My first experience in immigration law came in my first summer clerkship while attending Georgetown Law Center, in the summer of 1999. A former immigrant myself, I had gone through several immigration processes to eventually become a US citizen at 14 years of age, but I had never experienced the sheer fear of going through an asylum process, with my future hanging in the balance. In the specific case in which I ended first-chairing and winning, my clients were two pro-Democracy movement leaders from Togo who had a death threat and almost certain assassination awaiting them back in their home country if their asylum claim was denied.
I was thrust into a practically life or death situation and had three weeks to assist in prepping for the court date, and when the judge retired to his chambers to review the information, I had never felt so nervous in my first 25 years on the earth. Finally, he returned to announce that he was granting asylum and my client wept and the Togolese contingent in the courthouse in Baltimore, Maryland collectively screamed joyously. I looked at the attorney and said “I need a drink” as he hugged me. On that day, I learned two amazing things: 1) Immigration law was exhilarating and 2) the consequences were monumental.
Fast forward to 2023, where there are over one and half million people with pending asylum cases, and there were close to three million illegal border crossings in 2022, which means that the U.S. has never had such a large immigration crisis. The country faces a dual challenge concerning its asylum application process and the ongoing crisis of illegal border crossings. Both issues require urgent attention and sufficient funding to address the root causes and ensure an efficient, fair, and humane immigration system. In this article, we will delve into the possibilities of securing adequate funding to tackle these challenges effectively.
The asylum application process plays a critical role in addressing the needs of individuals fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States. However, the system has been burdened with backlogs, delays, and inefficiencies, which undermine its effectiveness. To improve the process, increased funding needs to be procured and be allocated to:
a) Hiring additional immigration judges and personnel: Insufficient staffing contributes to the backlog of asylum cases. Recruiting and training more immigration judges, asylum officers, and support staff would expedite the processing of claims and reduce wait times.
b) Technology and infrastructure improvements: Investing in technology upgrades, such as digital case management systems, would streamline processes, improve data sharing, and enhance coordination among agencies involved in the asylum process.
c) Legal assistance and support services: Providing sufficient funding for legal representation and support services, especially for vulnerable populations like unaccompanied minors and individuals with language barriers, would ensure fair proceedings and strengthen access to justice. It is not only a numbers problem but also one of effective counsel, which every person is supposed to be entitled to.
At the same time, the increasing number of illegal border crossings poses challenges related to border security, humanitarian concerns, and the strain on resources. To effectively address this crisis, funding needs to be increased, to be allocated towards:
a) Border infrastructure and technology: Enhancing border infrastructure, such as fencing, surveillance systems, and sensor technologies, can help secure the border and deter illegal crossings. Additionally, investments in advanced data analytics and intelligence capabilities can improve detection and response to border threats. The less people who cross illegally the more streamlined the system can become, so securing the borders is key.
b) Humanitarian assistance: Allocating funding for humanitarian aid, including shelter, medical care, and social services, is crucial to meet the immediate needs of individuals and families arriving at the border. Collaborating with international organizations and NGOs can help ensure adequate support and resources. If the system requires that people await their hearings outside the U.S., they must be taken care of during that waiting time, and this may require collaboration by the Mexican government.
c) Smart investments in addressing root causes: Addressing the underlying causes of migration, such as poverty, violence, and lack of opportunities in countries of origin, requires long-term strategies. Allocating funding for development programs, diplomacy, and partnerships with affected nations can contribute to addressing these root causes and reducing the need for individuals to embark on dangerous journeys. This is the most difficult aspect because it depends on the collaboration and non-corruption of other countries.
Public-Private Partnerships and International Cooperation:
Securing funding for the asylum application process and border crisis can be further bolstered through public-private partnerships and international cooperation. Collaborating with philanthropic organizations, businesses, and academic institutions can provide additional resources, expertise, and innovative approaches to address these complex challenges. Furthermore, engaging in bilateral and multilateral cooperation with neighboring countries and international partners can help manage migratory flows and share the burden of addressing the crisis effectively.
Securing sufficient funding is vital to address the challenges faced by the asylum application process and the crisis of illegal border crossings. By allocating resources to enhance the asylum application process, improve border security, and address root causes, the United States can work towards a fair and efficient immigration system that upholds its values of compassion, fairness, and respect for human rights.
Collaboration between government entities, private organizations, and international partners will be crucial in mobilizing the necessary resources and expertise. By investing in the asylum process, border infrastructure, humanitarian aid, and long-term solutions, the United States can foster a comprehensive approach that balances security concerns with the principles of human dignity and protection.
Ultimately, securing adequate funding is the most crucial step towards creating a more effective and humane immigration system, strengthening border security, and addressing the underlying causes of migration, but once the funding is in place, it is up to the U.S. government to be efficient and transparent while also being humane. This is one of the greatest challenges the federal government has ever faced, and the future of millions of people depends on its success.