EDITORIAL: Show respect: Reports suggest border policy on asylum seekers is punitive

In this Jan. 25, 2019, file photo, a migrant who did not give his name looks on with his children as they wait to hear if their number is called to apply for asylum in the United States, at the border in Tijuana, Mexico. The Trump administration's effort to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico explicitly targets Spanish-speakers and people from Latin America, according to internal guidelines of a highly touted strategy to address the burgeoning number of Central Americans arriving at U.S. borders. (Gregory Bull | The Associated Press)

Two reports from The Associated Press suggest that U.S. policy toward migrants continues to be unnecessarily punitive. One specifically targets Spanish speakers, which is the same kind of ethnic targeting that brought President Trump’s Muslim travel ban into question. The other is that asylum seekers who are processed are taken to other states before they are released, a move that’s seems unnecessary and spiteful.

According to the first report, border agents have been told to specifically target people from Latin America and Spanish speakers for expulsion from this country. This refines the questionable practice of deporting people seeking asylum to Mexico, regardless of their country of origin.

Not all people who arrive at our borders requesting respite from the threat of violence in their homelands are from Latin America. Many are trying to escape political or social oppression in the Middle East, Africa or other parts of the world. Most asylum seekers do come from Spanish-speaking countries, particularly Central America. And while many of them come through Mexico, that isn’t their home.

The policy currently applies only to the border in San Diego, but Homeland Security officials confirmed that it will be expanded to the entire U.S. southern border.

To use our southern neighbor as a human dumping ground is a gross mistreatment of both the migrants and the Mexican government, showing an abject disregard for that country’s autonomy.

It also violates our own policy of allowing people to stay here while their cases are pending in immigration court. If the ultimate decision is deportation, the people are sent back to their country of origin.

Officials can’t make the argument that it costs too much to send the migrants home, especially in light of the second AP report that migrant families in the El Paso area are being bused more than 300 miles to Tucson, Ariz., and released at the door of a former Benedictine monastery.

According to the Arizona Republic, Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona has received more than 1,100 families in the past month and tried to tend to their needs. How long it can continue, however, is unknown; the property has been sold to a developer who intends to start building on it as soon as the requisite permits are acquired.

HHS recently ended its contract with a shelter that was operating in Tornillo, Texas, several miles southeast of El Paso.

The Trump administration has said that it wants its immigration policy to deter people from coming here. But U.S. and international law mandate respect for basic human rights. People trying to escape mistreatment in their home countries should not face mistreatment here.

Instead of imposing burdens on both the migrants and our Mexican neighbors, we should further invest in specialized courts to handle asylum cases as quickly as possible. If their cases are valid, we should welcome them. If the ultimate decision is to deport them, then they should be send home — not to a third country that has no reason to accept them other than a basic respect for humanity.