Is that a good idea? That seems like my only option left. I can't get a visa to transit/arrive in the US, which is probably the point of visas precisely: to weed out asylum seekers. Any blind spots I'm missing?

Apparently, Mexicans are showing up all the time and being turned away at the SoCal ports-of-entry, even though they're claiming asylum, so is there a big chance that they ignore me like they do the Mexicans? Can I just keep showing up every day, until I get myself successfully detained and given a credible fear interview, at which point I contact an attorney?

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    Similar discussion: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/27129/…
    – Karlson
    May 15, 2014 at 13:59
  • The only reason I'm not seeking asylum at Mexico first is because they don't have good precedents about not sending people back (where I face a big jail term for "insulting religion"). In the US, at least they have withholding of removal, and, should I fail at the US, at least Mexico can be a cushion for me not to be sent back. If I fail at Mexico (a country frankly without a history of accepting asylum seekers readily, having only enacted their asylum laws in the 2010s), they'll send me back and I'll basically die. I'm not a social parasite, having owned a software business since I was 21.
    – Sedih pilu
    May 15, 2014 at 19:36

1 Answer 1


The original basis for the right to have your case heard (“non-refoulement”) is article 33 of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees:

No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

I don't know much about US law and practice in this area but this principle is broadly accepted and applied, e.g. in airports in Europe. However, it only means countries have to consider an application if the person can't be sent back to the country they are coming from. On a land border, if you are not threatened in Mexico, it's not obvious that it applies.

To the extent that Mexico is deemed a safe third country by the US, you could therefore be denied entry and handed over to the Mexican authorities, at which point Mexico could in principle decide to deport you back to Malaysia or let you claim asylum, but in Mexico. In practice, I have no idea what kind of treatment you can expect in Mexico. Presumably a lawyer or support group could tell you more about what works and what does not.

Technically, the US is not party to the 1951 convention, but only to the 1967 New York Protocol, which refers back to article 2 to 34 of the convention.

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    Relevant links on US law and processes for Refugees and Asylum seekers: uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/refugees, uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/refugees/…, uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum, See refugee
    – Karlson
    May 15, 2014 at 14:15
  • The US only has a safe third country agreement with Canada. So entering via Mexico seems to be the way to go. It's no longer possible to enter from Canada without first requesting asylum in Canada. But it will be very difficult to find a flight from KUL to anywhere in Mexico that does not transit the US and thus bring up the visa problem all over again. May 15, 2014 at 21:06
  • Another thought is to travel to the British Virgin Islands (e.g. KUL-EIS) and then take a ferry over to St. Thomas, where you would apply for asylum. These flights will generally transit through London or elsewhere in Europe and should be visa-free most or all the way. May 15, 2014 at 21:52
  • How to get from KL to Mexico without transiting the US or Canada, and without needing transit visas is probably a valid question back on Travel.SE (where this one came from!)
    – Gagravarr
    May 15, 2014 at 21:52
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    Mexico has recently (2011...) changed its laws on the matter: refugees.org/about-us/in-the-news/press-releases/…
    – littleadv
    May 16, 2014 at 5:39

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