With all the fuss about border security and immigration policy after the release of the 9/11 Commission’s report (although certainly not from the Presidential candidates… sigh), I started thinking about ways we can improve the situation. one area that needs cleaning up immediately sprung to mind: political asylum.
Now, asylum has always been a noble project for the United States and other free nations. When people are fearful of oppression (or worse) from their own government, it is only decent and proper that we give them shelter from injustice. It’s been that way for centuries, and I would be loath to tamper with it now. But of late, it’s been more and more abused — people claim asylum for the slightest reasons, or none at all. It reminds me of Dennis, the peasant from Monty Python And The Holy Grail — “Help, help, I’m being repressed! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!” In fact, most of the time we hear about people requesting political asylum is after they have been arrested for entering the country illegally or overstaying their visa.
With that in mind, I have a simple proposal: asylum requests will only be entertained by those who ask for them. By that, I mean that only those people who actively seek out a government official and request asylum will be considered.
The idea is simple: if you really did come here to escape oppression, you have to say so. Tell a representative of the government that’s what you’re after, and they will help you file your claim. By limiting asylum requests to only people who actively seek it out (or, alternately, are caught within a couple miles of a point of entry, such as an international airport, seaport, or border crossing — after all, they have to have time to find a representative), we can weed out the opportunists who use asylum as an excuse to remain in the country after getting caught.
I know it’s not a panacea, but it oughta be a good first step…