Credible Fear

Among the linguistic lunacies used to camouflage a racist and exclusionary immigration policy, “credible fear” must rank high.

On Oct. 1, fourteen US Senators (including Booker, Harris, Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand and Bennet) wrote the directors of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration, and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to express their concern with a new administration policy to have CBP agents conduct credible fear interviews, rather than specially trained asylum officers, as the law requires. “The change endangers the lives of countless vulnerable individuals, including children,” they stated.

Furthermore, the senators underline documented evidence that proves CBO’s hostility and indifference to refugees.  This threshold screening, if passed, simply allows a refugee to present a case to an asylum judge, yet if it is denied or handled thoughtlessly, it consigns many to violence and possible death. A bedrock principle of our democracy, these senators point out, is that an individual should have a fair chance to present his or her case.

This principle, many people could attest, is how their ancestors entered the U.S. During the potato famine of 1840-1850, 1 million Irish people died of starvation; another million emigrated to the US in “coffin ships.” Horror tales abound—for example, of a twelve-year old whose parent died aboard, arriving in New York City alone, speaking only Gaelic. Sound familiar, with the child speaking only Spanish? And what of those fleeing the Nazis? One Hungarian historian describes the slaughter of Jews: “the Danube turned red with the blood of the elderly, women and children who were shot in the back and dumped in the river.” Would these situations and countless others like Syria today constitute “credible fear”?

And perhaps a more fundamental question: who are we, or some overworked CPB agent, to judge the terror of a woman fleeing a murderous ex-husband in Guatemala, trying to save the lives of her two young sons, distraught that the boys will be taken from her? In many parts of the US where population is dwindling, immigrants are desperately needed to replenish the workforce.  What kind of country turns away a life-giving force for its future?

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