The Trump administration has announced sweeping changes to the asylum system, blocking people who enter the U.S. between ports of entry from seeking asylum. AFSC has spoken out against the government’s cruel attempt to limit the ability of individuals taking refuge in our country to seek asylum.
Here is what you need to know:
What is asylum?
Seeking asylum is a life-saving legal right under international and U.S. law. A person already in the country or arriving at a port of entry can seek this humanitarian protection in the United States if they have suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution at home on the basis of one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, and political opinion.
The difference between refugees and asylum seekers is that refugees apply for status from outside the United States (or another country) whereas asylum seekers are already in the United States or arriving at its borders when they apply.
The United States has a mixed record when it comes to resettling people fleeing persecution – famously it turned away a ship of mostly Jewish refugees seeking protection from the Nazis in 1939.
But since adopting the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States has been obligated to welcome refugees, bringing the country in line with international standards, specifically the 1951 U.N. Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which the United States ratified in 1968. The 1980 Act also created a statutory right to seek asylum. Since the 1980s activists and advocates have pushed to make the right to seek asylum more robust in the United States.