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Members of Congress Waited With Migrants Seeking Asylum. It took Them 20 Hours and a Cold Wait Overnight

 

Yesterday, after reports that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were again illegally turning away asylum seekers, U.S. Representatives Jimmy Gomez (CA-34) and Nanette D. Barragán (CA-44) went to the border and tried to investigate. Gomez and Barragán met 19 asylum seekers at the Otay Mesa port of entry, located just outside of San Diego. One of them was Maria Meza, the mother whose photo went viral when she and her two young daughters were forced to flee tear gas fired by border patrol agents last month. All of the 19 migrants were attempting to make legal claims for asylum.

Barragán said CBP originally told them that they would only take unaccompanied minors at that location and everyone else must go to the San Ysidro port of entry. Turning away asylum seekers is not only against the law; it’s something CBP has claimed it doesn’t do. The agents last night claimed “capacity issues” at the Otay Mesa port of entry, but did not provide any proof of such issues to Barragán and Gomez.

San Ysidro is the the largest port of entry in the United States and it is the location where migrants like Maria Meza and her children were recently tear gassed by CBP. Gomez and Barragán continued to stay with the asylum seekers into the night, pressing their right to make their claims. As the night wore on, CBP put up a barricade closing in the asylum seekers and both members of Congress. The group stayed outside in the cold night without answers from CBP for the delay in entry. The children sang children’s songs and Disney anthems.

After a 20+ hour wait and pressure from the members of Congress, all of the group — including Maria Meza and her children — were brought into the facility, processed, and allowed to present their asylum claims.

As Rep. Gomez summed up the frustratingly long and painful experience: “I’ve left the US-Mexico border with more questions than answers.”

Check out CBrownImmLaw, Ava Benach, Rep. Jimmy GomezRep. Nanette Barragan and others on Twitter for more updates and videos and pictures from last night.