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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump asked the thousands of Central American migrants traveling in a caravan toward the United States to "please go back" in a Monday morning tweet, adding that they "will not be admitted into the United States unless [they] go through the legal process."

Reality check: Most of these migrants intend to pursue a "legal process" to enter the U.S. via a claim of asylum. Unlike refugees who apply for protection while still in their home country, asylum-seekers must be on American soil and present themselves at a port of entry or to immigration officials in order to claim asylum.

How we got here: The U.S. government began granting asylum to foreign nationals already in the U.S. in 1972, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It was intended to allow those who feared returning to their country to remain in the U.S. in the spirit of the UN Refugee Agency's Refugee Protocol and Convention.

  • Asylum-seekers must prove persecution or fear of persecution in their home country due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or being a member of a particular social group.
  • Today, asylum-seekers can apply for affirmative asylum by presenting themselves to immigration officials within one year of arriving in the U.S. They must first pass an initial "credible fear" interview, proving they are reasonably afraid of returning to their home country. In the first three quarters of FY 2018, 76% passed the credible fear interview. Asylum-seekers are then kept in detention or released into the U.S. until their asylum cases are resolved — which often takes months if not years, according to the American Immigration Council.
"The extremely low bar for establishing credible fear is ripe for fraud and abuse ... a credible fear referral doesn’t equal asylum status, but it does earn a free ticket into the U.S., allowing individuals to disappear into the interior to live and work illegally."
— USCIS spokesman Michael Bars tells Axios

The big picture: The number of asylum-seekers from Central America has skyrocketed over the past several years. These nations have been beset by high murder rates, rampant gang violence and widespread poverty. In 2017, the U.S. received more requests for asylum than any other country in the world, according to data from the U.N. Refugee Agency data.

  • Yet more than 70% of Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan asylum-seekers were denied defensive asylum in the U.S. between FY 2012 and FY 2017, according to data collected by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
  • And only one-quarter of all affirmative asylum applications were approved in the first three quarters of FY 2018, according to data from USCIS.
  • At the same time, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has continued to increase scrutiny for asylum-seekers, disqualifying those who claim domestic abuse or gang violence. He also recently referred an immigration case to himself for review, and his decision could keep all asylum-seekers caught crossing the border illegally in mandatory detention — even if they've passed their "credible fear" interview.

The bottom line: It will still be weeks before the caravan reaches a U.S. port of entry, but those migrants need to reach American soil in order to credibly and legally claim asylum in the U.S. And even after their journey, they face unfavorable odds of legally receiving asylum from the Trump administration.

Go deeper

FTC releases findings on how Big Tech eats little tech

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: An Rong Xu/Washington Post via Getty Images

Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan signaled changes are on the way in how the agency scrutinizes acquisitions after revealing the results of a study of a decade's worth of Big Tech company deals that weren't reported to the agency.

Why it matters: Tech's business ecosystem is built on giant companies buying up small startups, but the message from the antitrust agency this week could chill mergers and acquisitions in the sector.

First look: Biden's economic case for green cards

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) is promoting the economic benefits and costs of providing green cards to millions of unauthorized immigrants in a blogpost being released on Friday, according to a draft provided to Axios.

Why it matters: The post comes as the fate of millions of immigrants, including those with Temporary Protected Status or DACA protections, rests with Congress — and the Senate parliamentarian.

Ina Fried, author of Login
29 mins ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Facebook's social balance is in the red

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Facebook is essential to our lives. Facebook is ruining our lives. Holding both these truths at once will make your head hurt.

While covering the Olympics in Tokyo, I spent a ton of time on Facebook. Each day, during several hourlong bus rides, I would see who was online in Messenger and share photos and stories there with family and friends. I also posted frequently on my news feed.