Can You Cross The Border Illegally And Seek Asylum?

Cross The Border Illegally And Seek Asylum

In recent years, the world has witnessed a surge in humanitarian crises, driving families and individuals to seek asylum in the United States. 


Regions marred by violence and persecution, including Latin America, the Caribbean, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa, have propelled a significant number of people to flee their homes in search of safety and protection. 


This article aims to address a critical question amidst these turbulent times: Can individuals cross the border illegally and seek asylum in the United States?



What is Asylum? The Basics


Asylum serves as a fundamental protection mechanism for individuals fleeing persecution in their home countries. It offers sanctuary to those who face threats to their lives or freedom based on factors such as race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

What is the Definition of Asylum?


An asylum seekers definition can be defined as the protection granted by a nation to individuals who have fled their home country as refugees. It is a legal status that allows them to reside in the host country and prevents their forced return to the perilous conditions they escaped.

How is Asylum Governed in a Global Framework?


It is governed by international law, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. These treaties establish the rights of refugees and the obligations of states to protect them, ensuring that seekers are treated with dignity and afforded due process.


The core principle of the initial convention asserts that “a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom”. Included in the convention were also the minimum rights refugees should be granted including housing, work, and education.

Who Are Asylum Seekers?


Understanding the distinction between an asylum seeker and an asylee is crucial when looking at how to apply for asylum. These terms matter in how they are referenced by the USCIS and other government agencies in application forms, etc.

Asylum Seeker vs Asylee


Those seeking refuge embark on the asylum process to escape persecution and secure safety in a new country. They may initiate their asylum claims upon arrival at the border or while residing in the host country, depending on their circumstances and the legal framework in place.


In contrast, an asylee is someone who has had a successful asylum application. They cannot be deported providing they adhere to the terms of their status, and eventually (after 1 year), can apply for a Green Card (Legal Permanent Residency).


So, to reiterate:


  • Asylum Seeker: Someone who has entered the U.S. and is starting their application for asylum.
  • Asylee: Someone who has had their application approved.

When Can Asylum Seekers Start the Process?


They can initiate the process as soon as they reach a host country’s border or territory. However, the specific procedures and requirements vary depending on the country’s laws and policies governing applications.


When looking at how to apply for asylum in USA, you MUST be physically in the States or at a port of entry to start the process.



Is it Legal to Seek Asylum at the U.S. Border?

Asylum Attoreny

So, you now have a clear understanding of the terms and process, but what about the legality? Can you cross the border illegally and seek asylum, and what are the challenges you may face?

Legality of Seeking Asylum


Contrary to common misconceptions, seeking asylum at the U.S. border is legal under both domestic and international law. The U.S. government recognizes the right of individuals to seek asylum regardless of how they enter the country, whether through official ports of entry or between them.


So, whether you enter the U.S. illegally (not at a sanctioned border control), or legally at a port of entry, you can still apply. The USCIS specifically states that you can, providing you adhere to one or both of these conditions:


  • You aren’t in any removal proceedings
  • You follow the correct process and file within 1 year of entering the U.S.

What Challenges You Can Expect to Face


Despite the legality of seeking refuge, seekers often encounter numerous challenges and barriers along their journey. These may include bureaucratic hurdles, language barriers, limited access to legal representation, and the threat of detention or deportation.

Policies Affecting Asylum Seekers


In recent years, the United States has implemented various policies impacting seekers’ ability to find protection and access due process. This is why it’s important to keep up to date with new rules for asylum seekers in USA 2024 and obtain help from the best asylum lawyer in California.


An asylum immigration attorney will also make sure you stay up to date with any relevant changes, such as prison and asylum reform and new federal policies that could affect your chances of success or how you are treated on entering the U.S.

Migrant Protection Protocols


The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, require certain asylum seekers to await their immigration court hearings in Mexico rather than being allowed to remain in the United States.


This protocol mainly targets those who try to enter the U.S. illegally or without documentation. The proceedings continue, but the Mexican government then becomes responsible for providing the seekers with their humanitarian protections.

Title 42


Title 42, enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allows for the expulsion of individuals, including asylum seekers, at the border without due process or access to proceedings. This was targeted at people attempting to enter the U.S. from countries where a “communicable disease” such as COVID-19 was present.


However, as of March 2023, Title 42 was lifted as the government removed the country’s status of being in a national emergency. It’s important to be aware of such an expulsion act though as it could be reinstated in the future in similar situations.

Biden’s “Asylum Ban”


The Biden administration’s “Asylum Ban” temporarily bars individuals from seeking sanctuary in the United States if they have passed through another country en route to the U.S. southern border. So for example, if you entered Mexico from a South American country you would be banned from applying for asylum.


However, caveats apply. For example, if you have applied and been denied refuge elsewhere, you can still follow this route to the southern border. 


Also, you can still gain entry and start your application if you make an appointment at a U.S. port of entry using the CBP One app. A political asylum California attorney could assist navigate the complexities of this ban and help you find a legal route to still pursue your American dream.

What is the Impact of Restrictive Policies?


Restrictive asylum policies have profound humanitarian implications, exacerbating the challenges faced by refugees and placing them at increased risk of harm. It’s important to have a background understanding of this so you know what to expect and what potential atmosphere you are entering.

Humanitarian Risks


Policies that limit access to refuge force individuals to undertake perilous journeys and expose them to exploitation, violence, and human rights abuses. 


