Letter: Protecting asylum-seekers is a cost worth bearing

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Asylum is a prescription to heal from and prevent government persecution, including genocide, that Maine Republican legislators now resent as a “budgeting problem.” To be granted asylum in this country, asylum-seekers must provide observed medical and psychological evidence of wounds suffered from past persecution and proof they will suffer again at the hands of their native government. Applicants cannot work for six months after applying. By law, criminals cannot apply.

In 1948, the United Nations acknowledged asylum as a powerful prescription against the Holocaust because many of its victims had no place to go to escape the Third Reich’s persecution. Thus the UN Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 14, cites the right to seek asylum from government persecution, as a human right.

The world took its time recognizing the enormous human swath the hatred of the Holocaust cut. The reality that asylum was a prescription against persecution in the future gained traction quickly.

Many Maine asylum seekers are survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when 800,000 Tutsis were murdered over 100 days. Others hold beliefs that their native governments don’t like and have been persecuted, jailed, physically maimed and attacked. Many have seen family members disappear.

Sixty-three Republicans and the governor say provision of asylum to protect fundamental human rights costs too much. When money is more important than preventing genocide and protecting human rights, we should all be terrified.

Susan Cook