Immigration attorneys have been pushing to expand the definition (and application) of asylum in order to create an asylum policy that welcomes many and denies entry to very few. For at least the past three decades, a number of activist-minded attorney groups have pushed for this expansion, even though it has meant advancing analysis that contradicts the original intent and traditional interpretation of the law.
The latest effort to expand asylum involves 30 Mexican nationals who entered the U.S. illegally and are seeking asylum from the ongoing drug cartel violence in their home country. I appeared on Fox News to debate the potential fallout with an immigration attorney.
In general, a person can seek asylum if he is facing persecution from his government or an entity operating on behalf of the government. This first requirement will not be met, however, because the Mexican government is not persecuting these individuals, and the drug cartels are not operating with the Mexican government's consent. The asylum claim should fail on this ground without the need for any further inquiry.
If the 30 illegal immigrants somehow convince immigration officials that they do meet the first requirement, they still must prove that they face persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Although some of these categories are not clearly defined, and although immigration attorneys have become very creative in interpreting them as broadly as possible, it is unlikely that the 30 illegal aliens will be able to fit into any of these categories.
In the unlikely event that the illegal aliens meet the first two requirements, they will very likely fail in meeting the third requirement: Asylum is generally not granted if the individual can relocate within his home country in order to avoid the violence. The drug cartel violence that is the basis of the aliens' claim is not taking place throughout Mexico, and a court should find that they can simply relocate.
Despite the efforts of immigration attorneys, it should be obvious to any Immigration Judge that our nation's asylum laws are not applicable to the situation at hand. Nevertheless, if they are successful it would represent a massive expansion of asylum law and it would undoubtedly result in increased asylum claims by Mexicans living illegally in the United States. It would also encourage more Mexicans to cross the border illegally.
Giving shelter to those fleeing persecution abroad has always been part of America's welcoming immigration policy. Americans generally want to help people facing persecution overseas to the extent that they can, and our asylum system has been crafted to reflect this reality. But if Americans detect an effort to exploit their generosity, it may sour the nation's opinion of immigration generally. It is not in the interest of immigration attorneys, nor their clients, to allow this to happen.