For example, asylum in Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico and some South American countries has resulted in many making dangerous trips across the southern U.S. border or seeking out smugglers to try and gain entry.

Long-Term Effects


The long-term effects of restrictive refuge policies extend beyond immediate concerns, perpetuating cycles of insecurity and instability for vulnerable populations. A negative perception can also develop about those seeking refugee because of how some people choose to lash out and act in the wrong way because of the pressures they face.

How Are Asylum Seekers’ Needs Addressed?


Efforts to address the needs of asylum seekers require a coordinated approach involving governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international agencies.

Role of the IRC (International Rescue Committee)


The International Rescue Committee (IRC) plays a critical role in providing essential support and services to asylum seekers, including legal assistance, healthcare, and psychosocial support.

U.S. Presidential Responsibilities


The U.S. government has a responsibility to uphold its commitments under international law and ensure that asylum seekers are treated fairly and provided with access to due process.

Challenges Asylum Seekers Face


Asylum seekers face numerous challenges, including navigating complex legal systems, accessing essential services, and rebuilding their lives in a new country.

Attorney Asylum

How Our Law Firm Can Help Asylum Seekers


At Santoskhourny we have years of experience in the field of U.S. immigration and we have helped countless refugees find sanctuary in the country. To give you an idea of how we can help, we have listed some of our main services below.

We Provide Expert Legal Advice


Our law firm offers expert legal advice, guiding you through the asylum process and advocating for your rights. We understand the nuances of U.S. immigration and what it takes to make a successful application, and we want you to have that same knowledge.

We Represent You in Court and at Hearings


We represent you in immigration court proceedings and hearings, ensuring that your voice is heard and your case is effectively presented. Before any interviews and court hearings, we also provide coaching and help you prepare, including advice on potential questions and how to conduct yourself.

We Help You Prepare Your Applications


We assist you in preparing your application, gathering evidence, and compiling supporting documentation to strengthen your claims. For example, we can help you complete Form I-589, including your personal declaration.

We Manage Your Case From Start to Finish


Our dedicated team manages cases from start to finish, providing ongoing support and guidance to you throughout the process. Essentially, you can benefit from our services when applying as long as you want – we are there with you to the finish line.

We Advocate for Your Rights


We are committed to advocating for your rights and challenging unjust policies undermining your access to protection and due process. This is something we continually do as we believe refugees should be treated fairly and should be granted an opportunity to escape persecution and dangerous conditions.



How Does the IRC Help Asylum Seekers?


The International Rescue Committee is one of the best-known charitable organizations that fight for refugees’ rights and act as an asylum seeker resource center. The organization was founded in 1933 by Albert Einstein and has been helping those in crisis ever since.

Support Services


The IRC provides a range of support services to refuge seekers, including housing assistance, language classes, and job training programs.

Information Services


The IRC offers information services to help asylum seekers understand their rights, navigate the asylum process, and access essential resources.

Continued Support Expansion


The IRC continues to expand its support services and programs to meet the evolving needs of asylum seekers and ensure their successful integration into their new communities. For example, they have recently expanded their support to people experiencing humanitarian crises in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.



Understand the Legality of the Asylum Application Process


Navigating the process can be daunting, especially amidst evolving policies and challenges. However, it is crucial to recognize the legal right of individuals to seek asylum and the importance of upholding humanitarian principles in protecting those in need.


To answer the initial question of can you cross the border illegally and seek asylum? Yes, you can. Where possible, we advise entering the U.S. at an official port of entry though as this helps reduce potential complications and the chance of being placed in removal proceedings.


For more information on this subject, we advise researching the IRC further and the support they provide, or contact Santoskhourny to see how we can help.


What is the difference between refugee and asylum seeker?


In the asylum seeker vs refugee debacle, refugees are individuals who have been forced to flee their home countries due to persecution, conflict, or violence, while asylum seekers are individuals who have applied for asylum in another country but have not yet received a decision on their claims. When looking at refugee vs asylum seekers, refugees have their status pre-determined before they enter the U.S.

How long does the asylum process take?


The process of seeking asylum in the US varies depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, backlog in immigration courts, and changes in asylum policies. It can range from several months to several years. The USCIS is supposed to process applications within 180 days, but statistics show that the average is closer to 250+ days currently.

Can I work while my asylum application is pending?


In the United States, you are eligible to apply for employment authorization after waiting 150 days from the date your application was filed, provided that the application is still pending. This is known as an EAD (Employment Authorization Document).

Do I need a lawyer to apply for asylum?


While it is not mandatory to have legal representation when applying, having an asylum lawyer can significantly improve your chances of success. A knowledgeable asylum attorney can help navigate the complexities of the process and advocate for your rights. They can also provide services such as assistance with form completion, and representation during interviews and hearings.

What happens if my asylum claim is denied?


If your claim is denied, you may have the option to appeal the decision or pursue other forms of relief, such as withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture. It is essential to seek legal advice to explore your options from a qualified attorney asylum expert.

Can I bring my family to the U.S. if I am granted asylum?


If your application is approved in the United States, you may be eligible to petition for certain family members to join you through the family reunification process. However, eligibility criteria and application procedures vary, so it is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney.

What are my rights as an asylum seeker?


You have the right to apply for asylum and undergo a fair and impartial process. You are entitled to legal representation, protection from deportation while your application is pending, and access to essential services such as healthcare and education. Understanding your rights is crucial in navigating the process effectively.


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