The History and Evolution of U.S. Asylum Decisions

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Border Patrol agents apprehend a group of migrants near downtown El Paso, Texas following the congressional border delegation visit on March 15, 2021. (JUSTIN HAMEL/AFP via Getty Images)

Images of border patrol agents on horses forcibly beating back Haitian asylum seekers at the Mexican border have been igniting outrage. It’s just the latest refugee crisis that critics say the U.S. has handled poorly. This week on Forum we’ll talk with members of the Bay Area’s Haitian, Afghan and Central American communities to discuss conditions in their countries and the struggle to gain refugee status. First, to launch the series, we look at the origins of international asylum policy, which was established after the US rejected Jews fleeing the Holocaust. We’ll discuss how the U.S asylum rules have morphed over the decades and how we’ve made decisions about who should be let in and why.


Karen Musalo, professor of law, UC Hastings; director, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies