KUSI’s Sasha Foo details the US asylum process

CENTRAL AMERICA (KUSI) – The stream of 7,000 Central American migrants heading through Mexico toward the U.S. face a gauntlet of legal and administrative procedures before they can be granted asylum. University of San Diego professor Ev Meade said the process of gaining legal status under asylum is long and complex. Even after reaching the border, there is no guarantee that a person will have a chance to apply for asylum. First, the migrant must be admitted into the port of entry, and that takes place only after a pre-screening. Typical questions involve the person’s fear of remaining in their home country. Meade said, “It’s about, ‘are you in fear right now?’ A second question is, ‘are you afraid to return to your home country?'”

The border issues expert said the migrant who enters a port of entry, such as San Ysidro, would have only provisional approval to stay on U.S. soil.

“The United States government is allowing you to enter the United States and allowing you with the understanding that you don’t have a visa or pre-authorized entry,” Meade said.

Once a person is allowed into a U.S. port of entry, they will be held in a locked cell.

“You are going to be detained. They’re going to put you in something that any of us would recognize as a jail or a prison.”

The next step is an extensive interview which is called the “credible fear” interview. An officer with the federal agency called the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will try to determine if the immigrant has a legitimate and well-founded fear of being persecuted in their home country on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or because of their political opinion. Meade said the definition of a refugee seeking asylum comes directly from international law. “So it’s the same standard in every country around the world,” he said.

Only after the immigrant passes what’s known as the “credible fear” interview will they be permitted to start the formal process of applying for asylum and eventually plead their case in a hearing before a federal immigration judge. Because of a shortage of immigration judges and a massive backlog of cases, Meade said a person may not get an asylum hearing for two-to-five years. He said the current system is not efficient and there should be other options for those who want to apply for asylum.

“The U.S. immigration system still operates almost exclusively on paper files. They don’t have a single digital system for managing all the cases,” Meade explained.

The USD professor estimated that fewer than 10% of the Central American migrants heading toward the border will be allowed to apply for asylum and of that number, only 1/5 will be granted asylum in the United States.

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