Asylum tends to be one of the less controversial areas of immigration law, and rarely attracts the kind of anger associated with the broader immigration debate. However, a 20-year old asylum case has become an issue in the Missouri Senate race.
The Kansas City Star reports that Democrats have accused the Republican candidate, Roy Blunt, of “hypocricy” because he employed and tried to assist an “illegal worker” named Dora Narvaez, a Nicaraguan asylum seeker. Apparently, Mr. Blunt employed Ms. Narvaez as a housekeeper for six months in 1990 and then contacted the head of INS to help her with her asylum case. At the time, Mr. Blunt was Missouri’s Secretary of State. Mr. Blunt’s campaign denies the allegations, and states that he forwarded Ms. Narvaez’s request for assistance, just as he did for anyone else from Missouri.
It’s unclear to me how the Democrats have determined that Ms. Narvaez was an “illegal worker.” Aliens who filed for asylum prior to 1996 received a work permit quickly and were permitted to remain in the U.S. until their cases were adjudicated. Thus, if Ms. Narvaez was indeed an asylum seeker, she was most likely legally eligible to work and live in the United States, and so Mr. Blunt could have lawfully employed her. Whether or not he used his influence and connections to assist her remains an open question, but based on the evidence available, the Democrat’s charge that Ms. Narvaez was an “illegal worker” seems unfounded.
Not that the Republicans are much better on this issue. Mr. Blunt currently represents Southwest Missouri in the House of Representatives. According to his Congressional website, he has opposed “amnesty” and supported an enforcement-only approach to the immigration problem. Thus, it seems that neither candidate is much of a friend to immigrants.
Mr. Blunt currently leads his opponent, Democrat Robin Carnahan, in the polls.