There is much confusion about what is happening at the United States Border and ports of entry. The media coverage of current events makes it difficult to know what is true and what may only be half-truths. Some media outlets and organizations report that asylum seekers are being turned away illegally at the border; while others state that they are simply being asked to return at later times due to large amounts of people trying to get through.

There are 48 Mexico to U.S. Border Crossings and 330 ports of entry along the southern border. Asylum seekers can approach these crossings to ask for safe harbor or asylum.

It is difficult to know what do if you are trying to enter the United States and are unsure about what will happen once you reach a port of call. The United States Customs Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security have claimed they have not illegally turned away asylum seekers at the border. Other immigration organizations say that this is indeed happening.

The United States Customs Immigration Service

According to the USCIS, individuals who wish to get asylum in America will be asked to prove persecution or fear of persecution in relations to race, religion, nationality, political or social structures.

Once interviewed by US Customs officials, you will either be approved or denied for asylum eligibility. If you are approved, you will be allowed to stay in the U.S. and asked to fill out official paperwork such as an I-589 within one year of your arrival into the United States. There is no fee to apply for asylum.

Families traveling with you may be included in your application including spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21.

The Department of Homeland Security

The DHS states they are not shutting down any borders, nor are they turning away asylum seekers at ports of call. What has changed about entering the U.S. is DHS is requesting that some type of “proof” needs to be presented beyond a “claim” of persecution. Anyone can ask for asylum, but they will need to go through the USCIS “Credible Fear” process with proof or some other evidence.

DHS says that a reevaluation in the former system of catch and release has been necessary due to an influx of individuals who have embarked on the border. Further, studies revealed to DHS that immigrants were claiming asylum knowing they could get work permits and be released in the U.S. until their hearings. The study showed that many of these individuals, (90% at certain crossings) did not appear at their hearings.

American Immigration Council

The AIC discusses the two different types of asylum claims that can be made at the time of an asylum interview. For those traveling to the southern border, they will likely claim “defensive” asylum. The other process is called “affirmative” asylum, and we discuss both options below.

  • Affirmative Asylum – When an individual presents themselves in person and is “not in removal” status can apply for affirmative asylum. If the application is denied, the individual will be referred to an immigration court for removal. At that point, the individual seeking asylum can renew their request through the defensive process discussed below.
  • Defensive Asylum – A defensive filing includes those seeking asylum who are “in the removal” process and can file an application with an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review. The individual applying is seeking defense for not being removed from the U.S. Asylum seekers are not granted legal representation, and you should seek legal counsel if you are in this situation.

If you plan to seek asylum at the border or a port of entry, or you have been granted asylum and need legal support, Landerholm Immigration is ready to help you with your case. Please contact us online or call us at (510) 488-1020.