President Donald Trump already has won the standoff over immigration, even if he does not get funding for his border wall, because he has transformed how the American public views migrants, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee history Prof. Rachel Ida Buff wrote in The Washington Post on Monday.
As the Trump administration increasingly treats asylum-seekers as undocumented migrants, it disregards long-standing international conventions regulating how refugees and asylum seekers are treated and helps end a crucial linguistic distinction between refugees and migrants that has been the basis of the system.
Refugees are entitled to broad protections, ones the Trump administration does not want to give to asylum seekers arriving at the border.
Under American law, asylum-seekers who enter the country and claim a “credible fear” of persecution if returned to their nations of origin are entitled to a hearing. Those who cannot claim asylum are treated as undocumented migrants, often deported or turned back at the border.
But increasingly, the Trump administration has managed to treat all those arriving at borders as “illegal aliens,” with little recourse or access to rights, according to Buff.
This means that even though the president is unlikely to get the funding he wants from Congress for his border wall, he has made great progress in gutting the current refugee system.
This has been a developing process in the U.S. When the United Nations in 1951 established new protections for refugees, the United States remained inhospitable towards all migrants, except those fleeing political persecution in communist countries.
The Trump administration has sped up this process, aided by the association of refugees with “terror,” and has declared almost all migrants belong in the “illegal alien” category, no matter what their reasons for leaving their native country.