Originally published by USA Today
Many Americans got their first brush this week with concepts like asylum, family separations and what the U.S. government is doing to handle immigration issues.
The images are shocking and the emotions are raw. If the whole thing is a little confusing, here are a few basics to help make sense of the situation.
What is the difference between immigration and asylum?
Asylum and immigration don't mean the same thing.
Immigrants come to the U.S. from somewhere else and want to stay. Many do it legally by going through government channels; others do it illegally by sneaking into the country or, more often, by overstaying a visa.
Those seeking asylum have already made it to the U.S. and contend they need to stay because of conditions in their homeland. These people could be fleeing persecution for factors like their race, religion or political views.
There is a standard intended to gauge whether there is a reasonable fear of persecution if a person is returned to their country. It is usually a lengthy process.
Asylum requests are processed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If appropriate, the agency will allow a spouse and unmarried children under 21 asylum as well.