A Systematic Failing for Asylum Seekers

By USCRI November 14, 2022

World War II displaced an estimated 60 million individuals. As a result, in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol, the United Nations defined a refugee as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to their home country and cannot obtain protection in that country due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

As defined in 8 USC 1158: Asylum, in general, any non-citizen physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of entry, including those intercepted in international or U.S. waters and brought to the United States) may apply for asylum regardless of status. However, the United States has a legacy of pushing maritime arrivals away to prevent them from accessing the asylum system. At the turn of the 19th century, Ellis Island on the East Coast and Angel Island on the West Coast served as quarantine stations to promote so- called public health and kept migrants away from the mainland.

The construction of an immigration facility was the direct consequence of two pieces of legislation designed to pushback Asian migrants from the U.S. mainland: the Page Act of 1875 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Angel Island was the predecessor for pushbacks and offshoring to Guantanamo Bay.

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