Simply, are asylum seeker claims credible?

May 6, 2018 GMT

The asylum-seekers who arrived en masse to the U.S. border with Mexico should be treated as precisely that — asylum-seekers. Because that’s what America — long a haven for those fleeing oppression — does. By law.

There were signs Tuesday that this process would begin, with at least eight migrants from the caravan allowed to enter from Tijuana to San Ysidro in California to begin the process. But this was after a standoff in which U.S. officials said they did not have the capacity to accommodate so many seekers.

This caravan, however, has taken well-publicized weeks in getting here, with the president tweeting about it on its way. The arrival could not have come as a surprise.

But, we get it. Immigration authorities fear that rolling out a welcome mat could encourage other caravans to follow, though this isn’t the first. Migrants, many from Central America, travel in groups as protection from cartels, other criminals and even corrupt authorities. This is hardly new. Moreover, the asylum process is hardly a welcome mat. It is arduous, and most from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala don’t achieve it.

The migration of about 200 is about the weakness of their own governments to ensure them protection from the gang violence they are fleeing. And that, absent change to U.S. law, should be the crux of the criteria for allowing or denying them entry. Simply, are their claims credible?

There is a process, though often accused of being less than perfect, for determining this. And even if they are coming in groups, these migrants should be accorded that process.

In other words, the U.S. should follow legal process — laced with humanitarian impulses that, to its shame, were absent when this country turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler during World War II.

Here’s part of what Trump fears in this exodus to what is still viewed in the world as a beacon of freedom: “The Democrats actually feel, and they are probably right, that all of these people that are pouring across are going to vote for Democrats, they’re not going to vote for Republicans.” He said this last week at a gathering in Michigan.

If they are allowed to stay and become naturalized at some point, that could happen. Or perhaps he also means their children if they are born in the United States.

But discerning how refugees will potentially vote — in other words, applying a partisan political test — also isn’t the American way and never should be.