Edward Sonnino
5 min readJan 10, 2023

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Democrats and Republicans Are Causing the Asylum Crisis By Misrepresenting Our Asylum Law. The Simple, Logical Solution.

The United States’ law on asylum [8 USC 1101 (a) (42) (a) and the Immigration and Nationality Act, INA 101(a) (42)] , reflecting the United Nations’ 1951 law on asylum, provides that asylum be granted only to persons qualifying as strictly defined “refugees”, i.e., persons fearing persecution by their own governments, due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylum, according to the U.S. law, does not apply to persons escaping poverty or violence in their own country. Again, government persecution in the country of origin is the absolute legal requirement for asylum.

Violence and poverty in the country of origin are clearly not valid grounds for obtaining asylum, yet Democrats and Republicans continue to misrepresent our asylum law, mistakenly stating that asylum also applies to people fleeing violence and poverty, not just to people persecuted by their own government. Democrats and Republicans are therefore responsible for the migrant crisis at our Mexican border, by encouraging the waves of migrants who do not qualify for asylum to make the long and often dangerous journey to our border. This is an incredible, scandalous blunder by our political leaders and by our legal profession. Either no one has read our asylum law, or there is a willful misinterpretation of it: in both cases the result is a humanitarian crisis along with a domestic political crisis, which could be easily avoided.

In fact, there is a simple, logical solution to end the migrant crisis at our Mexican border: require all asylum applications to be made at U.S. consulates in the country of residence, not at our border. That has always been the case for tourist and work visa applications; it should logically be the same for asylum applications. People not granted asylum papers by a U.S. consulate in their country of residence would be immediately and automatically turned away at our border, not allowed to enter the country, and not allowed to ask for asylum at our border. This system would remove all incentives to arrive at our Mexican border without duly issued asylum papers from a U.S. consulate abroad.

The Holocaust, the most shocking government persecution of all time, prompted the United Nations’ and the United States’ laws on asylum and informed them. Given public knowledge that there is no government persecution (as defined by the asylum law) in Central America or Mexico, the legal requirement for obtaining asylum in the U.S. does not exist for any of the migrants reaching our southern border, and there is generally no need for any court proceeding to confirm that reality. Most asylum requests from the migrants are invalid on their face, “open and shut” cases not requiring hearings.

As for the enormous asylum case backlog, it is the result of a bureaucratic policy contradicting our own asylum law, expanding the legal definition of “refugee” for asylum purposes to include persons fleeing spousal abuse, ordinary crime, gang violence, and poverty. In other words, general humanitarian concerns have distorted our asylum law, as bureaucratic policies with no legal basis have greatly widened the definition of “refugee”. The situation is untenable and totally unrealistic, since according to such policy half of the world’s population qualifies for asylum! The immediate solution to our asylum crisis is eliminating the illegally expanded definition of “refugee” by the bureaucracy, and returning to the law’s own strict definition.

The illegally expanded definition due to humanitarian concerns came about with the tacit consent of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and survives under President Biden. But such well-meaning humanitarianism has actually been counter-productive, leading to many migrants dying, or being endlessly stranded at our Mexican border, or deported, or temporarily admitted without work permits pending the outcome of judicial hearings. It has provided an escape valve allowing Central American and Mexican governments to shirk their responsibility to solve their economic and social problems. And it has removed the urgency for the United States to make a serious effort to help solve those economic and social problems in various Latin American nations, the only sustainable and truly humanitarian solution.

The fact is the United States has been incompetent for over fifty years in its efforts to contain illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America, focusing on border barriers instead of addressing the causes and eliminating them. It’s been the equivalent of repeatedly putting up sandbags to deal with recurring floods instead of building drainage canals and reservoirs.

No one disputes the causes of the illegal immigration from south of our border: widespread poverty, economic underdevelopment, low wages, crime, violence, high unemployment, all caused by a low level of education. While correctly applying our asylum law and requiring all asylum applications to be made at U.S. consulates in the country of residence would be an immediate solution to the border crisis, eliminating the causes of illegal immigration requires a “Marshall Plan” to provide an excellent education (which requires an enlightened public school curriculum) to all young Mexican and Central American youth through a major Peace Corps initiative, and to promote economic growth through infrastructure investments. A socially and economically prosperous Mexico and Central America would be of great benefit for all: illegal immigration would evaporate and trade would increase dramatically, greatly raising economic growth north and south of the Mexican border.

The benefits of such a “Marshall Plan” would go beyond the illegal immigration and economic aspects. It would generate enormous goodwill towards the United States in Latin America, and it would provide many young American college graduates a valuable and rewarding 2 to 4 year Peace Corps experience which would help them in their professional careers, directly or indirectly.

As for objections that such a “Marshall Plan” would be too costly, they are myopic. The Marshall Plan for Western Europe after World War II had an enormous return on investment for the United States, both in terms of our economy and of our foreign policy. The same result would derive from a “Marshall Plan” dedicated to Mexico and Central America. Furthermore, a correct understanding of QE would eliminate misguided concerns about our federal government debt, and allow for the easy financing of such a “Marshall Plan”, which if intelligently managed would turn out to be one of our nation’s greatest moral, political, economic, and social achievements.

© Edward Sonnino 2022

December 29, 2022

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Edward Sonnino

Born and raised in New York City. Best course in college: history of art. Profession: economic forecaster and portfolio manager. Fluent in French and Italian.