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  • Outrage outside a detention center in New Jersey today.

  • The disturbing images of children being torn from their parents were troubling enough.

  • The Trump administration is reportedly weighing their options of housing immigrant children at military bases.

  • How did the United States get here?

  • In the last 15 years, America has taken in more refugees than anywhere else in the world.

  • A fraction of those refugees, asylum seekers, have grown in recent years to the point of overwhelming the current system, and now the country is at a tipping point.

  • The legal definition of a refugee is someone who isn't able to live safely in their home country, or has a really strong reason to fear that they won't be safe if they stay.

  • Persecution that is racial, religious, political or nationalor targeting what's called "a particular social group.”

  • Someone who's been persecuted can apply for refugee status in their home country or in the first country that they flee to.

  • Where they might apply in a refugee camp for example.

  • An asylee is a refugee.

  • It's just that, they've already arrived at another country, like the United States, and fear going home.

  • Here's how it works.

  • Asylum seekers must fill out the i-589 application, a 12 page form.

  • If that sounds complicated for someone fleeing an oppressive homeland, don't worrythere's a 14 page instruction booklet to help.

  • Both the form and the instructions are only available in english.

  • And the i-589 has to be filled out in english, or it'll get sent back.

  • Not every asylum seeker necessarily understands the process, or has the resources to kind of go about it exactly the right ways.

  • Customs & Border Protection itself has been accepting very few people in recent weeks who are presenting themselves for asylum.

  • So people are waiting to be allowed to set foot in the U.S. and claim asylum for, you know, two weeks on bridges in Ciudad Juarez in the heat of summer.

  • At a certain point it starts to seem like a safer option to go in between ports of entry and risk breaking the law.

  • If someone enters the United States without papers, they can't even file an asylum application until they convince the governmentin personthat they're in danger at home.

  • This is calledcredible fear.”

  • They're detained and given at least 48 hours before their credible fear interview, but asylees often must wait much longer.

  • If the fear isn't deemedcredible,” an asylum seeker can be deported pretty much immediately, unless they file an appeal.

  • If that fear is deemed credible, or the appeal is successful, they wait for a judge to review their application.

  • Yeah, this is where the process gets very complicated depending on the circumstances of the case.

  • An asylee might have a judge sympathetic to their case, or one with a stricter view.

  • They might end up waiting comfortably with family, or they may be held in a detention center.

  • And in spring 2018, they could even have been separated from their children, under Trump administration policies.

  • China has historically had the most applicants for asylum to the United States, and that hasn't changed.

  • But applications from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have increased 234% in the past 3 years, with more applicants in that time period than the previous 17 years combined.

  • This area is called the northern triangle.

  • Civil wars and political unrest from the 1950s through the 1980s left institutions unstable.

  • Violence, extreme poverty, and crime stemming from drug and gang activity is widespread.

  • Asylees fleeing this area aren't responsible for the danger they live inthey're trying to escape it.

  • In the Northern Triangle, it's a little more complicated, because instead of talking about persecution by the government we're talking about often persecution by gangs.

  • So, whether they qualify for asylum is up for interpretation by immigration judges.

  • And, all of this is being debated while the current system is straining just to keep up.

  • The backlog of asylum caseloads has surged since 2012.

  • And immigration attorneys have cited waits as long as 5 years.

  • The Trump administration thinks that the solution here is to make it harder to even pass the initial screening interview.

  • If you think of the asylum system as a multi-stage process, which it is, that starts with you know asking for and getting a credible fear interview, and ends with finally getting asylum.

  • People are falling off at every stage of that process.

  • Very few people who start by asking for credible fear screenings in the U.S. are ultimately getting their asylum claims approved at the end.

  • They essentially may be deprived of due process in trying to get asylum and so people who do have legitimate persecution claims are going to get sent back which theoretically is exactly the outcome that this entire system is set up to prevent.

Outrage outside a detention center in New Jersey today.

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Why seeking asylum in America is so difficult

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    Samuel posted on 2018/07/21
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