Seeking asylum is legal, but turning away asylum seekers is not. As the Trump Administration issues new policies that deny safety to persecuted people, learn the truth about what’s happening at the border and how you can help.
Under U.S. law, asylees are people who meet the definition of a refugee: someone who has been forced to flee his or her country of origin because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The biggest difference between asylees and refugees is the manner in which they attain their legal status.
El Salvador has one of the highest rates of violent death in the world, coming second only to Syria. The country is also regarded as one of the most dangerous places to be a woman, with 67 of every 100 women having experienced violence in their lifetime.
Together, the countries of Central America's Northern Triangle that people are fleeing—El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—have some of the highest levels of violent death in the world outside of active war zones. Based on these overwhelming statistics, as well as the IRC’s own experience in the region, the fears of persecution among people fleeing to the U.S. are very real.
Since coming to office, the Trump Administration has pursued a number of policies that have made it more difficult for people in need of protection to find safe haven in the U.S.
For example, the ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’ policy forces asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await their asylum hearings. This policy robs asylum seekers of their due process rights, including access to legal counsel.
Another important attack on vulnerable people seeking safety came in the Matter of A-B-, a case named after the initials of a Salvadoran woman initially granted asylum in the U.S. after enduring more than a decade of abuse by her ex-husband. In 2018, however, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed this decision because her asylum claim involved domestic abuse. His actions in this case established that people fleeing persecution by private individuals will generally no longer qualify for asylum, potentially affecting thousands of asylum seekers from Central America and beyond.
Conditions in Mexico remain insecure for many of the country’s own citizens as well as for asylum seekers, with certain groups like LGBTQ+ people particularly vulnerable. The number of homicides in Mexico increased by 27 percent between 2016 and 2017. A recent IRC assessment found a significant number of people along the border—about 20 percent of those surveyed—citing safety concerns and the need for protection from gangs and violence.
The National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants Act, also known as the NO BAN Act, was introduced by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. It bars discrimination in the admission of immigrants to the U.S., overturning the administration’s travel, refugee, and asylum bans. It also addresses issues in existing law to prevent such discriminatory bans from being introduced in the future.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the country of origin of most individuals who received asylum in fiscal year 2017 (the most recent for which complete data is available) was China, followed closely by El Salvador and Guatemala. Around the world, the largest number of new asylum applications came from Venezuelans who are fleeing insecurity, instability and violence in their country.
People arriving at the U.S. border have the right to request asylum—without being criminalized, forcibly returned to dangerous conditions, or separated from their children. Here are six ways you can fight for America's long tradition of welcome and help asylum seekers.
How the IRC helps
In the U.S., the IRC helps meet asylum seekers’ basic needs, facilitates family reunifications, and connects people to critical health, mental health, and legal services. We also provide emergency assistance to help those in El Salvador who are most at risk to find shelter and safety, as well as cash assistance to help people rebuild their lives. Learn more.