Migrant caravan spurs discussion over asylum
News outlets in Texas and around the country have been running stories about a caravan of several thousand migrants making its way through Mexico toward the United States. Many of the migrants progressing with the caravan say that they are fleeing violence in countries like Honduras and hope to claim asylum once they reach the U.S. border. This has made the asylum process a hot-button political issue in the run-up to the crucial 2018 midterm elections.
The rules for asylum were memorialized in 1951 when countries including the United States attended the United Nations Refugee Convention. Asylum was later incorporated into U.S. law when President George H.W. Bush signed the Immigration and Nationality Act into law in 1990. According to federal data, about 26,000 immigrants each year are granted asylum in the U.S. each year due to legitimate fears of violence or persecution should they return to their home countries.
Those seeking asylum in the U.S. must already be in the country or present themselves at a recognized port of entry. If they are able to convince immigration officers that their fears are genuine, their cases are submitted for processing and a far more rigorous investigation begins. President Trump has threatened to temporarily halt asylum claims because of the migrant caravan, but legal experts are not convinced that he has the authority to do so.
Many undocumented immigrants feel that they are unable to pursue asylum through official channels. However, a lawyer with experience in this area could point out that even those who enter the country illegally may submit these petitions. An attorney could also help an asylum petitioner gather the evidence that will be needed to establish that their fears are genuine and legitimate.