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Mutually Inclusive
A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Separation at the border: the differences between refugee and asylum seeker



To understand the United States immigration system requires a grasp on the labels individuals coming into the country receive from the government, explains Kelsey Herbert, the Immigration Mobilizer for the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice. 

“When someone comes as an immigrant – they are living permanently and then if you are coming temporarily you would come under a non-immigrant visa, and a non-immigrant visa does not lead to a green card or legal permanent residency which would lead to citizenship.”

Those attempting to immigrate to the United States because of experiencing a hardship in their home countries are required to request asylum status and when approved apply for refugee status. 

“Not just anybody fleeing violence can get that asylum or refugee status, it has to be because of the persecution based on your race, or religion, or nationality, or your political opinion, or political affiliation.”

All people who are fleeing their border are initially asylum seekers. Refugees get that qualification or receive that status abroad whereas asylum seekers receive it in the US and go through the whole process while they are in the United States.” 

Prior to Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcement of the “Zero Tolerance Policy”, parents and children crossing the border would be detained together for a maximum of twenty days and then released into the United States while their immigration cases were processed. 

“Parents and children could not be detained together for than twenty days so they would be released into the community into something called “alternative to detention”.” 

Since President Trump’s executive order attempting to halt Zero Tolerance Policy, people including children who cross the border without any legal documentation from the United states—even those asking for asylum – will be prosecuted and kept in detention except children will not be separated from their parents.

“Children will be able to be detained indefinitely with parents in jail – so its called family detention which wasn’t allowed before.” 

The difference now is that children and their parents could be held in detention together until their cases are processed. 

Michelle Jokisch Polo WGVU News

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