fb-pixelJohn Oliver explains legal asylum, slams Trump administration’s ‘truly evil’ handling of the system - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

John Oliver explains legal asylum, slams Trump administration’s ‘truly evil’ handling of the system

John Oliver, host of "Last Week Tonight."HBO

In Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver took a deep dive into the legal asylum system in America — and it isn’t pretty.

Asylum is the legal protection granted by a nation to someone who has fled their native country as a political refugee. In the US, individuals who arrive this way can apply to stay, but the process isn’t easy, and over half of the applicants are denied.

And while the HBO host recognized the system already is broken, he shed light on how it was further undermined in the last four years under the Trump administration.

“Asylum seekers are a group, in theory, everyone should be able to support,” Oliver said before flashing clips of the president calling the program “a scam” and “the biggest loophole to gain entry into our great country.” The president also has described asylum seekers as “some of the roughest people you’ve ever seen.”

Oliver highlighted the three major tactics the Trump administration has introduced to make a process that was never easy even more difficult, calling the efforts “truly evil.”


Migrant Protection Protocol

Oliver called the Migrant Protection Protocol the “remain in Mexico program,” where US Customs and Border Protection can reroute asylum seekers to Mexico to wait for their application to be approved or denied. Under the Trump administration, over 67,000 people have ended up in makeshift asylum camps, and Oliver described one where there was one toilet for every 60 people.

“There have been as many as over 1,000 publicly reported cases of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, and other violent assaults against asylum seekers and migrants forced by the US to completely unnecessarily wait in Mexico,” Oliver said.

Safe Third Country Agreement

Under this tactic, also introduced by the Trump administration, asylum seekers in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are barred from seeking asylum in the US and are sent instead to seek it out in one of those three countries.


“Those are the exact countries they are seeking asylum from,” a baffled Oliver said. He added that none have a robust enough asylum system to handle floods of migrants.

Title 42

Title 42 is a provision that gives the government broad power to act during a public health crisis. The Trump administration claims it enacted Title 42 in response to the coronavirus pandemic when it used the order to shut down borders to all migrants. The provision also allowed the government to expel approved asylum seekers without due process. Since March, nearly 200,000 approved asylum seekers have been expelled from the US.

Oliver called the tactic “a shadow deportation system that moves quickly and is accountable to no one."

Oliver closed out the segment urging people to vote for Joe Biden, who has promised to end the “stay in Mexico” protocol, as well as restore eligibility for domestic violence survivors and victims of gang prosecution — applicants who are almost always denied under the current system.

“If we want a shot at change, we need to vote and advocate like our lives depend on it,” Oliver said.

Watch the full segment:

Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her @brittbowker and also on Instagram @brittbowker.