Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Love of Money Aids Asylum Fraud

As the sensationalized case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn continues to wither away in Manhattan's courts, the reason it's doing so actually bolsters arguments for immigration reform.

It's not just because the purported victim in this case has credibility issues regarding the crime she claims took place in a luxury hotel room. She also lied on her asylum application to reside in the United States.


The commitment of a crime as your first act in a new country doesn't make the best impression, does it?

Strauss-Kahn's accuser claimed she'd been gang-raped and beaten by soldiers in her home country of Guinea, but that story unraveled under questioning by New York detectives. They were investigating her background as they built what could have been a blockbuster case against the former head of the International Monetary Fund. Officials now acknowledge that hers is just another among the many examples of asylum fraud coming to light, particularly in New York City, one of America's largest immigration and asylum gateways.

Asylum Fraud adds Wrinkle to Immigration Debate

Apparently, an entire industry has sprung up in Gotham's seedier immigrant neighborhoods dedicated to providing scripts full of lies to people seeking humanitarian and political asylum in the United States. For example, Strauss-Kahn's accuser memorized a story to tell asylum judges that included the falsehood that her husband had been murdered. Russians exaggerate tales of homophobia back home, and many Africans exploit the crisis of genital mutilation to their advantage, even if it's never happened to them or anybody they know. Whatever the sociopolitical hot buttons reported in the international media, a rash of asylum cases of dubious credibility inevitably floods immigration courts here in America.

Nobody denies that plenty of legitimate cases of persecution, torture, oppression, and abuses of human rights exist in the myriad applications for asylum our government receives from people all over the globe looking for protection in the United States.

Actually, I believe it's one of the great characteristics of our country, that we are seen world-wide as a standard-bearer of civil liberties and personal safety. Governments who repeatedly deride our foreign policy and accuse the United States of fomenting international problems would do well to listen to the hope and desperation of those - maybe from those same countries which criticize us so - clamoring for protection here. To the extent our country can be a haven for those needing to escape sociopolitical turmoil in their homeland, we should continue, to paraphrase the Statue of Liberty's credo, "lifting our lamp beside the golden door."

But as with most opportunities, asylum has been beset with abuses. Many people simply want to come to America because it's easier here to build a comfortable lifestyle that in the country where they were born. After all, even a life of American poverty is far better than privilege in most African, South American, and Asian countries. So emigres who can't squeeze into our immigration quotas turn to lying and falsifying personal records, concocting wild stories of brutality and persecution which have never happened. To them, anyway.

Just to get inside our country.

With fraudulently-obtained immigration papers allowing them to work here legally and participate openly in our society.

You can almost hear them, coming through our front door, and hiring crooked lawyers to play our asylum courts like a warped violin. How they must jeer at the people who have to buy fake documentation to get through our back door and naively live here in secret.

No wonder ordinary illegals have become indignant at their plight.

Money, Money, Money, Mo-ney

In a way, Americans help make the case for asylum abuse and its sister crime, immigration fraud. Our culture flaunts our standard of living to the point where upward mobility is considered an inalienable right. Many Americans who wink at asylum and immigration fraud do so because they figure preventing anybody from economic success is, well, un-American.

Today, most Americans think money is the be-all and end-all of life. Not honor, or integrity, or - gasp! - serving others. Earning more money is what motivates most people. Getting additional education, building a resume, climbing the corporate ladder; much of our socioeconomic reality involves acquiring more money.

Well, a higher salary, anyway.

So with that mindset, it can seem hard to turn around and deny other people their chance at building financial equity just because they're not here legally. In fact, a lot of illegal workers may just help the rest of us by taking our mundane jobs, for which we can pay them at a cheaper rate, and thus further improve our own financial picture.

I'm not saying that working to improve your earning potential is a bad thing. Nor am I saying that we should be ashamed of ourselves just because we may enjoy a standard of living others might envy. Like I've said many times, it's the love of money that's the root of all sorts of evil. Not money itself.

Nevertheless, wouldn't it be boorishly insensitive of me to just push shut our border gates and turn a blind eye to the financial problems people face all over our planet? After all, I can't deny that wanting a better economic life is a bad reason to emigrate to the United States. My own grandmother came here from Finland to do just that - but she did it legally, with a sponsor and everything.

Sounds quaint, doesn't it?

Reform Benefiting the Countries of Origin

Then, too, we might be approaching this issue from the wrong direction. Instead of focusing on America's borders, what about taking a look at how we might help prospective emigres while they're still in their home countries?

Consider the popular crusade in Third World countries to encourage home-grown entrepreneuralism in towns and villages without any other viable economic opportunities. The once-fledgling industry of micro-credit, for example, has begun to blossom into a fairly respectable method of financing industrious indigenous people. People who get to remain with their families in their own hometowns, even if those places currently lack electricity or running water. People who may never attain a standard of living there that they might here, but people willing to make a go of it where they were born.

To me, this type of economic effort poses just one example of a sustainable solution to the economic crises plaguing vast swaths of our globe. Allowing people to come to the United States illegally poses a plethora of problems and represents a surprising inequity in and of itself. Instead, elevating awareness of how Americans can help the economically marginalized in their own countries could provide a vastly superior standard of living for them, and perhaps some beneficial economic partnerships for both us and them.

Think about it: Hasn't the world changed since before the United States had immigration quotas? Is America still the primary land of opportunity in the world? Is America as empty of people as it used to be? Or as awash in our own homegrown economic opportunities?

If the reason most people want to come to America involves money, we need to be realistic. Money is a finite resource. Yes, liberty is relatively infinite in the United States, and for those people whose very lives depend on escaping their homeland, we need to remain a land of hope and sanctuary. But aside from our legal immigration quotas, can we afford to let economics run a close second anymore when it comes to getting serious about asylum and immigration reform?

In a way, couldn't it be considered rather ironic that it was the then-current head of the IMF who has been accused of assault - by a woman who fraudulently entered the United States for economic gain?

Strauss-Kahn's accuser may have inadvertently made the best case for asylum reform that those most deserving of asylum could have gotten.

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