Applying for Asylum

By Reuben Seguritan


A large group of people from Central America are trying to cross the border to the United States. They have been dubbed as the “migrant caravan”. President Trump issued a proclamation on November 9, 2018 stating that anyone who crossed the southern border illegally would not be eligible to apply for asylum. President Trump added that his proclamation was necessary to national security. He also spoke to the Mexican government about not allowing the immigration caravan to cross Mexico and then the US.


A lot of immigration advocates immediately condemned this proclamation by the President. They said that the President cannot override our immigration laws. In response, the Homeland Security and Justice Department stated that the asylum system is broken and it is being abused by thousands of meritless claims every year.


A Federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration from implementing its asylum ban. The Judge stated that the US immigration law allows anyone to seek for asylum even if they enter the US illegally and whether or not they enter at a designated port of arrival. The members of the immigrant caravan are seeking asylum in the US on the grounds of persecution and fear for their lives in their home countries; fleeing their war-torn countries; running away from rampant drug wars; famine; and unemployment.  US Customs and Border Protection said that it has closed off the San Ysidro port of entry. It has also installed movable, wire-topped barriers, apparently to stop a potential mass rush of people. Asylum seekers and the other people have been forced to wait in shelters or outdoor camps on the Mexican side. Advocates for the asylum seekers said that they are all in real danger. They must not be held in tent camps indefinitely and prevented from seeking asylum in the US.


The US immigration laws provide for the grounds and procedure for seeking asylum. Anybody fleeing his country may seek asylum in the US if they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. The applicant may include his spouse and children who are in the US in the same application or anytime thereafter but before a final decision is made on the asylum application. Only unmarried children under 21 years old may be included in the application of the principal asylum seeker. When the asylum application is granted, the applicant and his immediate relatives included in the application will be allowed to remain in the US.


Persecution because of one’s sexual orientation is a ground for seeking asylum. In some countries, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are subjected to ridicule and harassment.


In one case, a gay Filipino professor was granted asylum after he revealed that he was sexually assaulted when he was 9, 11 and 16 years old by other boys. He feared for his life and safety if he was to be deported to the Philippines because of his sexuality and the rampant violence and cruelty towards gays in the Philippines. He said that he did not reveal the sexual assaults to his family or report them to the police in the Philippines because of fear that he might be subjected to more abuse and harassment.


In another case, the asylum seeker was a Filipino lawful permanent resident (LPR) who had a past drug conviction and was ordered deported by an immigration court was granted temporary asylum by a federal judge. He appealed the decision based on the convention against torture, an international human rights treaty protecting against inhumane punishment. He explained that Philippine President Duterte’s “brutal anti-drug campaign” meant that because of his past drug conviction, he would be killed the second he is deported to the Philippines. He cited the reports of human rights groups and journalists on the “mass carnage” happening in the Philippines as unarmed citizens were gunned down on the streets and in their homes because of being suspected as drug users or sellers.