Asylum seekers who try to enter the country legally in states like Arizona may find themselves endangered by legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in late June 2017. According to human rights advocates, "Kate's Law" raises the possibility that people seeking entry for their own safety might end up being prosecuted instead.
The problem with the law revolves around the fact that it expands the kinds of actions that amount to illegal reentry. As a result, someone who was illegally or mistakenly deported in the past might inadvertently commit a crime just by trying to seek asylum. The law also broadens the scope of the penalties that people could face after being convicted.
Advocacy groups also say that the U.S. already has a bad track record of handling asylum cases, with hundreds of vulnerable individuals being denied entry although such denials were both illegal under national law and in violation of treaties. Customs and Border Patrol agents even prohibited asylum seekers from entering without going through the proper vetting processes, which left people's futures up to the whims of individual officials. Such actions can lead to asylum seekers being exposed to life-threatening dangers in the countries they originally fled or subject them to prolonged detention and other forms of punishment in the U.S.
Those who seek asylum need to satisfy a number of criteria to prove that they would face persecution if they returned to their nation of origin. In a country of changing laws, they also have to be careful to avoid actions that might result in their criminal prosecution. Individuals who think that they've escaped bad situations should understand that they still have trials ahead of them, and attorneys with immigration law experience may be able to help them navigate the tricky path to legal residency or citizenship.