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Immigration system strained by asylum-seekers

The scene is familiar: Texas immigration officers watch from afar as people-smuggling operations bring dozens of illegal immigrants into the southern state. What is not so familiar, though, is the actions that occur after the travelers are across the border. Instead of scattering, they surrender. This is a growing concern for immigration authorities, as more immigrants are seeking asylum through the courts under U.S. immigration law instead of simply sneaking into the country. Now, more legal resources are needed to manage the influx of new asylum-seekers.

The profile of a typical immigrant also seems to be changing, according to border patrol experts. Instead of the historically prevalent Mexican laborer population, more Central Americans from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are fleeing their far-away homes to receive asylum in the United States. In many cases, gang violence and other organized crime have driven these victims to seek refuge in America. Although this sounds like a positive change, it is turning into a roadblock for the legal system, as rising numbers of asylum seekers necessitate additional courtroom proceedings.

Additional complications are occurring with immigrants from noncontiguous countries. Agencies can swiftly return immigrants to Mexico, but families from other, more distant nations have additional needs. Luckily, changes to the immigration processing system have allowed many of the asylum-seekers to avoid detention altogether. Immigration attorneys are assisting with the release of scores of asylum-seekers who would otherwise be detained until their legal proceedings could commence.

The flow of immigrants into America is changing in composition, and Texas attorneys must be ready to handle these new challenges. Immigrants from far-away countries may face special legal concerns. Immigrants who are seeking asylum in the U.S. do not have to go through the process alone, and they do not have to languish in detention until their application is reviewed. These immigrants have many other options to help improve their quality of life while they wait for government approval.

Source: The New York Times, "Hoping for Asylum, Migrants Strain U.S. Border" Julia Preston, Apr. 10, 2014

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