To the editor: The idea that asylum seekers are “gaming the system” is false.
I recently visited Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas, where I met with detainees who shared harrowing stories of near-fatal beatings and unlawful detentions in their home countries. All of these individuals had negative credible fear interviews, which are administered to determine the validity of asylum claims, and were seeking review by immigration judges.
One judge, who not only denies attorney participation in hearings but treats respondents poorly, has aptly been nicknamed “El Diablo,” or the devil, by detainees. Because cases are randomly assigned, some of the people with whom I met will likely prevail in their review hearings. But others who are assigned to adjudicators like El Diablo will be deported to dangerous places.
Recently, U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions issued a decision to severely restrict asylum eligibility that specifically targets women fleeing domestic violence. This directive, coupled with the injustice currently unfolding at the border, puts women at grave risk and is a flagrant violation of our obligations under the International Refugee Convention.
We must do more to extend a bridge to safety to those who have real reason to fear for their lives.
Morgan Weibel, San Bruno, Calif.
The writer is executive director of Tahirih Justice Center’s San Francisco Bay Area office.