There’s a pretty good backgrounder on the U. S. asylum system at RealClearPolicy from the organization No Labels:
Though the government shutdown has ended, the debate over immigration continues in Washington. Last week, the Trump administration enacted its new policy of sending asylum seekers back to Mexico while their immigration cases were being heard. And just hours before President Trump delivered his annual State of the Union address, a caravan of more than 2,000 migrants reached the southern border, according to Fox News; many of these people are expected to seek asylum once at a port of entry or in the United States.
They omit a few things. The first is that, although the U. S. statute on asylum extends asylum to people with “well-founded fear of persecution” the legitimate sources of the fear are for political or religious reasons. Women fleeing their husbands are not eligible for asylum, for example. That was a reform introduced unilaterally by the Obama Administration without Congressional approval. Also, fear of crime is not a cause for being granted asylum under the statute.
Another is that although it is true that after World War II we accepted significantly more refugees, circumstances were different than they are now. The U. S. population was 120 million rather than 330 million as it is now. Additionally, the percentage of immigrants in the U. S. in 1948 was about 8% rather than the 15% (or more) it is today.
At this point there doesn’t seem to be any reason to expand the cap on the number of asylum-seekers who are ultimately granted asylum. In 2016, the last year for which we have numbers, we accepted 20,455 asylum-seekers, about a quarter of those seeking asylum in that year. The maximum we will accept is 50,000.
If we were to reduce the number of economic migrants entering the country illegally, expanded the number of judges and other officials reviewing asylum petitions to eliminate the backlog of application, and the number of asylum petitions granted were to rise to 50,000, I would favor raising the ceiling. As it is the large number of economic migrants who enter the country illegally should be seen as crowding out legitimate asylum-seekers.