Though the border with Mexico is not the only international border the U.S. shares with another country, it is certainly the one that gets the most attention. The border with Mexico stretches nearly 2,000 miles. Within those 2,000 miles, 48 ports-of-entry stand as two-way crossings for tourism, labor, and billions of dollars in trade. However, visitors, workers, money, and goods are not the only things crossing the border. Many people seek to cross the border into the United States as their only option to be safe and pursue a better life.
There is an increasing number of migrants arriving at the southern border who have come in caravans from Central America. These caravans are large groups of people who left their home country behind and traveled thousands of miles to come to the United States. Travelling together in caravans makes the long journey safer than travelling alone. Many people who arrived in these caravans are seeking asylum from violence and persecution in their home countries. For many, presenting their asylum case and being granted protection is a matter of life or death. Unfortunately, once at the border, they discover that there are still many obstacles to face.
The U.S. government is only processing a small number of asylum seekers at the border every day. The port-of-entry in Tijuana, the location of the busiest border crossing in the country, cannot process the thousands of applicants all at once. Asylum seekers must put their names on a long list with many others waiting for their case to be heard. This temporary and informal method of record-keeping currently lists over 2,500 applicants. As a result, applicants are forced to wait weeks, or even months, for their name to be called and their case heard. When they are called, only people who have a credible claim for asylum are able to proceed. The current administration has attempted many times to further limit the legal process of asylum, leaving many applicants stranded at the border with no way to enter.
While waiting for their turn, those at the border must struggle on their own to find food, shelter, and resources in a country that is foreign to them. For many, the situation is becoming increasingly desperate. Some applicants who can find no solace within a complex and unwieldy legal system have made the decision to attempt other avenues of entry. On November 25, a group in Tijuana, including women and children, was repelled by tear gas fired by U.S. Border Patrol agents when they attempted to walk across the border. This incident sparked public outcry at the treatment of those seeking asylum within U.S. borders.
The current administration has even threatened to “close the border permanently” in an effort to prevent any crossings whatsoever. These actions are part of a worrying trend against those who seek to apply for asylum. The institution of asylum is deeply enshrined in international law, federal laws, and treaties. The laws allow for asylum to be sought regardless of manner or location of entry. Lengthy detentions, family separations, asylum bans, and tear gas canisters diminish the ability of eligible applicants to seek asylum.
Applying for asylum and other forms of relief after crossing the border is a complex and case-specific process. In many cases, you will also have to navigate through removal proceedings in immigration court as you pursue your claim. If you, or anyone you know, have crossed the border and have questions about your legal status, please contact a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney.
Sources and further reading:
The Border Itself
History, “Everything You Need to Know About the Mexico-United States Border” (4/17/2018)
Border Processing and Conditions
The New Yorker, “The Long Wait for Tijuana’s Migrants to Process Their Own Asylum Claims” (11/29/2018)
NPR, “Trump Plan Could Leave Asylum-Seekers At Risk In Mexico” (11/29/2018)
Slate, “God Willing, We Can Cross and My Dream Will Come True” (11/30/2018)
Associated Press, “Mexican city shuts down migrant shelter near US border” (12/1/2018)
Tear Gas Incident
The New York Times, “Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but Fall Back in Face of Tear Gas” (11/25/2018)
Immigration Impact, “Violence Erupts at the Border as US Continues to Deny Rights to Asylum Seekers” (11/26/2018)
The Guardian, “Tear gas and trouble: migrants meet hostility at the US border – in pictures” (11/25/2018)
Closing the Border
Immigration Impact, “Will American Workers Take Another Hit If President Trump Closes the US-Mexico Border?” (11/28/2018)