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Refugee, Part 3

July 29, 2018

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing unaccompanied minors at Texas border, Author Hector Silva, Source CBP (PD as work product of federal govt.)

You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 22: 21).

A nation unquestionably has the right to maintain its borders.  There is an acknowledged distinction between illegal immigrants and legal refugees.  And the threat of terrorism is both real and substantial.

But there are issues related to immigration which have nothing to do with political affiliation or party loyalty, and everything to do with morality and adherence to law.


Both the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and the US Refugee Act of 1980 provide that applicants for asylum are not to be returned to a place where their life or freedom is at risk [1A][2].

Forcible return (known as “refoulement”) is against international law.  Unlike political asylum, which applies only to those with a well-grounded fear of persecution, non-refoulement prohibits the return of any and all asylum seekers to war zones and disaster areas.

Despite that, Human Rights First has documented at least 125 cases in which Border Patrol agents unlawfully turned asylum seekers away without a hearing (some individuals many times over) [3A].

Other refugees are acknowledged to have been repatriated to countries with ongoing civil wars and/or extended disruptions in police protection [4A][8].

Penalizing Illegal Entry in Search of Asylum

Refugees must be at the border to apply for asylum; the law does not permit them to apply from a distance.

For that reason, the UN Refugee Convention expressly forbids parties like the United States from imposing penalties on refugees for irregular entry, if they present themselves to the authorities without delay [1B].  This is commonly interpreted to mean that illegal entry should not to be prosecuted.

In fact, the Board of Immigration Appeals (the highest immigration tribunal) has since 1987 consistently instructed immigration judges to forgive irregular entry [3B].

The Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy under which anyone who crosses the United States border will be prosecuted, therefore, flies in the face of settled law [5A].

Changing the Standard

Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions unilaterally changed the standard for asylum in two respects.

Sessions eliminated gender-based asylum claims (for instance, claims related to genital cutting) from consideration altogether; and raised the standard for asylum to require that an applicant’s home not only be unwilling or unable to protect him or her from harm, but that the government condone persecution by non-state actors [3].  This is a far higher standard of proof.

Separating Parents and Children

The United States has as many 10,000 children in detention – holding them at Dept. of Health & Human Services shelters an average of 56 days [6].

Typically, children who enter the country alone (“unaccompanied minors”) are released once a parent or guardian is properly identified [13].  Instead, some 3000 children were separated from their families at the border [4B][12].

According to the Academy of Pediatrics:

“Conditions in U.S. detention facilities, which include forcing children to sleep on cement floors, open toilets, constant light exposure, insufficient food and water, no bathing facilities, and extremely cold temperatures, are traumatizing for children [5C].”

This violates yet another treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [7], as well as what is known as the Flores Agreement (a 20 day limitation on the detention of children established in Flores v. Reno in 1997 [10]).

Federal District Court Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego, CA has ruled that these children must be reunited with their families and that, going forward, children can be separated at the border only if the adults with them pose an immediate danger to them [4C].

Federal District Court Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles, CA has meanwhile denied the Administration’s request to modify the Flores Agreement [11].

Indefinite Detention

The United States currently has 300,000 immigrants in detention, over 40,000 of whom are asylum applicants [5B].

On February 27, 2018, in Jennings v. Rodriguez, the US Supreme Court declined to rule that holding certain asylum seekers for indefinite periods without bond was illegal [9].  In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that such detention violates the due process clause of the US Constitution which derives from the Magna Carta.


As Americans and Christians, we should be outraged by this behavior on the part of our government.  We are to be the defenders of liberty, the voice of the voiceless.  History has shown us where tyranny can lead.

Surely, God is the refuge and strength of refugees (Ps. 46: 1).  These are the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the homeless and tempest-tossed Lady Liberty welcomes to our shores.

If we do not speak out for them, then who will?

[1A and 1B]  Wikipedia, “Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees”,

[2]  Wikipedia, “Refugee Act”,

[3] Washington Post, “Seeking Asylum Isn’t a Crime.  Why Does Trump Treat It as One?” by Lindsay Harris,  7/1/18,

[4A, 4B and 4C]  NY Times, “Trump Administration Says It Needs More Time to Reunite Migrant Families” by Miriam Jordan, 7/6/18,

[5A, 5B and 5C]  The Conversation, Politics + Society, “US ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy still violating fundamental human rights laws”, 6/27/18,

[6]  Washington Post, “Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ at the border is causing child shelters to fill up fast” by Nick Miroff, 5/29/18,

[7]  UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 3/23/76,

[8]  Guatemala has one of the highest rates of violent crime in Latin America.  The majority of such crime is drug and gang-related.  The US State Dept. has identified El Salvador as a “critical threat location” for crime.   Honduras has suspended constitutional rights to quell unrest.

[9]  US Supreme Court, Opinions, Jennings v. Rodriquez,

[10]  CNN, “Trump admin asks judge for permission to detain children with parents past 20 days” by Laura Jarrett and Clare Foran, 6/21/18,

[11]  CNN, “Federal judge rejects Trump administration’s bid to alter rules on detaining minors” by Laura Jarrett, 7/9/18,

[12]  Although some separations occurred under the Bush and Obama Administrations, there was no blanket policy in place to prosecute parents seeking asylum or separate them from their children as a deterrent to other refugees.  Previous administrations used family detention centers (allowing families to say together while awaiting resolution of their deportation cases) or released and tracked them by other means.  See, USA Today,

[13]  The Dept. of Health and Human Services is known to have placed at least a dozen children who entered the country as unaccompanied minors with human traffickers during the Obama Administration.  See, NY Times, “US Placed Immigrant Children with Traffickers, Report Says” by  Emmarie Huetteman, 1/28/16,

Parts 1 and 2 in this series were posted 7/15/18 and 7/22/18, respectively.



  1. Great post Anna!
    The worst part of this whole mess is the number of young immigrants who are sold into sex trafficking.. Perversion is an industry that that is always thriving.

  2. Like you Anna, I am outraged at the way this issue is being handled, and I for one do not know what the solution is, except to say that what we are witnessing now is definitely NOT a viable solution. I am further outraged at every previous administration that willingly turned a blind eye to the plight of these poor who want to come here only in the hope of establishing a better life for themselves and their families. We could have and should have been doing much better all along! We the citizens of this nation should have demanded a real solution decades ago!

    I think it would be fair to say that a lot of fingers could rightfully be pointed in a lot of different directions should one attempt to affix blame for this mess.What good that would do however is likely to be very little, if any.

    If there is ONE thing I do know about this it is that God sees all. He sees that we waste billions of dollars on one failed program after another, while innocent children are removed from their families. God also sees that we as voters do not have the “intestinal fortitude” to get involved in this process, instead content to pay millionaires who masquerade as Senators and Representatives to do the job for us.

    As for the current occupant of the White House and his ill-advised, illegal policies, rest assured that nothing is done in secret that will not be revealed in that day.

  3. Thank you Anna for this post! Sessions also quoted the Bible to justify this inhumane treatment of people. These verses are the same ones quoted by slave holders many years ago! For shame! And even worse it has been the secular media shouting from the roof tops to stop the madness. Most Christians are sadly silent even supporting these insane policies. I agree with long time conservative columnist George Will that Trump is a child. Our nation has gone even farther astray. These policies are just horrible. Thank you again.

    • I fear there is no one listening, Nicodemas.

      • Yes, I think you’re right. Conservatism is not only a sub culture now it is an idol. Thank you for having the courage my friend, to speak out. Peace to you.

  4. It’s a mess and we could and should do better. I’m not sure what we stand for anymore.

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