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    Migrant caravan: What is asylum, and can President Trump shut it down?

    Migrant caravan: What is asylum, and can President Trump shut it down?

    Alan Gomez,Ronald J. Hansen and Rafael Carranza, USA TODAYPublished 4:40 p.m. ET Oct. 26, 2018

    Arizona Republic reporters explain the difference between seeking asylum at the border and attempting to immigrate illegally. Carly Henry, The Republic |

    (Photo: Sean Logan, Sean Logan/The Republic)

    President Donald Trump is considering at least a partial shutdown of the asylum process along the southern border in an effort to halt the migrant caravan that's traveling north through Mexico.

    Any efforts to limit or halt the ability of foreigners to apply for asylum will surely be challenged in federal court and create uncertainty over the laws and international conventions that dictate how the U.S. must, or should, treat foreigners. And with the midterm elections just days away, it's impossible to divorce the administration's actions from their stated desire to encourage Republican voter turnout.
    With so many questions swirling over Trump's ability to limit asylum, here's a look at the asylum system and what powers a president has to shut it down.

    What is asylum?

    Asylum is granted to foreigners who have been persecuted, or legitimately fear persecution, in their home country based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

    The process was first memorialized in the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention, which the U.S. remains a party to. And it was codified into U.S. law in the 1990 Immigration and Nationality Act.

    From 2000 to 2016, the U.S. granted asylum to an average of 26,651 foreigners a year, according to Department of Homeland Security data.

    To apply for asylum, foreigners must present themselves at a U.S. port of entry, or already be in the country. Even those who enter the U.S. illegally are legally allowed to request asylum.

    Applicants are first put through a brief, initial screening, where they are interviewed by a federal agent to determine if the applicant can establish a "credible fear" of returning to their home country. That starts a longer, far more complicated process where an immigration judge ultimately decides whether the person can be granted asylum.

    Is that different from a refugee?


    Asylees and refugees are judged on the same criteria, whether they face persecution in their home country. But there are key differences.
    Foreigners seeking asylum can only do so when they're already in the U.S. Refugees must go through the entire process — from their initial screening to extensive criminal background checks — from abroad.

    There is no legal limit to the number of people who can be admitted for asylum into the country. But historically, the U.S. has accepted far more refugees because it's more difficult for refugees to reach the U.S. From 2000 to 2016, the U.S. accepted 59,377 refugees a year.

    But refugees are subject to hard caps established each year by the president. Trump has twice lowered that cap, establishing a historic low of 30,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. And in 2017, his administration approved only 22,491 refugees, an all-time low.

    Why is Trump trying to curtail asylum?

    The Trump administration has already been limiting the ability of foreigners to apply for asylum based on assertions that most recent asylum claims are not legitimate.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions says foreigners claiming asylum are simply taking advantage of "loopholes" in U.S. immigration laws, assisted by "dirty immigration lawyers" who are gaming the system.

    In June, Sessions announced a new policy that bars most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence from qualifying for asylum. In July, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced an additional directive that allows officers to consider refugees' illegal entry to the U.S. as a mark against them even for otherwise viable applications.

    Currently, about 56 families are waiting in Nogales to apply for asylum status. Most of the migrants are from Guerrero, Guatemala, and Honduras. Arizona Republic

    Can he implement an asylum ban?

    Now, the president is considering even broader restrictions, including a complete shutdown of asylum applications at the southern border using similar legal arguments used to implement his 2017 travel ban targeting majority-Muslim countries.

    The Supreme Court upheld the third version of the travel ban in June, giving the administration some legal basis to implement similar restrictions along the southern border. But the two situations are very different, so it remains unclear whether an asylum ban would survive judicial scrutiny.

    In his opinion in June, Chief Justice John Roberts said the travel ban was a legal exercise of the president's executive authority because the countries selected had already been identified as having ties to terrorism and that version of the ban followed a global review of all countries. But since most participants in the migrant caravan hail from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — countries that have long histories of drug violence, but not terrorism — its unclear whether the administration can use a similar legal argument.

    Whatever justification is used, any new limits to asylum would lead to immediate lawsuits challenging the administration's actions. Amnesty International USA executive director Margaret Huang called the proposed asylum ban the "culmination of years of hateful policies" that would represent a "direct violation of national and international law."

    Do caravan members want asylum?

    Trump and many GOP candidates have claimed that they are trying to illegally enter the country. But a look at the most recent caravan, which reached the U.S. border in April, paints a very different picture.

    According to data and congressional testimony from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials, 122 members of that caravan were caught trying to illegally enter the country. But 401 members of the caravan presented themselves at ports of entry and requested asylum.

    Federal officials interviewed those asylum-seekers and found 374 of them, or 93 percent, passed their initial "credible fear" test. That’s higher than the 76 percent approval rate that all asylum-seekers received in fiscal year 2018, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services data.

    What does that mean for the caravan?

    The current migrant caravan has grown to about 10,000 people hailing mostly from Central America, according to some organizers. But it is still several weeks away from reaching the United States' border with Mexico.

    The group, which is moving very slowly because of its size, is about 1,000 miles from the border. And it's unclear precisely where they are headed. Organizers have said it is likely that the group will splinter and will arrive in waves at various points along the border.

    South Texas remains by far the busiest gateway at the southern border, and the closest for the migrants. But the path there through Mexico is marred by competing cartels. In the past, migrant groups have opted to travel instead to farther, and more calm, border communities, such as Tijuana and Nogales.

    Trump has responded in various ways. He's ordered at least 800 additional troops to the southern border, adding to the 2,100 National Guard troops already deployed there to assist Customs and Border Protection.

    He's tried to get the government of Mexico to stop the caravan by threatening to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money, and even threatened to seal the southern border, which would cause widespread economic damage in Mexico and the U.S.

    What are the benefits of asylum?

    A person who is granted asylum is protected from being returned to his or her home country, is authorized to work in the U.S., may be eligible to apply for a Social Security card, may request permission to travel overseas, and can petition to bring family members to the U.S.

    Those granted asylum may also be eligible for certain benefits, such as Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance.

    After one year, a person with asylum may apply for lawful permanent resident status, also known as a green card. Once the person becomes a permanent resident, he or she must wait four years to apply for citizenship.

    Magali Nieto Romero, 33, of Guerrero, Mexico, has been waiting for an asylum interview with U.S. immigration officials for nine days. Arizona Republic

    Where do asylum seekers come from?

    Often they come from Central America or China. More recently, there has been an uptick from Syria and Egypt.

    In 2015, nearly 6,200 Chinese nationals were formally granted asylum, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. About 5,700 asylees came from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador. Other countries for recent asylees include Iran and Iraq.

    There were about 26,000 people granted asylum in 2015.

    Where do asylees go?

    California attracted the single biggest share of asylum-seekers in 2017, about 10 percent. Texas was just behind California, followed by New York. Arizona ranked seventh for the initial residence of asylum-seekers, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ** Edmund Burke**

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  2. #2
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Aug 2005
    No more asylum. Just pull the damn plug on it. It's all BS anyway. It should be on a case by case basis decided solely by a President, similar to the pardon program. No "legislated" bureaucratic run asylum program. Just withdraw from the UN agreement and count any asylum-seeker who a President would grant asylum as part of the refugee count, NOT in addition to it or outside of it.
    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
    Save America, Deport Congress! - Judy

    Support our FIGHT AGAINST illegal immigration & Amnesty by joining our E-mail Alerts at

  3. #3
    Moderator Beezer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Make the legal limit for asylum TEN.

    We have exceeded that limit a million times over.


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