Sunday, February 23, 2014

Syrian Asylum Seekers are entering the U.s. Illegally via the Mexican Border

In 2012, after being imprisoned and beaten, a Syrian dissident named Mohammad fled to neighboring Lebanon, where he applied for and was denied a U.S. tourist visa. Intent on rebuilding his life with family in California, he flew to Mexico City and then Tijuana. There, he crossed the U.S. border illegally and handed himself over to a customs official, seeking asylum. 
Last month, the U.S. granted him that status. In a year, he will be eligible to apply for permanent U.S. residency.
With the three-year-old Syrian conflict raging on, and U.S. embassies in the Middle East increasingly denying tourist visas, more Syrians are arriving in Mexico on tourist visas and using the country as a gateway to possible U.S. asylum. A Mexican embassy spokesman "had no comment on this matter." 
Some say the phenomenon underscores the need for a more coordinated international response to the Syrian crisis, while others worry it may offer too easy a path to U.S. residence for potential terrorists, given al Qaeda's rising presence in Syria.
The Department of Homeland Security in fiscal 2013 recorded 118 Syrian "credible-fear" referrals such as Mohammad's, up from five in fiscal 2010. In these cases, migrants declare fear of harm if returned to their home country and may stay in the U.S. while pursuing asylum. 
After being detained, those who pass a credible-fear interview are released to relatives and face possible deportation. The U.S., though, allows the vast majority to remain here.
San Diego immigration attorney Alan Anzarouth says that
 'you will see even more Syrians crossing into the 
United States from Mexico' this year.
In fiscal 2013, the U.S. approved 94% of Syrians' credible-fear requests; it approved every case in the first quarter of fiscal 2014. Overall in fiscal 2013, 36,026 individuals from many nations sought credible-fear status, according to DHS, with 84% of those requests granted. 
While the number of Syrians detained at the Mexican border is tiny compared with that of Central Americans, it dwarfs arrivals from other Middle Eastern countries, such as Iraq. Immigration attorneys and refugee experts said they expect a bigger surge this year as the Syrian civil war grinds on.
Read the full story HERE.

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