Monday, December 17, 2007

Is the US system equally fair to asylum seekers from all countries?

Several months ago, I was asked to write a piece on the above topic:

In response, a certain gentleman wrote as follows:

"I am first not an American but a Canadian, so thatcolors my view of the world. I'm also a Canadian whohas been an American resident for the last 16 years,as I graduated from an American college and thenseminary, and have continued to work here. What I have observed is that America since the 1800'shas had a "melting pot" for ethnic identity: come toAmerica, lose your immigrant customs, become anAmerican, work hard and you'll do well here. For thelast hundred or so years, as numerous articles,ranging from Finance & Development (June 1999) to theDeVoretz and Laryea study in 1998 that indicate thatAmerica wants to be a brain drain for all countries;Europe, Asia, Canada, Latin America. It's a smartidea to attract other countries' top talents and putthem to work for you. America does allow for skilled laborers to come, and Ibelieve Jack Welch said it most recently that theAmerican government may have to up the number of H-1Bvisas to allow for skilled workers to come. (Theeffect of outsourcing may be a discussing for adifferent day.) Both America and Canada allow for asylum status, thatis, if your country is persecuting you for somereason, or, according to the USCIS site, "traumaticand painful experiences" that caused you to leave yourcountry. So I think that in all fairness, America is ratherfair in the immigration policy. What America is afraid of, I believe, is a large bodyof people who basically want a free lunch, or worse, alunch at everyone else's expense. And rightly so;we've all heard stories about people who run acrossthe border and basically enroll their kids at theexpense of taxpayers, which the parents are not(they'd have to have a social security number to paytaxes, and illegal immigrants don't have one). Now, I live in a city that has had a lot ofimmigrants, and has been plagued by some of the abusesto immigrants, and we are still paying for our pastsins. In the past, there were Italians, the Irish,Puerto Ricans, and numerous other ethnic groups. Theyalways got pushed to the bottom of the social peckingorder and were often underpaid and put in dangerousjobs (much like the Chinese immigrants who worked onthe transcontinental railroad in the 1860s and 1870s). Of course, to love my neighbor as myself would meanthat I should not put them in demeaning, dehumanizing,or dangerous roles -- but at the same time, if I knewthat I had broken a law, would I not submit myself tothe authorities and suffer just punishment andconsequences?"

My response was along the following lines:

I agree and sympathise with your position below. However, where we differ is regarding your statement "Both America and Canada allow for asylum status, that is, if your country is persecuting you for some reason, or, according to the USCIS site, "traumatic and painful experiences" that caused you to leave your country....So I think that in all fairness, America is rather fair in the immigration policy."

My disagreement with you arises for the following reason: you seem to be unaware that NOT all politically persecuted asylum seekers have equal status in seeking asylum in the USA.

There is a politically-determined quota system that decides how many political refugees from which country are admitted. For a purely mythic illustration, the US "system" decides every year how many to allow from Pakistan and how many from India; the system might decide to allow in 10K from Pak, and 9K from India, or the other way around or zero from Pakistan and a 100K from India, or whatever. Some countries are allocated very few places, some are allocated no places, and some are allocated lots of places.

Naturally, the US has every right to decide how many to admit and from which country. But the process for allocating the respective "asylum seats per country" is not transparent (behind-the-scenes political jockeying is what determines the countries and the numbers).

That is what I meant when I argued that the system is not fair by objective standards (that is, by God's standards) .
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