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Some 'caravan migrants' can apply for asylum, others are charged

Approximately 200 people in the so-called "migrant caravan" reached the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego last weekend. At first, federal authorities said that there was no room to house the asylum seekers, most of whom are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, during processing. Now, small groups are being admitted for processing. However, at least 11 were arrested and will be charged with illegal entry.

On Monday evening, eight immigrants were allowed through the gate at the border crossing. They included three women, four children and an 18-year-old. A larger group has been allowed to camp on a pedestrian bridge leading to the crossing.

According to reports, a second group was allowed to enter the U.S. on Tuesday morning, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not issued a count of how many asylum seekers have been allowed in. Activists have been calling Customs and Border Protection in an apparent effort to advocate for the asylum seekers to be allowed to make their cases.

In a more troubling turn of events, however, 11 people that may have been with the caravan were arrested in the area and will be charged with illegal entry into the U.S. They were arrested in separate locations within about five miles of the San Ysidro port of entry, many in an area called "Goat Canyon." Federal prosecutors did not confirm these were members of the caravan.

Since it is entirely legal to seek asylum at any U.S. port of entry, these 11 people presumably managed to enter at some unofficial point.

Many members of the group have disturbing stories to relate of how they survived violence in their home countries. NPR reports that the journey from Central America has taken many of the migrants a month or more and has involved travel by foot, freight train and bus.

Fleeing general violence, however, does not necessarily qualify immigrants for asylum. In order to qualify for asylum in the U.S., the applicant must have experienced persecution, or fear they will experience persecution, based on:

  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Political opinion
  • Membership in a particular social group

Children of asylum seekers can be included in their applications, as long as the children are under 21 and unmarried.

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