A spokesman for Guatemala's official immigration agency told CNN that a caravan of up to 8,000 U.S.-bound migrants entered Guatemala from Honduras. According to CNN’s report, they are fleeing a life of poverty and violence.

Thousands were turned back — but will the migrants who succeed in completing their journey be eligible for asylum in the United States?
Not the ones who are just fleeing poverty.

Violence is a possibility, but claims based on violence have to meet technical requirements that are difficult to understand — and they place time demands on an immigration court that is struggling with a backlog crisis.

Applicants have to establish that they are “refugees” as that term is defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This requires a showing that they are unable or unwilling to return to their own countries because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

This definition severely limits asylum eligibility, particularly when the alleged persecutor is not the government, which is the case with gang violence, domestic violence, and most crime-based claims.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained the requirements for such persecution claims in his decision for "Matter of A-B-," but people who support asylum seekers rejected his explanations with hostile comments about his intentions.

Bea Bischoff, a civil rights and immigration attorney, wrote in Slate that Sessions was using his authority to certify cases to himself for review to shut off asylum eligibility for vulnerable women.

Michelle Lapointe, at the time an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center and now at the National Immigration Law Center, called it a “cruel and heartless decision” that will “condemn tens of thousands of men, women and children to death.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) characterized the decision as “heartless and inhumane.”

Their hostility towards Sessions may have been misplaced. Rightly or wrongly, the explanations in “Matter of A-B-” were based on judicial decisions that have interpreted such persecution claims. And he probably had little, if anything, to do with writing the decision.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel drafts the AG’s legal opinions in addition to reviewing all of the orders and regulations that require his approval.

Read more at https://thehill.com/opinion/immigrat...our-asylum-law

Published originally on The Hill.