Investigation into asylum reveals inconsistent process in which most get rejected


SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The San Diego Union Tribune has published a series of reports called “Returned” as a way to help readers “understand the U.S. asylum system.”

According to the newspaper, the investigation looked into whether the program is doing what it was meant to do, how it previously functioned and what it has become.

Union-Tribune reporters Kate Morrissey and Lauryn Schroeder spent the better part of 18 months gathering data and results for more than 146,300 court cases that took place over the last 10 years.

They uncovered “symptoms of the asylum system’s capriciousness and biases.”

The results are reportedly filled with discrepancies based on factors such as where asylum seekers’ cases are heard, whether they’re detained and whether they have legal representation.

People look at US border patrol guards through the US-Mexico border fence, in Tijuana, in Baja California State, Mexico, on January 18, 2019. – A new caravan of Central American migrants trying to reach the United States made its way across Guatemala Thursday, with the first members crossing into southern Mexico. (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP) (Photo credit should read GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

“On top of that you have this sort of lottery of judges who can have very different perceptions on how cases should go,” Morrissey said. “I really see this project as looking at a system that was created with certain intention and is it living up to that intention and it seems like the answer is no.”

Morrissey and Schroeder’s stories also traced specific cases. One, for example, followed a father who was separated from his family at the border and how the separation led to “dramatically different asylum outcomes for the family members.”

A group of migrants travelling in the Central American caravan, walk alongside the Mexico-US border fence before trying to cross to San Diego County, in Playas de Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico on December 12, 2018. – Thousands of Central American migrants have trekked for over a month in the hopes of reaching the United States. (GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Another installment offers an interactive simulation that takes readers through the asylum system. “Readers are asked to make choices along the way that will allow them to see some of the capricious factors in action,” according to the publishers.

“I would encourage people to continue to learn about it to better understand the system so that the asylum system can be part of the larger conversation to protect the most vulnerable people on this planet from the worst atrocities, but right now it’s very arbitrary whether it actually does that,” said Morrissey.

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