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Crisis Grows Over “Remain in Mexico” Policy at Border Crossings

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As the administration’s inhumane “Remain in Mexico” policy exacerbates the human rights and refugee crisis at the border, articles from the Los Angeles Times, Texas Observer, Univision and USA Today highlight the dangers and frustrations asylum-seekers face as they wait, in some cases for months, for their asylum hearing.

In the Los Angeles TimesMexican asylum seekers at multiple border crossings grow frustrated with waiting,” Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Wendy Fry report: 

In Tijuana on Monday, Mexican migrants who had been waiting for months to cross gathered at a border bridge to hear names read from the waiting list of those who would be allowed to cross and seek asylum from U.S. officials. A volunteer reading names from the list — which included about 11,000 individuals — said the majority of those waiting were Mexican.

Fisherman Javier Contreras fled Michoacán with his family by bus two months ago after two of his young children were kidnapped by a cartel and he had to pay a ransom. Contreras, 40, said they came to Tijuana because it was the first bus they could catch, but he did not feel safe even bringing his family to check the list.

“We are running from a life-or-death situation,” he said.

He was number 3,763. On Monday, the list reached 3,055 — Contreras and his family would have to keep waiting. A couple from Chiapas with a 13-year-old son who is a U.S. citizen had been waiting for a month to cross.

In the Texas Observer, “Attacked in Mexico, Returned to Mexico: Trump Policy Ignores Danger to Asylum-Seekers” details the dangers asylum-seekers face in Mexico, and how MPP is exacerbating the circumstances: 

Mario Rodríguez, a 27-year-old from Nicaragua, was in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas in May when he was attacked the first time. According to a police report, he was knocked unconscious and robbed of $70 by an unknown assailant. He experienced a second attack in late July, when he was in Matamoros, a Mexican border city across from Brownsville, waiting his turn to request asylum legally at the bridge under the Trump policy known as “metering.” One evening, Rodríguez—who, like the other migrants in this story, requested a pseudonym for his protection—walked downtown to buy some churros. Night fell, so he decided to take a taxi back to the bridge, where he lived in a migrant encampment.

By Rodríguez’s account, the taxi driver recognized him as a foreigner, pulled a crescent wrench from the floorboard, and slammed him over the head three times in an attempt to knock him unconscious. The driver grabbed Rodríguez’s cell phone and said he was going to turn him over to the local Gulf Cartel. Rodríguez, an ex-cop, says he fought back, wresting away the wrench and fleeing to the bridge on foot, blood pouring down his face. He reached the bridge’s midpoint, where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials stand guard, and begged to be let through. But, he says, the agents just confiscated the bloody wrench from him and turned him away. About two weeks later, it was his turn to request asylum at the bridge. Though he told a CBP officer he was afraid of Mexico, the agent said nothing could be done, and Rodríguez was returned to Matamoros under MPP. Now he rarely leaves the area right by the bridge. “I feel a fear here,” he told me in August. “I have this premonition that something’s going to happen to me.”

In a piece titled “Migrants in a campsite in Matamoros express concern over the end of ‘catch and release,’” Univision interviewed asylum-seekers who fear for their children’s security since they don’t know how much longer they will be living in the open air in Mexico (translation by America’s Voice en Español):

Dorca Pérez, from Guatemala:

“I asked them, I begged them to stay there (in the US) because I’m with my mother. But they said ‘no.’ Then they asked me ‘Which country are you going to, Mexico or Guatemala?’ I said ‘No, I’m not going to any other country, I want to stay here, in this state.’ ‘No’, he said (the agent), ‘I’m not asking you. You are going to go to Mexico.’ And then they sent me here. Here (in Mexico) is not safe, anybody can harm you here.”

Dorca didn’t have the ‘credible fear’ interview, she only was instructed to sign documents in which the authorities informed her she will have a court date in Brownsville, Texas, next November 19.

She added: ‘I didn’t see anybody allowed to stay there, everybody was returned.’

Other migrants interviewed in Matamoros campsite by Univision:

Delcer Ferino, Mexican migrant in Matamoros:

“Here is too difficult to live, especially for the children.”

Patricia Villarroel, Mexican migrant in Matamoros:

“There are little kids two months and up. They are the most important. I don’t care if I have to stay here for a month. But I would prefer to help the children.”

In USA Today’s I spent a day in LA immigration court, these powerful portraits tell the story,” Harrison Hill effectively shows, rather than tells, what a day in immigration court is truly like by capturing powerful portraits of those brave enough to stand before a judge and ask for asylum in the US: 

Jeffrey, a native of Honduras, was continuously persecuted for identifying as a member of the LGBT community. After being badly beaten by a Honduras gang known as A team, he migrated to the United States with his son. His journey took two months and along the journey, he stayed in four camps.

Mira Santos, 45, from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, ran a high school cafeteria, until gang members in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, extorted her. The members left her a notice, saying they would trash her business if she didn’t pay them 1,000 Honduran lempiras — approximately $41 dollars — every Sunday. “It’s extortion but they call it rent,” Santos said. She didn’t believe them at first, and soon after they ransacked her cafeteria. “They took everything they could,” she said. “What they couldn’t take, they destroyed.”

José Antonio, 24, from San Miguel, El Salvador, was repeatedly beaten by gang members injuring him all over his body. The men had tormented him for months. First, they showed up at his place of work, demanding that he pay them. After he changed jobs, they found him again at the new leather store where he worked. For a while, he said his family had to scrape by on $4 a day. Life quickly became unsustainable for Jose Antonio, his wife and his children. He remembers the night when he decided to leave El Salvador vividly. “What do I do?” José Antonio remembers asking himself. “I cried all night seeing what my life was like.” He left his life behind one day in early April and arrived in the United States on May 1, where he sought refuge with a cousin.