President Donald Trump is doubling down on his anti-immigrant “America First” message, claiming “Our country is full.”
Not true. In fact, the shrinking labor force has become an existential crisis in cities and towns across the nation. “I believe our biggest threat is our declining labor force,” Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said in his annual budget address, according to the New York Times. “It’s the root of every problem we face.”
And yet, on April 29, Trump issued a new memo ordering major changes to
U.S. asylum policies in 90 days, including charging application fees to those seeking humanitarian refuge and prohibiting work permits to anyone who crosses the border illegally. Additionally, Trump ordered a 180-day limit for immigration courts to adjudicate the claims of asylum seekers, despite a backlog of over 850,000 immigration cases that are being handled by roughly 400 judges.
The changes seem intent on essentially punishing asylum seekers, those fleeing violence with little money for the fees, or to hire lawyers, or gather evidence to support their claims, or find work as their claims are adjudicated. Recently, Attorney General Barr announced that asylum seekers would no longer be granted bond to get out of ICE detention while their claim is being processed.
Lost in the political grand-standing are individual asylum seekers such as Alejandra Barrera, a transgender activist who has been held in ICE detention in Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico since 2017 and faces deportation back to El Salvador where she faces certain death.
“Alejandra has survived repeated extortion, threats and sexual assault in El Salvador, only to be denied her freedom while seeking safety in the United States. All Alejandra has done is exercise her fundamental rights to seek asylum. Her deportation must be stopped immediately and she must be released to be with friends and family awaiting her liberation. But faced with imminent deportation, Alejandra’s life is at great risk if she is deported to El Salvador,” said Rebekah Wolf, Alejandra’s lawyer, in a recent Amnesty International USA press release.
Bamby Salcedo and the TransLatin@ Coalition, Amnesty International and the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center have been working hard to draw attention to Alejandra’s plight, including a petition of support from nearly 100 organizations and the revelation that ICE falsified some documents, thus denying her of a fair hearing.
“ICE is now delaying Alejandra’s deportation and we have a chance to really bring attention to her case and get her free,” Salcedo said. “We have captured the attention of several Congress members but we need to continue this momentum.”