Trump has already built his wall

Trump has already built his wall
© Getty Images

If you’re confused about the status of the southern border wall that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE promised to build, financed by Mexico, it’s understandable.

Trump demanded Congress include funding for the wall in its most recent spending bill and when they didn’t, he asked in an angry tweet “where is the money for Border Security and the WALL…?” But after signing it last week to avoid a government shutdown, he suddenly lauded it for allocating $1.6 billion to “keep building the wall.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Amid the confusion of the president’s conflicting statements and the human misery along America's southern border, one fact has been lost: Trump has already built his wall — even if it wasn’t with bricks and mortar. 

It’s been built by Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHouse Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe McCabe's counsel presses US attorney on whether grand jury decided not to indict US attorney recommends moving forward with charges against McCabe after DOJ rejects his appeal MORE’ callous application of his authority to overrule the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals, which is supposed to be the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws.

Gaining asylum has never been easy. But under the Trump-Sessions regime, perfectly valid cases are being discarded, leaving human tragedy in their wake and further diminishing our noble pledge to welcome the world’s tired, poor and huddled masses.

Many of those seeking asylum in the United States have suffered horrific acts of violence that their own governments were unable or unwilling to stop.

Some are women in abusive domestic relationships who have been raped, assaulted and threatened with death, with no police intervention or protection. 

Others are victims of gang violence, often involving the murder of a family member or death threats to the asylum applicant or members of her family, again with the indifference or acquiescence on the part of the local police. Others are women who reported gang activity to police, only to have the police reveal their identities to gang members. The result is usually a dead family member in retaliation.

Yet, Trump’s virtual wall keeps out all these victims.

Sessions’ June opinion specified that, “generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum.” This turns the entire concept of asylum on its head. If a mother reports a gang crime to the police and her son is then threatened with death, the family is not a protected category to support a case for asylum.

Sessions also set a nearly insurmountable bar for establishing that an asylum seeker’s government has been indifferent to the abuse he or she has suffered. It qualifies as such only if “government protection from such harm in their home country is so lacking that their persecutors’ actions can be attributed to the government. “

In other words, if a man repeatedly rapes a woman and the local government fails to protect her or prosecute the perpetrator, the facts do not constitute governmental unwillingness or inability to protect the victim unless the man’s private actions were condoned by the government.

Asylum-seekers are routinely told when they are detained that they won’t get asylum. And that is true. Not only are the rates of granting asylum very low, they vary enormously across judges and jurisdictions. Across a sample of active Immigration Judges from 2014 to 2018 — and thus mostly before the Sessions’ crack-down — denial rates ranged from 2 percent to 100 percent, with an average of well more than half turned down. 

The Trump administration’s approach is not only cruel, it is deeply unpopular. A recent USC Dornsife/LA Times poll found that 45 percent of Americans strongly oppose Trump’s wall, with another 11 percent somewhat opposed. Only 26 percent of respondents strongly favor a wall, with another 14 percent somewhat in favor.

But the Trump presidency isn’t about responding to the majority, much less making smart or humane policy. It’s about coddling his base.

That’s why we are left with yet another perverse act of this administration: While Trump touted his physical wall as a way to keep out “bad hombres,” this one instead walls out victims of those bad hombres — of course, mothers. 

Gregory Treverton, who stepped down in January 2017 as chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council, is professor of the practice of international relations at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.