Letter to the Editor: Want to resolve border crisis? Direct your displeasure at Congress, not immigrants 


The 1951 Refugee Convention (its signing is shown above) and its 1967 Protocol are the key legal documents that form the basis of the UN Refugee Agency’s work. They define the term "refugee" and outline their rights and the international standards of treatment for their protection. | Photo courtesy of United Nations archives

I am writing in response to Mark Felsman’s letter of February 16.

It is incorrect to characterize asylum seekers as “illegal immigrants.”

Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim.

The vast majority of immigrants entering our country are turning themselves over to border security authorities. They are taken into custody, then apply for asylum and are given hearing dates to consider their applications. This is a legal process. 

Note that most cannot be returned to Mexico to await their hearings because Mexico will only accept back its own citizens, not third-country refugees. In almost all cases, our system in place today will refuse them the opportunity to apply for residency at our embassies in their own countries, so asylum is their only legal option.

Congress has not authorized enough money to house these immigrants while their applications are pending, so they are released on their own recognizance to fend for themselves.  

Congress could deal with our immigration crisis by increasing funding for immigrant housing and the courts and by creating a workable method for residency applications to be made in their home countries. However, it has repeatedly failed to do so, as recently as this month. 

Those who want to resolve our border crisis need to direct their displeasure at Congress and not at the immigrants. 

John Schneider

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