Understand the asylum process.

Photo by Miko Guziuk on Unsplash

Take Action

  • Donate to RAICES, a nonprofit that provides pro-bono legal support to immigrants.
  • Tell the Biden administration to end Title 42 expulsions, which allows the U.S. to turn migrants away under the public health rule. Border agents have turned away migrants nearly 850,000 times since the beginning of the pandemic.

  • If you have room, consider hosting a refugee family so they have a place to stay while their case is decided.

Last Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that they would start considering migrants whose cases were terminated by the Trump administration. The Justice Department also reversed an immigration ruling that barred individuals from seeking asylum due to domestic violence or gang violence (NYT). Expanding protections to individuals who are fleeing domestic violence or gang violence will offer protection to women, the majority of whom seek asylum due to interpersonal violence, gender-based abuse, and organized crime (NY Times).

Asylum is a protection granted to individuals who are foreign nationals who meet the definition of a “refugee,” someone not safe in their home country “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” (American Immigration Council).  Under the Trump administration, many asylum seekers who were crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were sent to Mexico to await hearings for their cases.

In 2019, the Trump-era DHS introduced the Migrant Protection Protocols, which required asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await immigration hearings in the United States (DHS). There were about 70,000 migrants enrolled in this program, which was also known as Remain in Mexico. The majority of migrants who were affected by this policy were from Central America. Migrants waiting at the border often live in inhumane conditions and are often victims of violence, kidnapping, and rape (The Guardian). Many have reported missing court hearings because it was too dangerous to attend, or because of extreme situations such as being kidnapped. Those who missed their court hearings were ordered to be deported and lost their chance to get asylum (Buzzfeed).

DHS suspended the Migrant Protection Protocols on Biden’s first day in office. This allowed many of the migrants already waiting for case decisions to cross the border in February (The Guardian). However, the Biden administration only allowed unaccompanied minors to stay in the U.S. as new asylum applicants. This resulted in a new type of family separation where families remained in Mexico as they sent their children across the border alone (Politico).

Regardless of administration, applying for asylum is not as simple as walking up to the border. Asylum seekers must somehow get into the U.S. to claim asylum, which may involve crossing multiple countries and a militarized border, and prove that they meet the criteria of being a refugee. The majority of cases are denied (NYT). By February of 2020, most asylum seekers who were granted relief waited more than 930 days, and are incarcerated in detention centers while their case is processed. Individuals who wait in detention are five times less likely to secure legal counsel for their cases (American Immigration Counsel). Asylum seekers who find a way to bypass detention still aren’t authorized to work in the United States, making it impossible to earn a legal source of income (NOLO). Children who cross the border alone are imprisoned by Customs and Border Protection. In early May, U.S. officials held over 22,500 refugee children in custody (BBC).

With the new provisions, some migrant camps in Mexico are finally starting to empty (Reuters). Whether these migrants will be granted asylum is yet to be seen since most cases are denied. Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran people have their asylum cases approved at rates much lower than the average of 35% (Seattle Times). That means two out of three people who tell immigration authorities their life would be in danger in their home country because of a social group or identity they belong to are forced to return to those very conditions.

We must advocate for individuals who are fleeing violence and offer a safer path to survival. Some of the new protections that are granted by the Biden administration are a step forward, but we need to continue to offer protections to individuals who are fleeing dangerous conditions. Amnesty International argues that “the people are not the problem. Rather, the causes that drive families and individuals to cross borders and the short-sighted and unrealistic ways that politicians respond to them are the problem” (Amnesty International).

Key Takeaways

  • The Justice Department recently reversed the Trump Administration policy barring individuals from applying for asylum due to domestic violence or gang violence.
  • The process of applying for asylum is much harder than the media and lawmakers make it out to be, and the majority of applications for asylum are not approved.

  • Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran asylum applicants are less likely to have their applications approved than asylum seekers from other countries.

2992 2244 Nia Norris
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