According to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the number of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States has nearly quadrupled over the past five years with many of the new claims coming from people in Central America. Asylum is granted each year to many foreign nationals who are escaping persecution in their home countries.
In order to be granted asylum, individuals must show that they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. The applicant generally must file his or her asylum application with the USCIS within one year of entering the United States.
According to the USCIS data, there were more than 19,119 asylum requests so far this year through the end of May and it is expected that the total number will surpass 28,600 by the end of the fiscal year. In 2009, USCIS received just 5,369 asylum requests, which shows just how increasingly common they have become.
The primary source of the surge in asylum requests is coming from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the associate director of USCIS said. He added that most of the claims involve a "credible fear" as a result of increased drug trafficking, violence and an overall rise in crime in the Central American countries.
The asylum process has been a contentious issue in Washington as lawmakers negotiate over immigration reform. Under the bill that was approved by the Senate, immigrants who are already living in the country would no longer be required to apply for asylum within a year of arriving. However, this is a something some lawmakers have opposed, saying it could easily be taken advantage of.
Source: The Washington Post, "Asylum requests from immigrants on the rise in US," Alicia A. Caldwell, July 17, 2013