NY Times: Migrants Keep Coming Because They Know They Can Stay

AP Photo/Felix Marquez

I find myself a bit surprised to see some of what follows in print, not because any of it is new but instead because things that have been obvious for a long time are now being published as true by the NY Times. The piece, which is labeled analysis, opens by noting that people are streaming across the border and turning themselves in to authorities to claim asylum for one clear reason.


Being hustled into a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle and taken to a processing facility is hardly a setback. In fact, it is a crucial step toward being able to apply for asylum — now the surest way for migrants to stay in the United States, even if few will ultimately win their cases…

In December alone, more than 300,000 people crossed the southern border, a record number.

It is not just because they believe they will be able to make it across the 2,000 mile southern frontier. They are also certain that once they make it to the United States they will be able to stay.


But here’s the really killer line which comes next: “And by and large, they are not wrong.” And because the system is what it is, word gets around. People who’ve made it in report back to those still trying to get here. And the word on the street is that no one ever has to leave.

Carolina Ortiz is a migrant from Columbia who plans to claim asylum based on the violence back home. But as the Times correctly points out, generalized violence is not grounds for asylum under US asylum law. There’s almost no chance Ortiz will be granted asylum but that’s a long way off. Her first court date is set for Feb. 2026.


What is happening here is a gaming of the system. Migrants either don’t know or don’t care that they aren’t eligible for asylum. What they know is that by claiming it, they can stay.

If migrants tell judges they had been living in desperate poverty and came to the United States in search of work, the migrants could be rapidly deported. So migrants apply for asylum, knowing that gives them a fighting chance to stay.

Under current law, anyone whose asylum case isn’t wrapped up in 5 months gets a work permit. These days that means almost everyone gets a work permit. And because of the massive backlog of cases, the current time to clear one is many years. By the time the applicant’s claim is rejected, ICE more or less doesn’t care. Unless someone has been convicted of a felony they can just stay in the US which was their goal all along anyway. Again, regular readers have heard me say this a dozen times at least but hearing it from the NY Times really is a surprise. I guess this means we’re now allowed to talk about what is actually happening.

Some great comments on this one. Too many in fact. Here’s one example.

I’m a legal immigrant, working in the US on a work visa. It took months of proving that no US worker can do my job, and thousands of dollars in legal and governmental fees to get that visa.

This year, my visa expires and there is no way to renew it, while the green card process takes year so I will not be able to complete it before the visa expiration date (optimistically assuming that USCIS will approve it). I will have to go back to my home country even though I have an extensive social and professional network here and contribute literally dozens of thousands in taxes every year.

It makes my blood boil that at the same time, millions of people can basically walk through the border and they’ll get a red carpet treatment, with an automatic work permit. All while undermining wages for lower-skilled workers (an effect well measured and proven during the Obama administration).


Other commenters seem to recognize that the only way to fix this problem is to change the incentives instead of allowing the system to be perpetually gamed like this.

Yes, this is beyond obvious. Equally obvious is that the crisis can only be solved by clarifying that economic migrants CANNOT stay. Safe, healthy countries have strong borders.


Can the US at least spend a few hundred million on PSA’s in the primary sending countries telling people to stay home? Rather than a first in first out asylum hearing system, move to a last in first out system, which will reject almost every case, followed by a quick flight home. Seeing your neighbor leave for the US, then be back, but $10,000 poorer in two weeks, is a powerful message. Seeing your neighbor leave, then send money back for years, is a powerful message too.

There are many more comments like these. There are ways to fix this but all of them require a congress/president willing to actively discourage people from coming. Right now we don’t have that.

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