T The public outcry was immediate. After Prosecutor General Jeff Sessions announced the government's new "zero tolerance" policy in April to prevent illegal immigration across the Mexican border, photos and audio tapes of children separated from their parents on the border and in cage-like neighborhoods soon appeared cried news.
Since then, he has signed an order to lift the family separation, although more than 2000 children remain in the care of the Ministry of Health. However, the new policy should only be temporary. A long-term solution to immigration is still needed – and any discussion needs to begin with a deeper understanding of the country's history on these issues, as well as in the circumstances of those who want to enter the US
All government statistics cover asylum seekers from Central America. Unlike refugees referred to the US resettlement immigration program in the United States, asylum seekers go to the US to bring their case.
The exact number of asylum seekers is unknown. Some were prevented from entering US soil to seek asylum. Others were told in the first interview that they had no case and had been sent into an expedited deportation ̵
The policymakers who drafted the 1980 Refugee Law could not have imagined that the US would have a huge asylum bureaucracy within a generation. With the passing of the 1980 law, Congress tried to create a separate immigration channel for the persecuted, many of them from the communist countries who were abroad for resettlement in the US Legislative less with the comparatively smaller number of asylum seekers who Protection had been identified at airports and other immigration offices.
From 1973 to 1979, for example, only 22,722 people applied for asylum. Only the apostasy of Russian ballet dancers, Eastern European athletes or Chinese scientists caught the attention of the media. Asylum seekers were usually released on their own responsibility while waiting for a solution to their case.
A decade later, asylum claims rose sharply due to political unrest in Haiti and the civil wars in Central America. More than 400,000 people sought asylum from 1980 to 1990, and Central Americans filed about half of all applications.
Many more migrants completely overcame the asylum system and remained undocumented in the US. Salvadorans and Guatemalan asylum seekers were granted asylum in the 1980s despite the brutal conditions, and most opted to stay away from government radar until conditions in their countries of origin improved and they could safely return home.
These growing outflows from Central America and Haiti, as well as from Mexico, China and other parts of the world – suggested to Americans that the US had lost the ability to control its borders. Congress responded with a series of immigration laws to extend the surveillance of entry ports and impose stricter penalties for unlawful entry.
Deterrence, detention and deportation have become key features of the immigration platforms of Republican and Democratic politicians. This further discouraged immigrants from seeking asylum. A negative verdict meant deportation and, for some, certain death, so many opted not to file their asylum applications until after the immigration authorities arrested them, as a last attempt to stay in the US
In the wake of September 11 2001 The asylum bureaucracy has become even more complex and discouraging. Anyone who raises particularly "defensive asylum applications" to prevent deportation, faces a particularly high burden of proof. The majority of asylum seekers speak without legal counsel or even a professional interpreter. The criminal courts are considered innocent until proven guilty, but immigration hearings assume that asylum seekers lie until they can prove that they are telling the truth.
Like refugees, asylum seekers must prove that they have been separated because of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. They must prove that their government could not protect them; that they could not find safety anywhere in their country; and that they are exposed to imminent danger when forced to return. They also have to prove that they have done no harm to others, committed certain types of crime or become a danger to national security.
Even if they meet all these conditions, there is no guarantee of asylum. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and almost identical cases can be given completely different choices. While they wait for their cases to find their way through the backwater, asylum seekers often spend years in detention centers. In March 2018, the backlog of US immigration courts had reached 690,000 cases.
Legal immigration is a distant option. The US Immigration Act gives priority to those who have the financial means, education and skills required for the US economy, and those with family ties to citizens and permanent residents.
Many Central Americans risk their savings, security and futures for entry into the United States. Most come from the northern triangle of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, three of the poorest, most violent and catastrophic countries countries in America. These countries are among the world's highest per capita killing rates, largely due to drug trafficking and easy access to weapons.
Central Americans fleeing their communities evade a wide range of problems, making it impossible to distinguish the persecuted from those seeking economic opportunities. Mostly they are both.
Parents often send children to the United States unaccompanied to join family members and friends and rescue them from forced recruitment into gangs, extrajudicial reprisals, human trafficking, and poverty. Unaccompanied minors are among the fastest growing asylum seekers in the aftermath of the Cold War. Between October 2012 and March 2016, US Customs and Border Guards welcomed around 200,000 unaccompanied children, two-thirds of whom came from the Northern Triangle.
However, fleeing criminal and political violence is not enough to obtain asylum, and Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans are among the highest asylum denial rates in the country. In June, Mr. Sessions announced that the Justice Department would overturn any precedent set by the court to grant asylum to victims of domestic violence and gang violence – another limitation on their chances.
American politicians, immigration lawyers and asylum officials and judges are facing difficult problems decisions in the coming years. Who will we admit, and in what numbers? The number of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people worldwide – currently 68.5 million, according to UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency – shows no signs of slowing down.
-Dr. Garcia is Professor of History at Cornell University and author of The Refugee Challenge in America after the Cold War, published by Oxford University Press.