Doug Stephens, believed to be the first asylum officer to formally refuse to implement Donald Trump’s inhumane and illegal policy forcing vulnerable families to wait out their cases in Mexico, said it took him only two days of interviewing asylum-seekers under the administration’s new plan to know he could have no part in it.
“When Stephens told his supervisor in San Francisco his decision, he said he was stunned,” the Los Angeles Times reported. He was risking a lot, after all—disciplinary action, even his job. But Stephens says he told him, “You don’t understand. I’m not doing these interviews. I think they’re illegal. They’re definitely immoral. And I’m not doing them.”
The administration has claimed Remain in Mexico has “successfully provided protections” to the over 50,000 asylum-seekers exiled out of the U.S., but this is one of its worst lies yet: The organization Human Rights First has documented hundreds of instances of rape, kidnapping, and other violence against returned families. Meanwhile, border officials have given some families fake dates for their court hearings, and those who do manage to make it to their dates get only sham justice at the kangaroo “tent courts” at the border.
This policy is a humanitarian disaster, and Stephens said that returning asylum-seekers to face danger goes against everything his job—and the law—stands for. The LA Times reports that he hasn’t been alone in his beliefs: “Across the country, asylum officers are calling in sick, requesting transfers, retiring earlier than planned and quitting, all to resist this and other Trump administration immigration policies that they view as illegal, according to Stephens, as well as other asylum officers and officials.”
Officers have also been outspoken about Trump policies beyond the Remain in Mexico policy. Last month, hundreds of asylum and refugee officers filed a legal brief calling on the courts to block Asylum Ban 2.0, which blocks protections for hundreds of thousands of Central Americans and others across the world, saying that it “defies our nation’s asylum laws and ... rips at the moral fabric of our country.”
For Stephens, it’s obvious what Remain in Mexico really is. “You’re literally sending people back to be raped and killed,” he said. “That’s what this is.” He said that after he told his superiors that he would refuse to implement the policy, they began disciplinary proceedings against him. Before it could continue on, the LA Times reported, “he decided to quit, but not before he sent out a legal memo he’d drafted arguing why the policy violates the law, which he sent to his entire San Francisco office, supervisors, the union and a U.S. senator.”