The number of people crossing the border is at an all-time high, and the U.S. needs these policies to curb the flow of migrants crossing the southern border.
When you look at the news, you might be inclined to believe that border crossings are at an all-time high in the United States, and this crisis is a crisis of numbers. Immigration along the southwest border is down. You can use the number of apprehensions along the U.S. border to gauge how many people are crossing the border into the United States. In fiscal year 2000, the number of apprehensions along the southwest border reached a high of about 1.6 million. In fiscal year 2017 the numbers were around 300,000. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “In FY17, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recorded the lowest level of illegal cross-border migration on record, as measured by apprehensions along the border and inadmissible encounters at the U.S. ports of entry.”
What has changed? The demographics of border crossers. More Central Americans are coming. The vast majority (91 percent) of persons apprehended in 2008 at U.S. borders were Mexican nationals. About 7 percent were from the Northern Triangle countries (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala). By comparison, in 2014 nearly 50 percent of persons apprehended at U.S. borders were from the Northern Triangle countries. People coming from Central America are more likely to seek asylum, which affects how they move through the U.S. immigration system.
Asylum is meant for people from war-torn countries, like Syria.
Yes, people fleeing wars may qualify for asylum. But you don’t need a war. Plus, coming from a war-torn country doesn’t guarantee that you will get asylum. Asylum is meant for people who have been harmed or fear harm because of their race, religion, nationality or political opinion or because they have traits that are unchangeable, like race or a past experience, or fundamental to their identities, like religion or political opinion. The bad actor can be a state or persons or groups the state cannot or will not control. The Northern Triangle countries represent some of the most violent countries in the world. The governments in these countries, which are poor and often corrupt, are unable to prevent much of the violence carried out by gangs and other armed groups operating in urban and, increasingly, rural areas or are themselves involved in harming youth. For some of the children I represent, living in a gang-controlled neighborhood is like living in a war-torn country.
The Central Americans at the border are migrants, not refugees.
I would argue that my Central American clients (all of whom are fleeing some form of violence) are refugees. Gangs, vigilantes and government agents target young people for violence because of their age and residence in areas that are outside of the government’s control — traits they cannot change to avoid harm. Often, their only option is to flee.
People should follow the rules and apply for asylum the right way.
You can apply for asylum regardless of how you entered the country. Also, our laws and policies create disincentives to lawful entry.
People are trying to circumvent our immigration laws by crossing the border and should wait in line like everybody else.
The line is a myth. U.S. immigration laws are outdated and provide few pathways to legal status, especially for lower-skilled workers, a category of workers our economy needs. Moreover, people coming to our borders are seeking refuge under our humanitarian asylum laws. To have them wait in line outside the U.S. (in their home countries or Mexico) would expose them to many of the dangers from which they are fleeing.
People are coming to the United States to give birth to U.S. citizen "anchor babies," so they can get legal status.
A child can usually derive immigration status from a parent. It is very difficult, however, for an undocumented parent of a U.S. citizen child (someone younger than 18) to get immigration status through her child. A U.S. citizen who is 21 or older can apply for a parent to obtain a green card. If the parent has lived in the United States without immigration status, the path to lawful immigration status is complicated and uncertain.