We live in an interconnected world that is becoming more connected every day.
It is far easier for people in poorer countries to communicate and coordinate with their friends and relatives in richer countries now than it ever has been.
If you are a poor farmer in Guatemala or an urban laborer who can’t find a job in Honduras, odds are you know a friend or a relative in the United States who is telling you by phone or text just how much better economic conditions are here in the United States.
This is why wave after wave of migrants from Central American countries are trying to enter our country through the southern border: they believe their lives will be better if they can just get into our country and join their friends and family that are already thriving here.
And they are probably right. Their lives would be better if they made it into the United States.
Unfortunately, we cannot just let in every person in the world who believes their life would be better if they were in the United States. According to Gallup more than 150 million adults worldwide would leave their current country and move to the United States if they could.
Not only does our country not have the infrastructure to accommodate 150 million more people overnight, our country is already more divided than it has been in recent memory and the vast majority of American people either want less immigration (29%) or about the same (44%). Only a small minority, just 24% of Americans, wants more immigration.
Of course, the United States should continue to take in refugees and those seeking asylum. But wanting a job and better economic opportunities is not a legal basis for an asylum claim. To secure asylum, a migrant must prove that, if returned to their home country, they would be persecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, political affiliation, or social group.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, less than 10% of the Central American migrants who come to the United States with caravans meet this standard and are eventually awarded asylum status.
But over 80% of Central American migrants who reach our border with Mexico do meet the much lower “credible fear” standard administered by the Border Patrol, who then releases them into the country. The vast majority of migrants released into the United States in this manner either fail to ever officially apply for asylum, or stop showing up to court when it becomes evident they will ultimately lose their asylum claim.
This is unacceptable. When a large group of people disregard the law of the country they are entering there’s a well-founded fear they will disregard our other laws as well.
What the United States needs to help address the problem is a safe third country agreement with Mexico similar to the existing safe third country agreement the United States already has with Canada. Under a safe third country agreement, migrants seeking asylum must make their claim in the first country of arrival, not whatever country they want to move to the most.
Alternatively, President Trump has been working on an agreement with the Mexican government that would allow Central Americans to apply for asylum in the United States, but instead of being released into our country while their claim was adjudicated, they would stay in Mexico until a final judgement was rendered.
If we can implement either of these policies and thus end the current catch and release status quo, fewer migrants will make the dangerous trip north to the United States and our national sovereignty will be much stronger.