Florida residents may have seen news reports in the days leading up to the midterm elections about a caravan of immigrants from Central America making their way north to the Mexican border. The caravan has now reached Tijuana, and many of its approximately 3,000 members are said to be planning to seek asylum in the United States. Asylum has traditionally been offered to immigrants who are already inside the United States, but that all changed on Nov. 9 when President Trump issued a proclamation that changed the asylum rules.
President Trump proclaimed that immigrants who cross the Mexican border illegally would no longer be able to petition for asylum. The presidential proclamation is being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. On Nov. 19, a federal judge in California ruled that the proclamation runs contrary to both international agreements and U.S. law.
The judge issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits federal agents from enforcing the controversial asylum rule. However, reports from U.S. Customs and Border Protection suggest that the proclamation was not much of a deterrent to caravan members committed to making their way into the United States. According to the agency, 107 caravan members made asylum claims after crossing the border illegally in the 12 days following Trump’s proclamation.
Immigrants who present themselves at recognized border crossings or have lived in the United States for less than a year may seek asylum if they fear violence or persecution in their home countries based on their race, religion or political views. However, they must be able to convince immigration judges that their fears are legitimate. Attorneys with experience in this area could help immigrants to gather evidence that judges may find compelling.