It Is Not Illegal to Ask for Asylum

Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted that “Mexico, whose laws on immigration are very tough, must stop people from going through Mexico and into the U.S.” It is a notion held by many who are demanding stronger immigration restrictions. This argument misses the most fundamental part of following the law. The caravan that is traversing México right now is in full compliance of Mexican laws.

Before some of you are tempted to argue that Mexicans cannot be trusted to enforce the law, stop and consider that Trump, himself, stated on his tweet, that Mexican laws on immigration are “very tough.” Trump did not write that México was not enforcing its laws, but rather Trump demanded that México act on the behalf of the United States by stopping the caravan.

México has deported those in the caravan that were in violation of Mexican laws. It deported about 400 from the caravan back to their countries. It has also offered asylum in México to those that want it. Some have decided to stay in México. There are less than 500 that began to reach the U.S. border yesterday. Each of them has legally obtained 20-day permits issued by the Mexican government.

They are legally in México.

In other words, the migrants on the caravan have broken no laws in México. And, here is the thing, they have not broken any laws in the United States either because until they attempt to enter the United States then they are not in violation of U.S. laws.

However, here is what Trump and cohorts do not seem to understand, presenting oneself at the border to a United States immigration officer and requesting asylum is the LEGAL THING TO DO. Yes, I posted it in capital letters so that I’m crystal clear.

Under international agreements, which the United States has recognized for many years, it is legal to request asylum from a border agent. During the Cold War, asylum was routinely requested at United States borders. For many years, Cubans enjoyed the policy of the United States of allowing Cubans to illegally enter the country and benefit from a Green Card. East Germans broke laws running towards the West, and U.S. soldiers welcomed them with open arms.

Most important to the debate is that under United States law, anyone can approach a U.S. border agent and ask for asylum. THAT IS THE LAW. What is illegal is to enter the United States without presenting oneself for inspection, i.e. avoiding legal crossing points.

Most of those advocating for the border wall want immigrants to follow the law. Yet, when immigrants follow the law, the Trumpsters then demand that México break its laws to keep the migrants from reaching the U.S.-México border. What is worse is that the migrants are following the law by presenting themselves at the border and asking for asylum.

That is the law, so why is that so hard to understand?

Could it possibly be that the migrants are brown, and those running away from East Germany or the former Soviet Union were white?