Contrary to what the Trump Administration would have people believe, asylum seekers are not crazy people or criminals, and they are not illegal immigrants. They are people trying to gain protection in America, which is a legal action, and takes time to process asylum applicants. The United Nations created standardized legislation for the process of asylum seeking, legislation that America has agreed to, so what does that legislation entail?

“Asylum seeker” is a person who is looking to become a refugee. For this to occur, the individual must meet three categories: They must have fear of return, belong to one of five protected groups (race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or a particular social group, such as gender or sexuality), and government must be involved in or unable to control their persecution. If the asylum seeker meets all these requirements, they can stay in America under asylum protection, assuming the U.S. has not already reached its cap on the number of immigrants they will accept in a year, which currently maxes at 50,000 people.

Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants. People who enter the nation illegally cannot simply become a refugee; they must be confirmed to apply to the three aforementioned boxes first by the receiving nation or the UN.

Since Trump took office, the United States has not been as welcoming to asylum seekers. There was once a time when we allowed hundreds of thousands of refugees into the nation because we believed in saving people from persecution. If you go back and look at American history, immigration was the cause that founded this country. It was a free world with better opportunities. Once America gained its ground, though, people began to persecute other immigrants and claimed they would only hinder America’s prospects. In history class, we understand that discrimination was wrong, and that our ancestors shouldn’t have had to face the hardships they did. There were immigration scares with the Irish, Germans, Chinese and Japanese – to name a few. Then in 21st century, America turned against Middle Eastern people, and now in 2019, we still allow fear to rule our stance on immigration as opposed to adhering to American fundamentals. That could stand to change.

The average asylum seeker isn’t requesting protection to sling drugs for the cartel, to aid in human trafficking or to steal American jobs. Where they came from wasn’t a good place to be, and that’s why so many people bring their families with them. We need to start asking ourselves why we accept so few refugees, and perhaps we can start accepting more asylum seekers, as opposed to rejecting or deporting them. If breaking the law and doing what’s illegal is the issue, then to curve the number of illegal immigrants, allowing more for legal entry would be a solution. There’s plenty of room to share in America. If we push people away, what does that say about America? Does denying people a better opportunity say we’re strong, or is it strong when we turn desperate families away, or when we separate parents from their children?

The truth: People are trying to escape persecution by fleeing to a country advertised as the greatest in the world, yet we say we don’t want them. We have made that abundantly clear through our president and our policies. Why? Because we’re afraid – afraid of change or whatever lies someone has fed to us – and now our fear will soon be tangible.