Media outlets in Texas and around the country have devoted much of their coverage in recent weeks to a caravan of migrants traveling through Mexico on their way to the United States. The migrants say that they are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras and plan to seek asylum in America, which has prompted a national debate about the asylum process and how asylum seekers differ from refugees.
The rules dealing with refugees and asylum seekers were drawn up in 1951 during the United Nations Refugee Conference. The United States codified the process into law in 1990 when Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act. In order to be granted asylum, immigrants must be able to convince an immigration judge that they would face persecution if they returned home based on their race, religion, beliefs or nationality.
Refugees fleeing famine or war present themselves to officials of the first country they encounter or go through the entire process before leaving their homes. Those hoping to be granted asylum must already be in the country or present themselves at an established port of entry. President Trump’s immigration policies could be the reason that members of the migrant caravan are seeking asylum rather than refugee status. The number of refugees allowed into the United States has been cut twice during Trump’s two years in the Oval Office, and the 22,491 refugees admitted in 2017 was the lowest number on record.
Proving to immigration officials that their fears of persecution are legitimate and credible can be difficult for asylum seekers. Attorneys who are familiar with the process could help those hoping to be granted asylum in the United States to gather evidence that immigration judges would likely find convincing.