With the rise in gang violence in Central America, many fleeing the gangs are applying for political asylum here in the United States. In the last five years, “credible fear” applications at the border have increased from just under 5,000 to more than 36,000 from countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Worsening drug and gang violence are driving people to the United States as they become aware of the immigration laws of our country and the possibility of applying for political asylum.
Most people file “affirmative asylum” applications meaning they are here in the United States having entered either legally or illegally and file the appropriate forms to start their asylum request. Even though the number of asylum applications have increased dramatically, the number of approved asylum cases has only increased slightly. Still, filing for political asylum buys time for the asylum applicant going through a process that can sometimes take years. In the meantime, they can legally work and drive in this country.
The difficulty for the Central American asylum seekers is that, according to immigration law, if the oppressor is a non-governmental actor, such as a gang, he or she is required to prove that the government failed to offer protection.