Asking specifically about migrants that are picked up at the Mexican border. They should be turned back unless we have probable cause to believe they are political asylum seekers.

Border patrol agents should be given the authority to determine if a migrant is in imminent danger and might possibly qualify for political asylum. It shouldn't take too many questions and investigation to determine where they're from, why they came, etc. Border patrol agents are already doing these kind of investigations and determinations, checking if people have a legal visa, if they're coming here to work instead of just a visit, etc.

Seems like the perfect solution. Do not detain anyone. Do not let anyone into the country. Update the asylum law so that if someone wants to declare asylum they can submit an application, but till they're approved we do not detain anyone. If illegal migrants are picked up at the border, patrol agents drive them back to mexico instead of detaining them.

Are there any politicians pushing for such a law change? And why would anyone be opposed to such a law?

(How about a self-sufficient farming community in conjunction with Mexico at the border for the asylum seekers?)

A possible answer might be to follow the money. And I quote:

CoreCivic, Inc. and GEO Group, Inc.—which collectively manage more than half of private prison contracts in the country (including immigration and nonimmigration detention)—earned combined revenue exceeding $4 billion in FY 2017. They have spent millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions, seeking to sway the political process toward detention-focused policies that favor their interests—a tactic that appears to be paying off in the Trump era.

Source: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/profiting-enforcement-role-private-prisons-us-immigration-detention

EDIT: "Hundreds of aliens can now wait in Mexico while their immigration cases are adjudicated." Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/overwhelming-surge-illegal-immigration-worsening-crisis-border/

  • 1
    If those illegal immigrants are not from Mexico why should they be dumped back in Mexico? Also what is to stop them from crossing the border again and just repeating the cycle?
    – Joe W
    Dec 17, 2018 at 18:28
  • 3
    A large number of the migrants crossing the US/Mexico border are not from Mexico so it would not be feasible to dump someone who is in this country illegally into a different country where they would also be there illegally and it is not quick to determine where they are from
    – Joe W
    Dec 17, 2018 at 18:44
  • 4
    They illegally entered Mexico in order to seek asylum in the US. Forcing them back into Mexico will not stop them from trying to cross over again and why should we force the cost of dealing with them on Mexico if we don’t want to deal with it. Besides there are international treaties that prevent countries from dropping off people in other random countries and since they are not from Mexico that would not be allowed
    – Joe W
    Dec 17, 2018 at 18:56
  • 2
    @larry909, what if one of them says "I came via Canada." No evidence to prove either Mexico or Canada. Would you have him dumped in Canada? Or for that matter an illegal immigrant in Canada who says he walked north all the way through the US. Would the US take him back? Why not, if it expects Mexico to take people from Honduras ...
    – o.m.
    Dec 17, 2018 at 19:21
  • 1
    Border patrol agents do not have the legal expertise to handle asylum claims. Even if they did, their decisions would have to be appealable.
    – phoog
    Dec 18, 2018 at 9:42

3 Answers 3


As of the last edit, the subject and the body of the question do not quite match. You wrote in the comments that "stop detaining" does not mean "let through".

  • The modern asylum rules were developed in part because the West was ashamed how they treated Jews fleeing from the Nazi genocide. A few years later it was intellectuals and other groups fleeing from Communist persecution. The lession learned from these events is that refugees claiming asylum from persecution have the right to have their application evaluated inside the safe country, not in their homeland. After all, their homeland might kill them before the application is evaluated. Especially if the claim of political persecution is true.
  • On the other hand, the US doesn't want to allow everybody who shows up at their borders (or inside their borders) and speaks the word "asylum" to immigrate. So they decided to detain these people while their claims are evaluated. That's acceptable under the international rules, provided there is sufficient food, healthcare, etc.
  • There is a perception that most people claiming political asylum these days are really economic migrants, and not entitled to political asylum. There is much of that, but many of their homelands don't have a good human rights record, either. Are they coming because they want to earn money or are they leaving because they spoke out against the ruling dictatorship? A bit of both in many cases.
  • Illegal immigrants apprehended within the US may or may not be Mexicans. Many won't have any papers Why should e.g. Salvadorians be driven to the Mexican border, and not to the Canadian border? Just because somebody guesses that they came via Mexico?

Regarding the expansion of your question, the Prison-Industrial Complex may be a problem but they make quite a lot of money imprisoning US citizens. Immigrants are just a sideshow to the industry in general.

  • 3
    @larry909, you also wrote "Why can't we just stop detaining migrants at the US border?" That could be read as letting them through, which doesn't quite fit with the rest of your post. You could edit to clarify that.
    – o.m.
    Dec 17, 2018 at 17:18
  • 4
    @larry909, I think you should edit the subject line as well. Regarding your addition, it is an important factor in free societies that actions by the government can be challenged in court. There are examples where immigration agents mistook US citizens for illegal aliens. What if they use their power of deportation in such a case?
    – o.m.
    Dec 17, 2018 at 17:30
  • 3
    @larry909 The ones who are weeded out still have the right to ask for redress from the courts. That is "due process" and is a right granted to all persons (not just citizens) by the Constitution.
    – user5155
    Dec 17, 2018 at 18:01
  • 7
    @larry909, if you give the border patrol the right to decide clear cases, you give them the right to decide all cases which they consider clear. Even those of US citizens with a Spanish accent.
    – o.m.
    Dec 17, 2018 at 19:04
  • 2
    @larry909 Border Patrol agents do not decide who to let in; their job is to patrol the area inside the border and catch the people who crossed it illegally. Perhaps you are confusing them with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) field officers, who do inspect people applying for admission to the US at a port of entry, among other responsibilities. Border Patrol agents have green uniforms, while CBP field officers have blue uniforms. (This confusing situation is made more confusing by the fact that the Border Patrol is a component of CBP.)
    – phoog
    Dec 18, 2018 at 9:46

That will never happen.

