Edwin Romero worked at a low-paying clothing factory in his native Honduras. In 2017, Juan Orlando Hernandez, then President of Honduras, was running for re-election. That’s when Romero had enough of his country’s corrupt and violent government, and he decided to join the Libre party, which was a leftist party that opposed Hernandez, and Romero started holding meetings for this movement at his home. At this time, Honduras was in crisis. Various protests were taking place throughout the country, because of accusations of voter fraud. Hernandez did win re-election, but Romero continued having Libre meetings at his home, and during one meeting, some men came into his home and beat him and some of the other attendees. Romero reported the assault to the police. And soon after his report, the police began questioning his neighbors about Romero, and they even questioned him. He thought he was safe by telling the police about what had happened, but he soon discovered he was not. Romero was on his way to take one of his daughters to school when he noticed a car was following them; he escaped and got home to pack a few necessities, and he told his wife that they needed to flee the country that same day.1

Current President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez | Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

The Libre party that Romero joined in 2017 had been founded in 2011 by Manuel Zelaya, an ex-president of Honduras. Zelaya had been forced into exile in 2009 for attempting to run for re-election. One of the two parties that dominates Honduran politics is the National Party led by President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and his party maintains considerable control over the judiciary and over the electoral institutions. The other party is the Libre party, led by Zelaya, and the Libre party criticizes the opposing party for being too “authoritarian,” yet the Libre party makes secretive deals in which they attain more power in politics.2 After the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernandez as President of Honduras, protests arose all over the country claiming that the election had been a fraud. According to a report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Honduran government’s response to the protests resulted in serious human rights violations. The report revealed that the Military Police in Honduras used lethal force to control and stop protests, resulting in 23 people killed and 60 injured in the post-electoral protests. Additionally, 1,351 people were detained for violating a curfew placed by President Hernandez, as a response to the protests. Many reports were received that illegal house raids were being conducted by police, as well as mistreatment of those arrested at the time of their arrest and during their detention.3 The report by the OHCHR also revealed that the Honduran police force was only acting on behalf of Hernandez to silence Honduran citizens. Between December 2017 and January 2018 it was recorded that at least six people had a violent death and those individuals had been actively involved in organizing and participated in the post electoral protests and meetings like those held by Romero. What shocked most people was that the deaths of the six individuals were caused by firearms, and the OHCHR obtained information that the perpetrators of one of the killings were wearing national police uniforms, and the families of the victims were subjected to threats and surveillance after the killings.4

Edwin Romero, fleeing for his life, crossed the border with his youngest daughter from Piedras Negras to Eagle Pass on May 29, 2018. He requested asylum at the border but was sent to a detention center where he was separated from his daughter just two days later.5

An overview of the different types of processes to seek asylum in the United States.| Courtesy of Human Rights First

There are four types of asylum processes in the United States: the refugee resettlement process, the affirmative asylum process, the process for arriving asylum seekers, and the defensive asylum process. Edwin Romero went through the process for “arriving” asylum seekers, which means he solicited asylum at the border. One of the many things that asylum seekers must show is credible fear or credible motive for fleeing their country. This is determined at the first interview the asylees go through with immigration enforcement in the United States. Another thing asylees have to do is fill out an I-589 form, which asks for biographical information and the motive for seeking asylum in the United States.6

Edwin Romero was detained for seventy-two days, while his wife and their other two daughters who crossed at a different border, were processed, released, and had hearings in immigration court. Two weeks after being detained, he found Laura Rivera, an attorney who offered legal assistance to Romero. He told Rivera his story and described the abuses he was experiencing at the detention center. Soon they lost contact with each other because Romero was transferred to the Port Isabel detention center without any warning.7

The figure shows the increasing denial rate on asylum cases in the United States. The increase in the denial rate in 2017 is a result of the Trump Administration’s efforts to deter asylum seeking in the United States | Courtesy of the National Immigration Forum

In recent years, the asylum process has become more complicated because of the Trump Administration’s policies to make the Asylum process more selective. The recent changes in the asylum process under the Trump Administration includes the elimination of domestic and gang violence as a motive for seeking asylum in the United States, which gets rid of the ability for thousands of people to seek asylum for those motives. Back in 2018, the Trump Administration introduced the zero-tolerance policy, which was meant to prosecute adult asylum seekers as criminals if they had crossed the border illegally in the past.8 As a result, it led to children being separated from their parents for months. The policy caused outrage throughout the United States and thousands joined protests against ICE to apply pressure to the government and to put a stop to the zero-tolerance policy. A judge that same year signed an order to pressure the Trump Administration into ending that cruel policy. The Trump Administration has used these unnecessary policies to make the immigration and asylum-seeking process more selective and complicated, but it has resulted in many innocent people not having a chance to get a better life for themselves and for their families in the United States.

