CNN host Fareed Zakaria hates to admit it, but President Donald Trump was right.
On a network highly critical of the president, Zakaria offered a surprising admission Sunday that it “pains” him to say Trump was right about the flawed U.S. asylum system being at a critical point.
“Given President Trump’s mean-spirited and often bigoted attitudes on immigration, it pains me to say this, but he is right that the United States faces a crisis with its asylum system,” the CNN host, who once called Trump a “bullsh** artist” before he was elected in 2016, said on “Fareed Zakaria GPS” Sunday.
“Democrats might hope that the out-of-control situation at the southern border undermines Trump’s image among his base as a tough guy who can tackle immigration. But they should be careful. It could actually work to the president’s advantage,” he warned.
While Democrats and Zakaria’s own network have pummeled the Trump administration in recent weeks over the conditions in overcrowded detention facilities, applications for asylum have continued to skyrocket with 162,000 claims being submitted in 2018, an increase of more than 240 percent from 2014.
The asylum system is being “gamed” by many, Zakaria argued, noting that more than 300,000 asylum cases are pending with many immigration cases pending for “more than 700 days.”
“It’s also clear that the rules surrounding asylum are vague, lax and being gamed,” he said, noting that the system was originally intended to help a small number of people fleeing persecution by governments over their beliefs or identity. But over the years, those extreme circumstances have come to include domestic abuse and street violence.
“Some applicants for asylum have suspiciously similar stories using identical phrases. Many simply use the system to enter the U.S. and then melt into the shadows or gain a work permit while their application is pending,” Zakaria said.
“These looser criteria coupled with the reality that this is a safe way to enter the U.S. have made the asylum system easy to abuse,” he added, noting applications have increased from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador “even though the murder rate in their countries has been cut in half.”
Zakaria pointed to the millions living in other unstable regions who could also qualify to apply for asylum.
“Do they all have the legal right to enter the U.S. through a backdoor, bypassing the normal immigration process?” he asked.
“The Trump administration’s approach has been mostly to toughen up the criteria,” he said, arguing that “a much larger fix is needed.”
A federal judge in Seattle ruled Tuesday against a Trump administration policy seeking to hold asylum-seekers as their cases are pending, rather than being released on bond. Former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan slammed the decision as he noted that many of those illegal aliens never show up for their post-bond immigration hearings.
Fmr. acting ICE director Tom Homan: Illegals can’t find a way to court, but find a way to welfare office https://t.co/5g6x450ADg
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) July 3, 2019
“The criteria for asylum need to be rewritten and substantially tightened,” Zakaria noted on Sunday.
“The number of courts and officials dealing with asylum must be massively expanded. People should not be able to use asylum claims as a way to work in America. There needs to be a much greater cooperation with the home countries of these applicants rather than insults, threats and aid freezes,” he argued.
“Democrats have spent most of their efforts on this topic, assailing the Trump administration for its heartlessness,” he said, noting that America needs “the kind of sensible bipartisan legislation that has resolved past immigration crises.”
“Fine. But that does not address the roots of this genuine crisis,” he concluded. “If things continue to spiral downward and America’s southern border seems out of control, Trump’s tough rhetoric and hard-line stance will become increasingly attractive to the public.”
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