Migrants wait for a second day outside San Ysidro Port of Entry

TIJUANA (KUSI) — UPDATE: The Justice Department has filed criminal charges against 11 suspected members of the caravan. KUSI’s David Davis has the details below.


At the doorstep of the United States, dozens of Central American immigrants are waiting in Tijuana.

Immigration attorney Ginger Jacobs said the refugees face a very long and complex process of applying for asylum in the United States.

The first step is gaining entry to the port and presenting the applicant’s identification papers and biographical information to officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Once the person’s name is entered into the immigration database, the next step is waiting for a crucial interview with an asylum officer with Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The asylum seeker will typically wait in a detention center for several weeks until that interview occurs.

Jacobs said the asylum applicant must prove to the officer that they have a genuine fear of persecution, violence or death. This is called a “credible fear” interview and the person has to spell out specific reasons in their claim for asylum.

In recent years, Jacobs said domestic violence, rape and sexual assault have also been considered legitimate grounds for asylum. Jacobs cautioned that anyone who thinks they can make up a bogus story will be rejected.

If a person fails the interview, deportation takes place quickly. “Then they are expeditiously removed, so no further hearings, no further process; they’re taken out of the United States,” said Jacobs.

Even if a person clears the interview, there are more hurdles to jump. A hearing is required before a judge. Usually, a person will be ordered to appear for multiple hearings over several years, before a final decision on the asylum request is reached

During this time, a person may remain in immigration detention. However, they could be released to a sponsor if they wear a GPS bracelet.

As they wait for their court hearing, applicants are allowed to apply for a work permit.

Vince Ferraro who lectures at San Diego State University’s School of Business said their jobs would most likely be in hotels and restaurants.

“For them, they’ll be able to find that employment, but it will be on the low scale side, because of the lack of education and the lack of (English) language. But then they’ll find plenty of work in San Diego County and beyond San Diego County,” said Ferraro.

Those familiar with the often prolonged asylum process say fewer than 50% of applicants will win their case. The number is even lower for those from Central America.

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