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What does it mean to seek asylum in the US?

You've might of heard panicked media voices obsessing about the ~150 people apparently coming over the border in caravans last week TO STEAL YOUR JOBS AND WAY OF LIFE. This group, which numbered at 1,200 at one point, actually started at the border of Mexico and Guatemala in March and has been trudging north for a while. Their purpose of making this long journey is to seek asylum from oppressive conditions and violence at home. Once they actually reached the border, however, many were told that officials could not process their claims and ended up spending their night on the Mexican side of the border.

Wait, what is Asylum?

Asylum is defined as the protection granted by a nation to refugees fleeing their homeland. There three basic requirements.

  • An applicant must fear persecution in their native country.
  • An applicant must prove that they would be prosecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group.
  • An applicant must also prove that the government is either involved in the persecution or unable to stop the people persecuting.

How often does this happen?

The U.S is already a nation of immigrants, after all, and usually grants asylum to about 20,000 applicants a year. These people are called Asylees.

Mass migrations are almost an annual rite at this point, with a lot of them happening around Easter. This year's has been one of the largest on record and has drawn a lot of attention since Trump is waging a constant battle against immigration. Trump is clearly not a fan of this caravan, as he has made clear via his regular mouthpiece, Twitter. He has vowed "not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country." He's even threaten a government shutdown if he doesn't get what he wants on border security.

What's going to happen to these people?

When people request protection at a US border, this will start a process that roughly looks like this:

  • They will be placed on buses to Texas, where mothers and children will be held. Adult men are likely to be detained in facilities across the country that hold undocumented immigrants.
  • In these facilities, they will be screened using the "credible-fear interview," which is used to determine if their fear of prosecution is legitimate according to the US's criteria.
  • If they pass, they will be able to make their case before an immigration judge.

This process usually takes place over several months or even longer. Migrants are fitted with ankle monitors (like literal criminals!) but are allowed to travel within the country while they wait out their judgement.