They’ve waited for months or even years in Mexico. Now some people seeking asylum in the United States will be allowed into the country as they wait for their cases to be heard. Edwin Gomez hopes to be one of them. He says his wife and 14-year-old son were killed by gangs in El Salvador after he couldn’t pay extortion fees. He is eager to join his 15-year-old daughter in Austin, Texas. She already won asylum and is living with family.
The change occurred in February. It reverses one of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. It also returns the U.S. asylum system to the way it worked for decades.
These people come seeking a protected legal status. But before it is granted, they must present their cases. A U.S. court determines if the applicants are fleeing their home countries for legitimate reasons: Dire violence and persecution are two possible conditions that might result in asylum.
Previously, asylum seekers were allowed to wait in the United States while their cases proceeded. But former President Trump created the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also called the “Remain in Mexico” policy. Asylum seekers coming to the U.S. southern border had to stay in Mexico after applying. The policy was meant to discourage people who didn’t really need asylum. But the program also kept needy and displaced people in dangerous border cities.
The Biden administration says that asylum seekers will be allowed into the United States with notices to appear in immigration courts.
It will take time to work through more than 25,000 active Remain in Mexico cases. U.S. officials are warning people not to come to the U.S.-Mexico border. They say people with active cases and those who are appealing court decisions should register online. Migrants are tested for COVID-19 before entering the United States.
It’s not surprising that people living in impoverished and crime-ridden nations would long to move themselves and their families to safer territory. But immigrating to the United States is no easy feat.
It can take many years and thousands of dollars to complete the process. Most people agree that the immigration system is broken. But they disagree about how to fix it. Some, including President Biden, think this policy reversal is a way to help the people in the most urgent need. Others think it will cause more problems. The Bible talks about helping foreigners. Leviticus 19:33-34 is one example. People might differ on “How?” But even as we wrestle with that question, God calls us to be compassionate toward people forced to flee their homes.