David North recently wrote on the Center for Immigration Studies website that a surge in Mexican asylum seekers might overwhelm the immigration court system in the United States. In making his point, Mr. North referred to one of my blog entries:
At the moment the approval rate for Mexicans applying for asylum, despite the ferocious gang activity on the other side of the border, is only a little over 2 percent, but it is not the approval rate that worries but the application rate. Should that soar we would be in big trouble. And it might. Jason Dzubow, a skilled asylum lawyer here in Washington, has written in both the Asylumist and Immigration Daily that some Mexican asylum seekers and their advocates “have formed a coalition to support each other in their cases.”
First, I certainly appreciate being referred to as a “skilled asylum lawyer” (though perhaps I would prefer to be called a “good-looking asylum lawyer”).
Second, Mr. North raises an important issue. Thus far, the evidence for an increase in the number of Mexican asylum seekers is anecdotal. Statistical data for Mexican asylum seekers in immigration court is relatively flat: In FY 2010, there were 3,231 asylum seekers from Mexico; in FY 2009, 3,335; in FY 2008, 3,527; in FY 2007, 3,080; and in FY 2006, there were 2,818 Mexican asylum cases filed in U.S. immigration courts. Data on affirmatively filed cases shows that the number of people from Mexico filing for asylum in the asylum offices has actually declined (the number of affirmative asylum seekers fell from 2,456 in 2008 to 1,778 in 2009).
Nevertheless, the scenario described by Mr. North remains a real possibility. Violence in Mexico is out of control, and if things fall further apart, we could experience an influx of asylum seekers. Our current immigration court system is already overloaded (cases routinely take one or two years–or more–to adjudicate), and so a large number of additional cases would completely clog the system. In addition, it is unclear whether our society can or should absorb large numbers of additional refugees. What then is the solution?
One possibility would be to reduce our refugee admissions from other countries and fill those slots with asylum seekers from Mexico. We current admit and absorb about 75,000 refugees each year. They come from many different countries. If there was a large influx from Mexico, we could give Mexican asylum seekers priority over people fleeing persecution in more distant lands.
Another method to deal with a large refugee flow from Mexico would be to keep the refugees in camps, as is done in many parts of the world. The people could remain in temporary camps administered by the U.S. and the United Nations, and when conditions in Mexico improved, they could return to their country. It seems to me that we have a moral obligation to help people fleeing for their lives. However, I am not so sure we have an obligation to permanently resettle those people in our country.
For now at least, this is all hypothetical. Let’s hope it remains that way.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.