A recent study from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has found continuing violations of the law by border authorities. The report, “Barriers to Protection: The Treatment of Asylum Seekers in Expedited Removal,” is a follow-up investigation to USCIRF’s groundbreaking 2005 study on the US expedited removal process. The new report assesses whether USCIRF’s recommendations from 2005 have been implemented. Among key findings, USCIRF observed cases in which US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials at ports of entry failed to read the required information advising non-citizens to ask for protection if they feared return, to ask migrants if (in fact) they feared return, and to record their answers if they expressed fear. As a result, in many reported incidents, asylum seekers were removed without referral to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a credible fear interview.
USCIRF’s findings are consistent with reports provided to the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) from migrants and advocates in Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo. In one instance, for example, an asylum seeker was returned to Mexico and told he could not be considered for asylum until his temporary status in Mexico expired. In another, border officials told a Honduran asylum seeker that the United States did not accept asylum claims from Hondurans.
This episode of CMSOnAir features an interview with Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J. on USCIRF’s findings. Appointed to USCIRF in 2014, Fr. Reese now serves as chair of this independent, bipartisan US federal government commission that reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. Among his professional accomplishments, Fr. Reese served as editor-in-chief of America magazine, where he wrote on politics, economics and the Catholic Church. He is currently a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter.
In this podcast, Fr. Reese and Donald Kerwin, CMS’ executive director, discuss violations of law and legal procedures by border officials, CBP and USCIS’ reliance on virtual interviews, the importance of legal representation in asylum cases, and the detention of mothers and children. Fr. Reese also discusses the global crisis in refugee protection and the proposals to deny the admission of refugees based on religion and nationality.