What You Need to Know: The Crisis at the Border

For the past few weeks, talk of the migrant caravan has been all over the news. Thousands of people began their journey from Honduras all the way to the US-Mexico border in Tijuana. Their journey did not end in what they are seeking: asylum or refuge. Instead, it ended in tear gas and violence.

On November 25, the migrants participated in a peaceful protest about the long wait times for asylum-seekers in the US. According to PBS, the situation escalated when the protesters clashed with the Mexican police and people began trying to cross the border in different locations. This is when US agents started firing tear gas, creating the incident.

Many wonder why these people are trying to cross the border, instead of seeking immigration in a more “legal” way. This is because most of the central americans attempting to come to the US are seeking asylum, a perfectly legal way to gain protection within the US. People can qualify for asylum if they are trying to escape persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group and political opinion. Most of these central american natives are migrating in attempt to escape rampant violence. Since violence is not technically among the qualifications for asylum, these refugees are left with no options.

Related: What You Need to Know About Immigration

In early November, Trump signed a 90-day asylum ban at the border. According to Vox News, “People who cross the US/Mexico border without papers will not be eligible for asylum unless they wait at ports of entry — official border crossings. A presidential order signed by Trump Friday morning made the new policy official.” This directly contradicts the current policy, which states that anyone can seek asylum, papers or not. However, the ACLU has blocked this ban for at least 30 days.

Migrants cover their faces, as they run from tear gas, thrown by the U.S border patrol near the fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by Hannah McKay/ReutersVia PBS.org

Even if these refugees are able to apply for asylum, the application process is incredibly slow, leaving these people with nowhere to go until a decision has been made on their application. The migrants from the caravan are left with no other choice, they either cross the US border or be forced back to the country they are trying to flee from.

With all of this being said, what happened Sunday at the border was horrific. Under no circumstances is using tear gas on asylum-seeking migrants ever justified. If the US is not careful, they may be doomed to repeat a similar mistake as when they denied 900 Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939, a quarter of them dying in concentration camps shortly after.