What you need to know about Trump’s asylum ban

kathryn caravan photoThe 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.

Read more here. How to talk about the migrant caravan

MU Iowa women with signsThe president continually portrays migrants and migration – including the families traveling here as part of the migrant caravan – as a threat to the United States. Reporters, analysts, and even advocates may be unwittingly reinforcing this framing – and undermining humane treatment for all people. Here’s how you should talk about the migrant caravan to avoid reinforcing this harmful framing:

1.  Migrants are people who move – and they have human rights.

Always use inclusive language that doesn’t “other” migrants and that emphasizes our shared humanity and rights. Most of us move from where we were born; movement is a common part of the human experience.

2. Avoid water metaphors – people do not constitute a flood, flow, or wave.

The media commonly uses water metaphors to describe migrants and migrations, but this language is corrosive. Floods and tidal waves are mortal dangers – hard to contain – and using these terms to describe migrants helps reinforce the migration threat narrative. Migrants are people seeking a better life for themselves and their families – not flows of water.


Washington Post: Like Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan tried to keep out asylum seekers. Activists thwarted him.


The Trump administration is working to make it impossible for people fleeing violence in Central America to gain asylum in the United States. If it succeeds, the family separations and family detentions we have already seen are only the beginning of the suffering, and even death, that will result from these brutal changes to U.S. immigration policy.

That the United States should be a haven for the persecuted is an old idea, one that has been made concrete through international agreements and domestic laws governing refugees since the end of World War II. Yet the country has not always lived up to these ideals, and ensuring that immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers are treated fairly and humanely has often been left to activists and other people of conscience. Indeed, when President Ronald Reagan attempted to deny asylum seekers in the 1980s, a movement formed to stop him, creating a model for activists today.

Read more at the Washington Post.