hope that will actually happen. If you paid any attention to the recent trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one fact that came out was that the Cartel had a monthly purse of one million US dollars just for bribery. You can imagine how hard it would be for a small-town Mexican law enforcement person who makes a meager salary to resist these bribes. And to make it worse the option would be to accept the bribe or have you and your family killed. I am sure bankers and other involved in finances would face the same dilemma.

Just last week sixteen US Marines at Camp Pendleton were arrested for alleged human trafficking of unauthorized immigrants from the border to the interior of the US. Two of the migrants said they agreed to pay $8,000, to get one to LA and the other to New Jersey. So, at that rate, if you smuggled about a dozen people you could make a half million US dollars, tax free. Lucrative to say the least.

We who live in the Phoenix area are used to hearing stories of human traffickers who hold migrants hostage in houses in the Valley until their families pay for their release. The conditions are usually sub-human with the victims being stripped down to their underwear and given very little food or water.

And then there are the children, unaccompanied minors specifically. They get to be held at overcrowded and underfunded facilities until a proper foster care home can be found for them. All the meanwhile a certain congresswoman is calling them concentration camps and likening the Border Patrol staff to Nazi guards. Does she really think the people who work for Border Patrol like the conditions they are working in or working with? Someone should ask her how many children she is willing to take into her home? I am sure DHS will deliver the children to her doorstep within a day.

Funny how the President declared a State of Emergency at the Border in January and the Congress and Senate both pummeled him for perpetrating a delusion. But now six months later everyone agrees things are a mess at the Border. Finally, after requesting for months additional funding for things like food, diapers, baby formula, housing etc. to help deal with the increased numbers coming over the border Congress finally approved the appropriations. What a Catch-22 the Border Patrol was in: you need to feed, cloth, house, provide medical care for everyone who comes but we won’t give you the funds to do it and then we will accuse you of running the worst kind of concentration camps.

It also seems that our elected officials and much of the media do not understand the Asylum Process. The US is obligated first by its own laws and then by the UN Treaties that we have signed, to grant an Asylum hearing to those who request it. (Though by UN Law an asylum seeker is required to request asylum in the first safe country he enters.) This means there is a process that has to happen. Which means we need a place to house people during the process, and since the amount of people is so large the processing times may take a while. We also need staff that can do the interviews and process the needed documentation. The staff as well as the documents need to be in multiple languages since we have asylum seekers coming from South America (Spanish), from French speaking Africa and Haiti, from the Middle East (Arabic, Farsi) etc. and all this has to be done in places along the southern border that are not well populated or equipped. Have you been to Ajo lately or anywhere near Yuma? If so, you can understand the challenges of dealing with large numbers of people in those areas.

Once a migrant is granted an Asylum hearing they are released into the interior of the US. They are then legal residents until the time of their actual hearing in an Immigration Court. Many of these people are being taken to the Phoenix area to be released (so as not to overwhelm cities like Yuma). I say many but it is in the hundreds. This is where we come in. The Department of Home Land Security and the AZ Governor’s Office has asked the Churches to provide assistance to these newly released Asylum seekers. You can find on our website under the Humanitarian Crisis in AZ banner, ways in which you can help.

Now some might say by helping the Asylum seekers we are aiding and abetting and enabling this sad state of affairs. Maybe to a small degree. But what is the option? To have hundreds, no thousands of nomadic and homeless migrants flooding the Phoenix area? We did not create this situation, the cartels and the profiteers of human trafficking did as well as a few US Judges who wreaked havoc on our Immigration Laws not to mention the ineptitude of the US Congress to deal with the issue nor did we grant the migrants legal temporary residence in US, government officials did. We are just responding to an immediate human need right in front of us. Hopefully someday soon sanity will return to our Immigration system but until then we remain our brothers’ keepers.

Love,

Fr. John B.

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