Why Shouldn't Central Americans Have to Apply for Asylum in Mexico?

By Dan Cadman on July 28, 2017

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), supreme court for the European Union (EU), has ruled that would-be migrants must seek asylum in the first country they reach.

CNN, one of the many media outlets reporting on the ruling, says this: "The European Union's top court has ruled that refugees must continue to seek asylum in the first European country they reach, even in exceptional circumstances like the migrant crisis of 2015." What they should have said is "especially in exceptional circumstances like the migrant crisis of 2015", because it is during crises that having bright-line guidelines to follow become most important.

The ruling surprised many because the EU's advocate general had recommended otherwise, but it should not have, because it is founded on something called the "Dublin Regulation" which embeds the premise of seeking asylum in the first point of entry into EU law. The Dublin regulation itself, though, is merely the EU's codification of an already established principle of international law that is reflected in the United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

In practical terms, as the media have pointed out, this means that the aliens who entered certain countries of the EU "irregularly" from other EU countries during their ongoing mass migration to Europe from the Middle East, Near Asia, and Africa can be removed back to the first EU country entered. In context, this means that Croatia will likely soon be receiving thousands of intended asylum-seekers from Austria and Slovenia (and who knows where else?).

Given that the EU, fractious though it has become (especially over the migrant "crisis" that has lasted for years now due to ineffective action to stop it), sees itself as a kind of single "super state", the ruling is a bit odd since it penalizes those countries within its membership who have the unique misfortune to be on the front lines of the EU's external borders — while leaving untouched Germany, whose leader Chancellor Angela Merkel almost single-handedly turned a trickle into a flood when she unilaterally declared that her nation would accept without reservation or upper limit all who chose to come. (The predictable consequence of her thoughtless words is reminiscent of our president Jimmy Carter's "open hearts and open arms" policy that resulted in the Mariel boatlift.)

Reflecting on the ECJ ruling, I harkened back to recent controversy surrounding the ports of entry in and around San Diego, in which border inspectors are alleged to have turned away asylum seekers there rather than permit them to file claims. In one instance, apparently surreptitiously recorded by "human rights representatives" accompanying a family of Hondurans, the inspectors told the family they needed to register with the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Migracion (National Migration Institute, or "NMI" by its English acronym) instead of seeking asylum in the United States.

There's no indication that the officers involved were disciplined, although it would not surprise me if they had been. Like wolf spiders and voles, this nation's immigration enforcement agencies have a long and dishonorable history of eating their young.

The incident, and allegedly others like it, have led the organizations, including Human Rights First and Al Otro Lado (Translation: "On the Other Side", which tells you pretty much all you need to know about their views, aims, and goals) to file a lawsuit claiming the U.S. government is systematically violating the rights of asylum seekers.

(At least some media accounts, such as the CNN article above, assert it is the Border Patrol blocking the asylum claims. This is clearly a mistake — Border Patrol agents do not man ports of entry; inspectors of another division of Customs and Border Protection, the Office of Field Operations, are the officers who staff the ports. This is worth mentioning because it is another example of typically sloppy reporting where immigration matters are concerned.)

The whole incident was clearly a set-up, as evidenced by the recordings so conveniently taken by the "human rights representatives" who serendipitously happened to be accompanying the aliens with audio recorder (smart phone?) in hand. Ultimately, a field supervisor apparently did accept the claim and authorized parole of the aliens into the United States.

My guess is he did so after consulting upper level management who wanted to move everything promptly out of the media limelight even though, as a matter of principle, the officers are right: Mexico has an affirmative obligation to accept and make a judgment about the Hondurans' claims to asylum because it, too, is a signatory to the U.N. Convention. Just as surely, the aliens themselves had an affirmative obligation to seek safe haven there. Consider that San Diego ports of entry are on the extreme west coast of the continent, whereas Honduras sits considerably east and south. A quick look at a map shows that this family spent considerable time traversing nearly the whole of Mexico and had plenty of time and opportunity to seek out Mexican officials to seek asylum. That they didn't do so is notable.

How distressing that the Europeans, who have made such a muddle over their own illegal mass migration responses, have gotten this issue right while the leaders in our homeland security organizations still don't seem to get it.

The problem is that here in the United States this international principle of demanding that migrants claim asylum or refuge at the first safe country they reach is mostly honored in the breach. Everyone pays lip service to it, but no one, least of all our pusillanimous political or government leaders, really expects America to demand that the international convention be scrupulously adhered to, either by those who are allegedly seeking shelter from harm, or by the countries those migrants use as doormats en route to America as the nation of economic choice.

Of course, perhaps anticipating that this line of questioning might occur, one human rights organization immediately took to the media to suggest that expecting Central Americans or anyone else to seek asylum in Mexico was unreasonable, given its current drug and crime problems.

It's true that Mexico has significant issues, but one wonders: Has this rights organization looked at the murder statistics in American big cities lately, especially the shocking carnage in Chicago (which is our third largest city)? Or how about the deeply disturbing opioid/heroin abuse epidemic our nation is experiencing, with all of the associated crimes that attend to a large population of junkies in our midst — homicide, assault, armed robbery, burglary, theft, prostitution, you name it?

If one were to consider those two facts about the United States in isolation, then the argument can very well be made that the United States itself is a deeply unsafe place for migrants to seek asylum. But that's a narrow view, isn't it? And so it is with Mexico as well. The argument that Mexico is too unsafe for foreigners to reside in should be discarded out of hand as self-serving, and tailored to influence American public opinion toward an "open borders" mentality through selective manipulation of facts. In fact, as the Center's Kausha Luna has documented, Mexico receives and processes thousands of asylum applications every year, mostly from Central American illegal aliens.

Really, the questions we're left with are twofold:

  • First, when, exactly, do we begin to hold Mexico's feet to the fire on its own international treaty obligations where human rights, refuge, and asylum are concerned, rather than always presuming it's our burden to carry?
  • Second, at what point, through lenient and shortsighted policies such as waving aliens through ports of entry and into the United States simply because they utter magic incantations, will we begin to experience another Jimmy Carter/Angela Merkel mass migration episode?

We're still experiencing the disastrous effects of the tidal wave of humans who began illegally flooding across our southern borders in 2014 due to the misguided policies of the previous administration. Why needlessly shift that flood to the ports of entry through ill-thought-out asylum policies that encourage an ever greater flow?