The topic of how to handle immigration and illegal immigration (two distinct and separate issues) is hotly debated. My answer is about the current state, not necessarily addressing how it should be or whether or not it is the right way.

The basic answer is that we will not stop detaining people crossing the border. It is important to note the difference between detain and arrest as they are not the same.

Detention is a temporary process law enforcement uses to investigate activities or in pursue a possible crime. Usually a detention is initiated though probable cause. A law enforcement officer conducting a traffic stop is detaining the stopped person. They may also detain an innocent bystander near a crime to assess if that person is a witness to the crime.

An arrest is usually coupled with being charged with a crime, though not always.

All persons entering the US legally are detained at the border. This may be a brief 30 second interview with a border agent, or several hours, but detained you will be.

Customs and Border Protection processes entry. It doesn't authorize it immigration. The agents at the border process a request for entry in accordance with the rules for the request. They assess that you are following the rules and determine if your authorization is valid. They are not the agency that authorized the entry determines a person's legal status within the country. That authorization decision is done through other agencies (passport, visas, immigration court, etc.).

Border patrol agents should be given the authority to determine if a migrant is in imminent danger and might possibly qualify for political asylum.

This is an unbelievably dangerous concept. It basically gives a law enforcement agency judicial powers. The current process means that someone that enters the country illegally but still claims asylum will have the opportunity to present their case to a judge, or, in a more important manner, an impartial 3rd party between the law enforcement agency and the accused. The US offers an innocent until proven guilty mantra in its courts that it does afford to non-citizens.

To allow agents to determine if an asylum claim is legitimate or not will dramatically disenfranchise the immigrant of due process.

International borders are complicated. Anything to do with transferring of anything between governments is complicated.

If illegal migrants are picked up at the border, patrol agents drive them back to mexico instead of detaining them.

This is confusing with your question. The act of picking up the illegal immigrants is the US government detaining them and taking them into custody. To not detain them would be to allow them to freely go about their business (presumably to continue into the country illegally). Then, putting them back into Mexico would be the US government deporting those individuals to Mexico. This action is governed through a treaty between the countries. Mexico, rightfully, doesn't want us to deport non-Mexicans to their country.

That or another interpretation of what you are asking is to close the border with Mexico. Yes, we can do that. Some politicians might want that, though I am not aware of any publicly supporting this idea. The diplomatic consequences would be far more costly than the few hundred illegal immigrants and various drugs that cross the border on a daily basis though.

I want to address this separately: Legitimate asylum is no joke.

Change the asylum law so that if someone wants to declare asylum they can submit an application but till they're approved we do not detain anyone.

It is important to understand what asylum is. This is a system for providing refuge to a person being driven from home. It is common for legitimate asylum seekers to face deadly consequences if they return from where they came. This is not something that can be adequately anticipated or addressed with an application prior to making the claim.

The whole point of allowing someone to claim asylum at a port of entry is to afford them both temporary protection and the chance to review their claim. Here we are detaining them precisely for what they are seeking. The detention of asylum seekers offers the individual protection of the US government from whatever they are seeking asylum from while their claim reviewed.

Edit: Changed a word.

  • Border agents should be able to weed out those that are either for sure lying or are so far from they're country of escape that sending them back to Mexico won't hurt.
    – larry909
    Dec 18, 2018 at 8:24
  • "Mexico, rightfully, doesn't want us to deport non-Mexicans to their country." The USA is not deporting, it is returning illegal trespassers from whence they've come from.
    – larry909
    Dec 18, 2018 at 8:28
  • Do you know what the current law is if someone claims asylum? Are they automatically taken for their word? Is there any investigation done?
    – larry909
    Dec 18, 2018 at 8:30
  • Border Patrol does not "process entry." Customs and Border Protection officers do that. And, actually, CBP officers do authorize entry; when someone applies for a visa, it is made very clear that the visa only allows the person to apply for entry and that the entry must ultimately be authorized by a CBP immigration inspector.
    – phoog
    Dec 18, 2018 at 9:50
  • @larry909 Forcing someone out of a country is deportation. The solution you are looking for is the border wall. Preventing people from crossing in the first place handles all of your objections or issues with detention and screening. It then funnels people to ports of entry for proper application of asylum or other immigration processes.
    – David S
    Dec 18, 2018 at 15:36

1) Illegal Immigrants: There used to be a catch and release policy in place where they would just be let go on the other side of the border. Trump changed the policy to where they will be detained and prosecuted before deportation. We have gone back to catch and release in most cases and it's not a problem.
2) Asylum seekers: There are really only two options here: Detain them until their case is decided or admit them until their case is decided. You can't just release them back to Mexico (which they will likely have gone through to get to the US) until the case is decided because by definition they don't have an address where they could be reached. I would assume they also don't have a phone number that works in Mexico. How would you let them know that their case has been approved ?

  • Border patrol agents can determine if migrants are in imminent danger. Otherwise migrants can visit a border patrol office to see if their application has been approved.
    – larry909
    Dec 17, 2018 at 18:46
  • 3
    How can they determine if someone is in imminent danger ? Do they have a register of every known (and unknown) dissenter of every country ?
    – xyious
    Dec 17, 2018 at 18:54
  • they can weed out many obviously fake asylum claims instead of detaining everyone who shouts "Asylum"
    – larry909
    Dec 17, 2018 at 18:55
  • So are you suggesting that they get a visa for Mexico ? Asylum in Mexico while waiting for a decision from the US ? Walk back thousands of miles to their home country ?
    – xyious
    Dec 17, 2018 at 20:12
  • we can know many times that someone is lying.
    – larry909
    Dec 18, 2018 at 8:30

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