There has been much talk in the press recently about the “Migrant Caravan” that is traveling thousands of miles through Mexico towards the U.S. border. People who make up the caravan mostly come from Central America. Faced with gang violence, poverty and a lack of educational opportunities back home, caravan members left their home countries and decided to risk the long journey on foot, freight train or bus through Mexico in the hope of making a better life in the U.S.
These caravans have taken place annually for at least a decade and are organized by humanitarian nonprofit organizations such as Pueblos Sin Fronteras to draw attention to the dire situation that many of these migrants face in their home countries and the perilous journey that they take upon themselves in a desperate attempt to make a better life for themselves and their families. Traveling in a cohort also provides safety from violence along the way.
Once the migrants reach the point of entry at the U.S. border, this year San Ysidro near San Diego, the migrants often have to wait for days until they will be admitted into the immigration checkpoint area for processing. Sometimes parents are separated from their children and the children are placed with Health and Human Services. If the asylum seeker passes the initial interview, they may be detained for a time or be released into the U.S. with ankle monitors, and get a court date at an immigration court.
Based on the 1951 Refugee Convention, the U.S. is legally obligated to examine a refugee’s asylum claim. Asylum seekers need to present themselves at a point of entry and demonstrate to the U.S. immigration officer that they have a “credible fear” of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Most petitions by Central Americans will not be successful, as gang violence does not qualify as an acceptable reason for “well-founded fear of persecution”.