As a group of about 500 migrants from Central America quickly approach the U.S. border, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have sent stern warnings to the caravan. Although it’s legal to seek asylum, it’s illegal to cross into the country without going through the asylum process.
As reported by NBC News, Sessions pointed out that Mexico was going to allow the migrants to stay in their country, but that they declined the offer to continue their journey north. He then made a statement regarding the asylum process.
“Let today’s message be clear: Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world, but this is a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system. There is no right to demand entry without justification. Smugglers and traffickers and those who lie or commit fraud will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Asylum is granted to people who have suffered persecution or have good reason to believe they will suffer persecution according to their race, religion, or nationality. The list also includes facing persecution based on being part of a social group or having a certain political opinion, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Besides a paper application, asylum-seekers must pass a security check and a safety interview before attending a hearing. The migrants will be detained throughout the asylum process.
On the other hand, Trump made his position clear on Twitter.
Despite the Democrat inspired laws on Sanctuary Cities and the Border being so bad and one sided, I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country. It is a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2018
Mexico, whose laws on immigration are very tough, must stop people from going through Mexico and into the U.S. We may make this a condition of the new NAFTA Agreement. Our Country cannot accept what is happening! Also, we must get Wall funding fast.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2018
Earlier tweets by Trump urged Mexican authorities to take action on the caravan as it moved through their country. The caravan officially disbanded in Mexico City, but groups have opted to travel together as they continue their trip to America.
In anticipation of the large numbers of migrants, Sessions ordered more immigration judges and prosecutors to be available at the border. Meanwhile, some migrants have decided not to seek asylum after learning about the horrible conditions at the ICE detention centers. Recently, CNN reported that immigrants were denied basic necessities like food and toilet paper, instead being forced to work for as little as $1 to $4 a day in order to buy everything they need.
A U.S. immigration attorney, Marie Vincent, has already met with some of the migrants and heard their stories. She believes that many migrants have a strong case to seek asylum because they face political persecution and violence based on their gender and sexual identity, according to Reuters.