For many people in Tennessee who are dealing with the immigration system, reports about the Trump administration’s crackdown on border security may be concerning. The potential of significant changes to a long-established system can be confusing and worrying. One such policy change provoking confusion is the administration’s announced plans to keep Central American asylum seekers in Mexico after they present themselves to border officials at a port of entry.

The asylum system is meant to provide a means for people fleeing violence, repression and other forms of persecution due to their social group or protected identity to find safety. However, the process can be grueling. Asylum seekers are now also facing increased uncertainty with the announcement of the new procedures. While the Mexican government echoed the announcement, it also specified that it would not deport asylum seekers during the process. For many, the waiting period could be long. Experts estimate that there is a backlog of over 800,000 cases in U.S. immigration courts. An asylum seeker may wait months or years for their case to be finalized.

One of the first steps after an application for asylum is made is an interview with a border official. This official will aim to determine if the applicant has a credible fear of persecution in his or her home country. After this interview, the case moves forward to immigration court. Currently, most asylum seekers are released inside the U.S. and referred to a nearby court. No clear plans were announced for the location of future hearings.

This and other reports about changes to U.S. immigration law sought by the Trump administration can be unsettling for those with their own applications in process. An immigration lawyer can help a client protect their rights, defend against deportation attempts and remain in the country.