U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is going too far in presuming that foreign nationals who have applied for asylum are unworthy of U.S. sanctuary if they return to the country where they claimed to be persecuted. According to the agency’s recent warning, asylum seekers, those granted asylum and those who are already legal permanent residents could be deemed subject to deportation — unless they prove otherwise.
That wrongly turns the historic approach to asylum on its head. Yes, asylum seekers traveling back to the country they fled should raise warning flags. Until now, U.S. authorities routinely could consider such a trip a factor in denying asylum. But legal residents, even those originally granted asylum, shouldn’t be subject to threats of losing their status. Once a resident, they are no longer here conditionally. This is their home — which is why they are called legal permanent residents. Returning to their native country should not be held against them.
There are legitimate justifications for such travel — family emergencies, for example, can prompt individuals to risk persecution. They shouldn’t be considered a fraud or to have ”abandoned” their asylum petition as a matter of course. Others may travel back to the country they left after conditions have changed and persecution is no longer an issue. The CIS should clarify the exceptions that are acceptable.
The new CIS policy will be particularly threatening to asylum seekers or asylum-based residents from Colombia, Venezuela and Haiti, many of whom return to visit their homelands after spending at least five years here to become U.S. residents. It’s natural, and in the U.S. interest, for people here that long to establish roots, careers and families. That beats being a victim of persecution indefinitely and never assimilating.