Immigration and Asylum

July 17, 2014 (San Diego) The first step in understanding the crisis in the southern border is that the flow only increased, but it has never stopped. This is a crisis that came to our attention partly due to the nature of politics and partly due to the numbers. This is very high tide. Secondly, we quietly allow immigrants into the country every year, and one class of these immigrants are asylum seekers.

The numbers of undocumented aliens coming through the border right now are up to 55,000, with many unaccompanied minors, while historic data reveals that the last two years the numbers topped in the mid 30,00s for both years. We also started to see a negative flow to Mexico, especially after the great recession.

While there are 12 million undocumented aliens in the United States, we also have seen a step up of removals, Data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reveals that we have at this point more removals than returns. 


These days it is a crisis since the numbers have essentially doubled over the last nine months from yearly averages at the southern border.  We also know that minors that came to the United States unaccompanied have to see an immigration judge to determine their fate. This is current U.S. Law, signed by President George W. Bush. This flow is due to the “permiso” rumors that are prevalent in countries of origin, among other reasons. These rumors are spread by Coyotes.

When former President Bush signed the law, the issue was human trafficking, and it has not gone away as not just a national issue, but an international one.

According to the United Nations human trafficking is defined as:

Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs

In 2008 the legislative and executive branches agreed to deal with this legislatively.  Many of the youth coming from Central America are part of that human trafficking chain. Why part of the law says that expedited removal of minors coming from non-contiguous countries, like it’s been done with Mexico under a Memorandum of Understanding between the two governments, could not be done. They believed it would invite more problems for these minors. Moreover, these minors were removed from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody and transferred to Health and Human Services. (HHS)

Narrowly, what is the issue with Asylum? How many people come to the country seeking asylum, and how many refugees enter the United States every year? Moreover, why asylum? According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, people are granted it due to fear for their lives, human trafficking, political persecution and other reasons.

Treaty Law

According to DHS the United States received 58,179 persons into the United States as refugees or asylum seekers in 2012, the last year we have data.

According to DHS Data these numbers have come down from the 1990s where it reached all the way to slightly over 120,000 to now just shy of 60,000.

According to DHS:

Any person coming to the United States fearing for their live, under U.S. Law and Treaty Law, has a right to ask for asylum. That is what the immigration system calls an “affirmative declaration.” Persons going before an Immigration Judge can also ask for asylum, if they have reason to fear a return to their home country. This is called “defensive asylum.


DHS keeps careful statistics on both types, of asylum seekers, as well as the process called expedited removal, which is applied to immigrants, who face a seventy-two hour expedited removal procedure. This process is part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Part of this law was superseded by the legislation signed by President Bush to deal with unaccompanied minors in 2008.

 The US is also a signatory to the 1967 United Nations Protocol relating to the status of Refugees and the 1951 Convention relating to the state of refugees.

 These treaties demand a minimum standard in dealing with people who fear for their lives. The reasons for these fears usually are political, but organized crime sometimes qualifies.

Expedited Removal.

Expedited removal is an issue for both pro immigrant groups and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR has found that expedited removal can lead to a lack of proper representation, and other services needed to determine a case. This can affect the how cases develop, even when person should qualify.

UNHCR and gangs

 “As organized gangs have become increasingly common in various parts of the world, asylum claims connected with their activities have multiplied in regions as far apart as Europe and Central America. During recent years, an increasing number of claims have been made especially in Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America, notably by young people from Central America who fear persecution at the hands of violent gangs in their countries of origin.”

The rush to change the law to the present crisis could be problem, and going for the “Mexican model” ignores the fact that there are memoranda of understanding with Mexico, and that Mexico meets international standards for protection of witnesses of crime somewhat better than Central American Countries.

 Regardless, some of these migrants will qualify. The ceiling for refugees from all of Latin America according to DHS is 5,000. A healthier discussion, given the violence in the countries of origin, and the fact that other countries are also receiving refugees, is whether 5,000 is enough. Especially when we ask other countries to open their doors to refugees regularly as a matter of foreign policy.

 Currently the UNHCR is calling on the United States and Mexico to treat these people as displaced persons of armed conflict.

Also, countries like Costa Rica are receiving large numbers of refugees, not just from Central America, but Cuba and South America. We should do better.



Categories: analysis, Immigration Policy

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