Many of the migrants from Central American countries heading to the U.S. border in a caravan are expected to seek asylum if they reach U.S. ports of entry, and numbers from a past caravan suggest many of the migrants could make it over the first hurdle of claiming asylum and stay in the U.S. while their case plays out.
However, the Trump administration is reportedly considering policies to severely limit migrants’ ability to seek asylum, according to sources quoted by NBC News Thursday. The administration is reportedly mulling over policies including shutting down the border or preventing people who cross the border illegally from applying for asylum.
A caravan of migrants that reached the U.S. in April had dwindled from approximately 1,500 when 401 migrants requested asylum at ports of entry. More than 370 made it over the first hurdle by demonstrating they have “credible fear” of going back to their home country, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
But that first hurdle is not a guarantee of asylum — many people who make it over the first hurdle don’t ever formally file for asylum, and of those who do, only about one-fifth make it through, according to USA Today.
“The extremely low bar for establishing credible fear is ripe for fraud and abuse,” USCIS spokesman Michael Bars said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation Friday. “This is because once an individual overcomes this low threshold, the vast majority are then referred to an immigration judge and most are released on a promise to appear for a court date weeks, months, or years down the line, regardless of whether they plan to show up. In other words, a credible fear referral doesn’t equal asylum status, but it does earn a free ticket into the U.S.”
This long process creates “perverse incentives” for people to illegally immigrate to the U.S. or make asylum claims they will not ultimately be able to prove in order to stay in the country, policy analyst Sarah Pierce of the Migration Policy Institute told TheDCNF Friday.
More than 120 members of the spring caravan were caught trying to cross into the U.S. illegally, according to USA Today. By law, those individuals also could have applied for asylum, although it is unknown if any did.
“The president is correct to look at the asylum system as a problem right now,” Pierce told TheDCNF.
She advocates for streamlining asylum adjudication and said that migrants at the border are more likely to be women and children now compared to the 1990s and 2000s, when the population was more heavily made up of single males.
“From reports we’ve heard, there are a variety of different reasons people traveling in caravan,” Pierce told TheDCNF. “Many intend to apply for asylum in the U.S., many are fleeing violence in their home country, many are fleeing economic insecurity … We’ve also heard about previously deported migrants who are in the caravan and want to return to families in the United States.”
The current caravan is roughly 1,000 miles away from the border. The number of people in the caravan has significantly dwindled from its peak of roughly 7,000 people.
The caravan could create a major backlog at ports of entry.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol told TheDCNF Friday that some members of the caravan may need to wait in Mexico before having their asylum claims processed at ports of entry.
“Depending upon port circumstances at the time of arrival, individuals presenting without documents may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities,” a CBP spokesperson told TheDCNF.
A person is granted asylum if they can prove they fled their home country because of persecution on the basis “of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
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