“The Trump administration’s attack on asylum has been focused, dedicated and deeply resourceful,” said John Oliver at the top of Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight. “And I know that those aren’t adjectives you’re used to associating with this administration. But in this one area, they’ve been truly disciplined about being truly evil.”
The process of applying for asylum in the U.S., Oliver notes, “has never been easy. But this administration has made it absolute hell. Their policy of family separation caused widespread outrage, but they have done so much more than that. And it’s worth slowing down right now to look at three tactics that they’ve used in particular: migrant protection protocols, safe third country agreements, and Title 42. And I know that none of those have the harrowing ring of ‘family separation’, but each represents another cruel, calculated decision that has largely flown under the radar.”
Oliver went on to break down exactly how each tactic has hacked away at asylum seekers’ already-limited pathways to getting into the U.S. safely and legally, complete with devastating stories from the people doing their best to escape violence and persecution — and a nod to the people who are too powerless even to tell their own stories.
“The government has gone out of its way to avoid scrutiny here. For example, unaccompanied minors are usually kept in shelters where immigration attorneys can find them and try and help them but by citing public health concerns, the government has instead been quietly keeping kids in hotels supervised by private contractors… [W]hen you put all of this together, this administration has effectively taken an asylum system which was already imperfect and shattered it.”
Of course, in true Last Week Tonight style, Oliver concluded with a call to action.
“There is actually one thing that you can do: you can vote for Joe Biden. And I know that sounds simplistic, especially considering that our immigration policy has been pretty shitty under Democratic administrations to like the one Joe Biden was in for eight years,” Oliver said. “But the fact is, a lot of our immigration policy is set solely by the executive branch.”
And, he explains, several of the policies he’s just outlined are ones Biden’s platform specifically addresses, like restoring asylum eligibility for survivors of domestic violence and gang persecution.
“One immigration attorney that we spoke with said, ‘I spent hours every day telling asylum seekers stuck in Mexico [that] we won’t know until November 3. They cry, they pray, they ask about the latest polls; I show my countdown timer, they show me their scars.’ And obviously, Biden will have to do a lot more, and we will have to hold him to the promises he’s made. But we can’t begin to fix the damage done by this administration until we replace the administration itself.”