This summer, the Trump administration ended its “zero tolerance” policy that separated children from their asylum-seeking parents at the southern border. This policy and the plight of hundreds of children still separated from their families, inspired many Americans to look closely at why so many asylum seekers from Central America are being detained.
The Above the Noise video gives an overview of the asylum process today, and how it got started after World War II. With the horrors of the Holocaust still fresh, world leaders wanted to protect people in the event they had to flee their own countries. The 1951 U.N. treaty specifically protects refugees with a credible fear of persecution or torture by their own governments based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group. In the United States, this means anyone with a credible fear can’t be immediately deported. If they arrive seeking asylum and prove they have a credible fear during a border screening, their case must be decided in an immigration court. This put asylum seekers in a different category than those crossing the border in search of work or a better life. Undocumented economic migrants can be immediately deported without a hearing.
Today, gang violence rather than government persecution is driving many people out of the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. But the two gangs threatening poor communities in those countries got their start in American cities like Los Angeles back in the 1980s. This year, the Trump administration told immigration courts to deny asylum claims of people escaping gangs. Gangs, some lawmakers argue, aren’t governments, so people escaping gang persecution can’t qualify for asylum. But asylum seekers say their own governments aren’t doing anything to stop gang-related murder, sexual assault and extortion--and they fear they and their families will be the next victims.