John Oliver on Trump immigration policies: ‘Truly disciplined about being truly evil’

One of Oliver’s best:

Over seven seasons, Last Week Tonight has covered numerous aspects of the byzantine US immigration system, from immigration courts, to border patrols, to the Trump administration’s disastrous “zero tolerance” family separation policy. And on Sunday, host John Oliver turned to a narrow slice of America’s legal immigration network: asylum, or the legal process by which people who flee persecution apply to stay in the United States.

Trump has repeatedly denigrated asylum seekers and discredited the process as a scam, although “as you’ve probably guessed”, Oliver said, “the asylum process isn’t a simple recitation of magic words by which all manner of fraudulent claims are let through, nor is it responsible for, as Trump’s official White House website calls it, the ‘biggest loophole to gain entry into our great country’”.

Asylum seekers are like Berta, a woman featured in the Netflix documentary Immigration Nation, who fled Honduras after MS-13 gang members threatened to light her on fire and force her 12-year-old granddaughter into marriage. Berta turned herself into US authorities at the border as she claimed asylum, only to be separated from her granddaughter and held indefinitely in a US detention center.

“That is ridiculous – if you asked the cops for help and responded by throwing you into detention, you’d be absolutely furious,” said Oliver of Berta’s case. “You’d probably also be black, but let’s try to take this one systemic social crisis at a time.”

Berta’s story is not a one-off, Oliver continued, because the Trump administration’s attack on asylum has been “focused, dedicated and deeply resourceful. And I know that those aren’t adjectives you’re used to associating with this administration, but in this one area, they’ve been truly disciplined about being truly evil.”

Typically, Oliver explained, asylum seekers turn themselves into authorities at the border for a “credible fear” screening, and are allowed to stay in the US pending a date in immigration courts. Even before Trump, less than half of those requests were granted; claimants often don’t have a lawyer, and the bar for asylum is high, as you have to prove persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion – criteria the Trump administration has applied narrowly.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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