PORTLAND, Ore. (CIRCA via KATU) — Karla Juarez fears for asylum seekers in the “migrant caravan” heading north from Central America.
She is reminded of her mother, Otillia Marroquien, who fled violence and corruption in Guatemala to request asylum in California decades ago. Marroquien later moved to Florida, where she had Juarez. Juarez says her mother was always careful to follow the laws.
After Marroquien was deported in 2006, she was murdered in the country she had fled.
“She paid her taxes for years and that wasn’t good enough,” Juarez told Circa affiliate KATU. “She raised her children, and she never was the one to seek public benefits because she didn’t want to jeopardize her status in any way.”
Juarez fears that this is what awaits thousands of current asylum seekers if they are turned away.
“It breaks my heart,” said Juarez, “because I know it’s a death sentence.”
The Trump administration has tightened asylum seeker eligibility requirements, making it more difficult for many fleeing persecution to qualify for asylum. This summer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions slashed domestic abuse and gang violence from the list of dangers that would qualify as “credible fear” for asylum seekers.
Even those who are deemed to have “credible fear” under its new definition will still have to wait until their cases can be reviewed. With a substantial backlog of pending asylum cases, it's unlikely to be a speedy process for new asylum seekers.
“I would be surprised if they waited anything less than six months in detention,” said immigration attorney Kim Le. “People who are coming to the U.S. understand that they’re either coming to the U.S. and seeking protection from us, or they’re staying home with the very real possibility that their lives will be in danger.”
For the many asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle — Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — these dangers are worth the trek north to face uncertain asylum proceedings in the U.S. and Mexico. Poverty, violence, extortion, and the risk of forced gang recruitment are all cited by migrants fleeing these countries, yet few U.S. asylum cases ever lead to successful settlement.
It’s a disappointing conclusion for many after an arduous journey. And with denial rates for asylum-seekers at a 12-year high, the outlook for new asylum seekers remains bleak.