“This Is Our Regional Refugee Crisis”

Marchers in Minnesota protest Trump's immigration policies and call for TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for countries like El Salvador and Haiti. (Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0))

Rosi fled El Salvador after being threatened by members of the Barrio 18 gang and came to the U.S., eventually having a daughter here. Immigration-rights activist Allegra Love took on her asylum case — it was a weak case, but prosecutorial discretion gave locals officials to close it out and Love was hopeful. Then Trump’s administration changed the rules, and Love withdrew as Rosi’s attorney; since she isn’t fleeing persecution based on her identity and immigration prosecutors no longer have the same leeway, her situation puts her in a no-woman’s-land of U.S. immigration law. Justine van der Leun, writing in VQR, reports Rosi’s story.

At the same time, people who exist in between categories—needing help but not qualifying for asylum—are left in limbo, and are eventually forced to disappear or are caught and deported. Among them, anyone who fears for his or her child’s life, or has nothing to eat, or wishes to reunite with his family, may well return, repeatedly, crossing a national border no matter the danger, no matter the agents, no matter the fence.

“This is our regional refugee crisis,” David Baluarte, Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Washington and Lee School of Law, told me. “But we would rather view it in terms of a security crisis. That’s politically useful, and it plays into concerns Americans have about shifting demographics, and what we are doing with public resources.”

This is how Rosi and many thousands like her found themselves in an impossible bind. And while Love appreciated how punishing Rosi’s circumstances were, she also knew that Rosi didn’t have a winnable case. Love couldn’t take on such a loss. It was particularly hard for her to come to this conclusion because, as she explained, “I can’t say no. And I love, like, everyone.” But she already had too much on her plate.

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