Chattanooga immigration attorney says current border crisis is a threat to asylum process

A migrant carries a child past Mexican police who stand guard outside the Benito Juarez Sports Center which is serving as a shelter for migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. The mayor of Tijuana has declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city and says that he has asked the United Nations for aid to deal with thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Asylum, granted to people who meet the United States' criteria of a refugee, is offered to those fleeing their county in fear of persecution.

Asylee status was granted to Santiago Lopez after two years of court proceedings. He moved from Guatemala, and has lived in Chattanooga for the last three years.

His attorney, Terrence Olsen of Olsen Law Firm says Santiago's asylum process is an example of what happens when the immigration process is followed.

He says the caravan of migrants waiting to apply for asylum will have a difficult time trying to get that opportunity.

I showed Santiago the current border situation in Mexico, where ABC News reports tear gas was used to stop a group of 500 people from entering Sunday.

Santiago responded, "When I see that it makes me feel so bad. Those people have a family."

Trump touted permanently closing the border on Twitter.

Attorney Olsen says Santiago's home was burnt down by gang members who threatened to kill him, so going back to his home country would be the difference between life or death for Santiago.

Olsen says the asylum process begins when migrants approach the border and declare a credible fear of fleeing their country. He says they then receive an I-59 Application for Asylum, which begins the federal immigration process.

He says asylum seekers must testify and a judge determines whether or not they can apply for a green card.

Olsen says what we're seeing at the border is a neglect to the current legal process in place.

He added "What's happening right now, is they're not even letting people have an actual opportunity to state that they fear anything."

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