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A Primer on Migrants at the Border

Experts Available to Comment

As the Trump administration receives criticism for its actions and words regarding migrants at the southern border seeking asylum, resources are available on Central American migration and the longstanding U.S. asylum process. In addition, experts in border regions and elsewhere are available to share their perspectives.


The Mexican government estimates the number of people in the “caravan” currently stands at 8,247, of whom more than 7,400 are in Baja California. Reports suggest that at least 794 are children.

About 6,000 people in Tijuana, including more than 5,000 inside a makeshift shelter at a sports complex there, are waiting to enter via the San Ysidro border crossing. San Ysidro is processing 40 to 100 people per day who are seeking asylum.

People who reach the U.S. border and petition for asylum at a port of entry are engaging in a process authorized by U.S. laws. Migrants who request asylum will go through a vigorous process, including numerous background checks and screenings, which takes nearly three years on average, and not everyone is granted asylum at the end.

Facts and Figures:

  • In fiscal year 2017, 78,564 credible fear cases, the first step in seeking asylum, were filed. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services found 60,566 individuals to have credible fear of persecution should they be returned to their home countries, making them eligible to apply for asylum.
  • In 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, 20,455 individuals were granted asylum. That is about 28 percent out of the 73,081 cases that year in which people were deemed to have credible fear, though approval rates varied by immigration court from about 10 percent to 80 percent.
  • Closing San Ysidro, as Customs and Border Protection did Sunday, means closing a crossing at which about 20,000 northbound pedestrians and 70,000 northbound vehicles cross on a normal day.
  • Because of the chaotic situation at the border, towns in the region are facing a larger economic impact. The one-day closure at San Ysidro resulted in an estimated $5.3 million loss in sales for the area’s 650 businesses, as 93 percent of their customers arrive from Mexico.

Additional Resources:

Media Availability:

Arturo Sarukhan, Mexican Ambassador to the United States (2007-2013); National Immigration Forum board member

Bethany Anderson, Director, Camino Immigration Services, Orange County, California

Paola Avila, Vice President of International Business Affairs, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce; Chair, Border Trade Alliance Board of Directors

Dr. Steve Bezner, Senior Pastor, Houston Northwest Church

Anne Chandler, Executive Director, Houston Office, Tahirih Justice Center

Lt. Col. Scott A. Cooper, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), Director, National Security Outreach, Human Rights First

Sheriff Tony Estrada, Santa Cruz County, Arizona

Dr. David Galvan, Pastor, Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida (New Life First Baptist Church), Dallas

Jon Huckins, Author, Pastor and Co-Founding Director, The Global Immersion Project, San Diego

Raoul Lowery-Contreras, former U.S. Marine and author of “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade” (Floricanto Press 2016), Vista, California

Police Chief Chris Magnus, Tucson, Arizona

Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum

Rear Adm. Jim Partington, U.S. Navy (Ret.), National Co-Chair, Veterans for New Americans, Lincoln, Nebraska

Dr. Tony Payan, Francoise and Edward Djerejian Fellow for the Mexico Center, Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University

Lt. Col. Lawrence Romo, U.S. Air Force/U.S. Air Force Reserve Command, National Commander of the American GI Forum and Former Director of the Selective Service System, San Antonio, Texas

Military veterans from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia also are available.

To speak with any of the leaders above, please contact Cathleen Farrell, 202-403-4190.


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