CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Embraces Argument Against Asylum System: It Pains Me to Say This, But Trump is Right


CNN’s Fareed Zakaria has spent several days among Twitter’s hot topics of debate, having said on Sunday that, while it pains him to admit it, President Donald Trump is right about the problems with asylum claims at the border.

Couched as it was in criticism of Trump’s motivations and solutions, Zakaria made a case against the current way asylum claims are dealt with, and the prevailing liberal activist philosophy on the subject, using precisely the argument made by Trump and the right without caveat.

That is, except inasmuch as he says it’s a matter of objective reality, and shouldn’t be partisan, or at least should be bipartisan.

He began his argument with that startling framing, a wise move if one wants to be viral.

“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,” he began. He made his argument outlining both how Democrats view the situation, and what the situation actually is, in his view.

“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,” he said. “It could actually work to the president’s advantage.”

“Since 2014 the flow of asylum seekers into the United States has skyrocketed,” he explained. “Last year, immigration courts received 162,000 asylum claims; a 240% increase from 2014. The result is a staggering backlog with more than 300,000 asylum cases pending and the average immigration case has been pending for more than 700 days.”

“It’s also clear that the rules surrounding asylum are vague, lax and being gamed,” he continued, offering and agreeing with one of the central claims made by the right on the issue. “The initial step for many asylum seekers is to convince officers that they have a credible fear of persecution in their home countries. And about 75 percent meet that criteria. 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 went into the history and rationale behind the system of asylum.

“Asylum is meant to be granted to a very small number of people in extreme circumstances, not as a substitute for the process of immigration itself,” he said, a point that is directly counter to the position offered by most Democrats and particularly those in the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wing. “Yet, the two have gotten mixed up.”

“As the Atlantic’s David Frum has pointed out, the idea of a right to asylum is a relatively recent one dating to the early years of the Cold War. Guilt ridden over the rejection of many Jewish refugees during World War II the U.N. created a right of asylum to protect those who are fleeing regimes where they would be killed our imprisoned because of their identity or beliefs,” he said. “This standard has gotten broader and broader over the years. And now includes threats of gang warfare and domestic violence.”

That is the problem, he argued. “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. Applications from Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans have surged even though the murder rate in their countries has been cut in half.”

On Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos interviewed 2020 candidate Julián Castro, and during that interview he asked whether it isn’t the case that almost anyone anywhere in the world would qualify for asylum under Castro’s preferred criteria. Zakaria brought up the same.

“More broadly, hundreds of millions of people around the world who live in poor, unstable regions where threats of violence abound could easily apply for asylum,” he said. “Do they all have the legal right to enter the U.S. through a backdoor, bypassing the normal immigration process? The Trump administration’s approach has been mostly to toughen up the criteria. Hire more judges, push Mexico to keep applicants from entering the U.S. But a much larger fix is needed.”

He criticized the Democrats for making it about Trump, and said again that it could backfire electorally.

“Keep in mind, that the rise of populism in the Western world is almost everywhere tied to fears of growing out of control immigration,” he warned.

Watch the clip above, courtesy of CNN.

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