Historically, asylum has been one of the most powerful life-saving legal options for thousands of individuals facing harm in their countries of origin, from Second World War refugees escaping persecution at the hands of the Nazi regime, to individuals facing persecution due to political opinion in recent years. Unfortunately, some of the current U.S. policies related to asylum-seekers at the southern border severely undermine the purpose of asylum: to protect individuals from harm and undue threats they face in their countries of origin.
The U.S. government justifies some of the policies implemented at the southern border as necessary measures to solve a crisis that was created by an alleged increase in the influx of individuals at the border seeking protection. The government also seeks to prevent the entry of individuals whose only interest in coming to the U.S. is for economic gain or to abuse the asylum process. Current U.S. policies at the southern border include limiting the number of cases allowed to be processed at the border; forcing individuals to turn around and wait in a third country while their cases are processed; separating families at the time they present themselves at the border and processing the children separately from their parents; indiscriminate criminal prosecution of individuals crossing the border; and undue prolonged detentions while the asylum case is adjudicated. Further, the U.S. has been seeking the implementation of a safe third country agreement with central American countries, similar to an agreement already in place with Canada, in order to force individuals seeking asylum to apply for asylum in the country where they first set foot, and preventing them from applying in the U.S.
An overview of the reasons presented by asylum seekers at the border can point us as to the real situation in the countries where asylum seekers come from. At the southern border, we encounter mostly applicants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Recurrent reasons for seeking asylum are due to harm or threats at the hands of criminal organizations or gangs in their counties, victims of domestic violence or abuse fleeing from romantic partners, victims of religious persecution, and individuals facing persecution due to their sexual orientation. Many of these individuals have a genuine fear of returning to their countries and make the decision to leave to protect themselves and their families. As such, implementing measures to keep these asylum seekers away from U.S. soil and borders puts many of them in a dangerous situation, and perpetuates the harm they are fleeing from since the countries south of the U.S. border are plagued by the same dangerous conditions. Mexico and Guatemala, the closest countries to our southern border, do not have the economic resources nor legal structure to adequately protect asylum seekers remaining in their territory and it is especially disturbing that citizens from those countries are themselves seeking asylum in the U.S.
Concerns in the U.S. rest in the social and economic impact of having thousands of asylum seekers entering the U.S., but these apprehensions are not necessarily supported nor warranted. The U.S. counts as one of the most organized and capable immigration legal systems around the world, and has vast experience in dealing with asylum cases in particular. Although screening and strict evaluation of the asylum claims is necessary, the current measures taken at the southern border do not ensure a meaningful consideration of the claims, and it creates undue hardship on the applicants, while also eroding their due process.
Allowing asylum seekers the opportunity to have their claims adjudicated by asylums officers following the proper previously established procedure, would not only ensure due process but also a proper analysis and consideration of the claims. Additionally, it would also allow the people applying for asylum to ease the fear that they have endured within a soothing environment. Under proper previously established procedure, individuals waiting for adjudication of asylum claims are not detained under harsh and inhumane conditions; they have the opportunity to gather meaningful evidence to support the claim; they can count on finding the legal representation necessary to present their case in a plausible manner; they have the opportunity to obtain further review if the claim is not favorably adjudicated; and most importantly, they can remain in this country protected from harm. All these guarantees will vanish for the individuals currently subject to the new policies at the southern border.
Therefore, it is necessary to follow the established legal proceedings under U.S. law, without the imposed measures at the border, to assure that applicants can have their cases heard as any other cases in the country. To impose further restrictions on them is eroding fairness and due process for those at the border, but eventually for anyone from any country who seeks protection from persecution in the United States.