Romero then met Cielo Fortin-Camacho, another attorney who worked for a nonprofit agency, and she and took his case. Romero did pass his “credible fear” screening, but he wasn’t released or given a notice to appear in immigration court. After that attempt, his attorneys asked for “humanitarian parole” because of his youngest daughter’s heart condition. A Houston surgeon wrote a letter and in it, explained how serious her condition was, that she needed surgery soon, and how important it was for her recovery to have her whole family by her side. After some months, Romero was released on parole and was reunited with his wife and three daughters. Edwin Romero now lives in Houston with his family and has not stopped thanking the attorneys who took his case and the surgeon who wrote the letter that helped with his parole. His attorneys did mention that Romero did everything he was supposed to do when soliciting for asylum in the United States, but they said that he was treated as if he hadn’t.9

Thousands of people come to the United States looking for a better life, to escape from the brutalities in their home countries. They think of America as a safe haven, but in reality, when they arrive to the United States, they are greeted with various challenges that most of the time prevent them from obtaining asylum in the United States. The policies that make the asylum process more selective and complicated should not traumatize and prevent immigrants from obtaining asylum in this country. Most of them spend only an average of fifty-five days in detention centers; however, some spend six months or even more time in a jail-like environment without their families.10 Every system has its flaws, but the injustices lived by immigrants who go through the immigration system are good reasons to justify claims that say the immigration system in the United States does need a reform. Activists all around the country have taken the initiative to fight for immigrants’ rights and have thankfully received a lot of support from many American citizens who want to create change in this country.

  1. Dianne Solis, “This immigrant has a good asylum claim, but the feds took his freedom for 72 days and he wasn’t charged with a crime,” The Dallas Morning News, December 8, 2018.
  2. “Fight and Flight: Tackling the Roots of Honduras’ Emergency,” The Crisis Group, October 2019.
  3. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human rights violations in the context of the 2017 elections in Honduras (OHCHR, 2020), 12-16.
  4. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human rights violations in the context of the 2017 elections in Honduras (OHCHR, 2020), 19.
  5. Dianne Solis, “This immigrant has a good asylum claim, but the feds took his freedom for 72 days and he wasn’t charged with a crime,” The Dallas Morning News, December 8, 2018.
  6. Madeline Holland, “Stories for Asylum: Narrative and Credibility in the United States’ Political Asylum Application,” Refuge 34, no.2 (2018): 1-4.
  7. Dianne Solis, “This immigrant has a good asylum claim, but the feds took his freedom for 72 days and he wasn’t charged with a crime,” The Dallas Morning News, December 8, 2018.
  8. Doris Meissner, Faye Hipsman, and T. Alexander Aleinikoff, “The U.S. System in Crisis: Charting a way Forward,” Migration Policy Institute, (2018): 8-9.
  9. Dianne Solis, “This immigrant has a good asylum claim, but the feds took his freedom for 72 days and he wasn’t charged with a crime,” The Dallas Morning News, December 8, 2018.
  10. American Immigration Council, “Immigration Detention in the United States by Agency,” American Immigration Council, (January 2020): 4, accessed October 22, 2020.

18 Responses

  1. This was a really amazing and informative article! I think topics like this are really important, and your article made a topic that is overly complicated into something that is understandable and cohesive; and it goes without saying that it is also really well written. I also think that the pictures that you used were perfect and made a really good impact on the article!

  2. Hi Emilia!
    This article was very well written and I could tell you did a lot of research for it. This topic is very relevant to today’s climate and sheds light on an important human rights crisis that many immigrants are facing. It’s heartbreaking to think that some people are so desperate to escape the situation in their home country that they come to another by any means necessary only to be met with disrespect and cruelty.

  3. Living next to the border with Mexico, I have seen many of the injustices that people have to face when looking to seek asylum. I am aware that it is slightly different with the people coming form Honduras but the reality remains that these people seek to come to the United States for a better future but instead are just put in a never ending list of many other people looking to live in the United States with out the fear of one day being deported back. It is a harsh reality and I am glad that you are speaking out on the topic. Great Article!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this article in all aspects. I truly believe that it is a long and hard process for seeking asylum in the United States. It should be almost a given that immigrants who are escaping violence, be allowed into the country to be safe.

  5. This was a very well written, informative article! To think that Romero is only one of thousands of asylum seekers is astounding. His story unfortunately is reminiscent to many other horror stories that asylum seekers face. I especially liked the historical context that was well described while he was living in Honduras. The inclusion of charts helped myself understand the large effects of the Trump Administrations policy on immigration and how hazy the process can be. Without the help of nonprofits and willing lawyers many families would be lost in the process. Thankfully his family was helped tremendously by mere strangers.

  6. The amount of detail that this article had surrounding such a complicated topic was truly splendid. I did not know much in regards to the details of how asylum is granted but now given this I feel more informed and can see why there are so many activists and calls for reform.

  7. I really enjoyed your article. It is very accurate and descriptive of what the immigrants at the border go through. I cannot understand why it is difficult to understand that denying a refugee asylum is against their rights. The Trump administration have pushed forward with many obstacles to the point that immigrants have to think twice before wanting to seek for a better life. This is a human rights issue that must be resolved as soon as possible.

  8. Such an interesting and informative article!! I obviously previously heard of asylum issues, nor any element of this story or to this detail. So very captivating, you really pulled in your audience. I have never heard of this story regarding such struggles coming to America, so it was so cool to learn about something from history I had not known. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. Great job!!

  9. This was a very well written and informative article that I enjoyed reading. I especially liked the chart that explained the different asylum processes that are offered. This is definitely a topic that has become very relevant today. I appreciate that this article included that the Trump administration has made policies more selective which has denied so many individuals their freedom.

  10. Amazing article!! Personally I have always lived next to the border and being surrounded by a population of immigrants’ mostly everywhere, while I was reading your article I took everything into heart. I like how you added the image of the four different types of asylum processes immigrants’ have to go through, it represents a great image of how each one is different. It’s crazy how they flee from a hazard life just to become conflicted with the long waits of being in an immigration detention. Thank you for bringing awareness to the complications of seeking asylum in the U.S.

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