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Dara Lind of Vox explains how the Trump Administration is throwing obstacles in the way of those seeking asylum at our southern border. Read excerpts from Dara Lind’s explainer below and read it in its entirety here:
The Trump administration justifies its “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses into the US illegally — including asylum-seeking parents who are separated from their children by being placed in criminal jails — by saying that people who want asylum should seek it the “right way”: by presenting themselves at an official port of entry into the US (like an official road checkpoint at the US-Mexico border) rather than coming into the country illegally between checkpoints.
But some immigrants who try to seek asylum the “right way” are being turned away and told there’s no room for them now. And there’s evidence that border agents are physically blocking some asylum seekers from setting foot on US soil — in other words, from triggering a legal right to claim asylum in the US — to begin with.
Over the weekend, journalist Robert Moore (writing for Texas Monthly) witnessed a group of Guatemalans try to cross the bridge that connects Ciudad Juarez in Mexico to El Paso, Texas. They aimed to present themselves at the official US port of entry, on the other side of the bridge, where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials check the papers of people entering the country. But at the top of the bridge — right where Mexican territory ends and US territory begins — the group was stopped by CBP agents and asked for identification, and then told that there wasn’t room at the port of entry to process asylum claims.
Ultimately, three of the Guatemalans, who had proceeded a few steps into US territory, were allowed to go through to the port. But according to Moore, those who hadn’t yet set foot in US territory were blocked from doing so:
Two CBP agents who had been standing a few feet from the border stepped forward and stood directly on the line. I witnessed one of the agents, whose nametag said Augustin, take a couple steps into Mexico to prevent one of the Guatemalans from crossing into the United States. CBP spokesman Maier later said port officials denied that any agent crossed into Mexico.
Advocates have long alleged that government officials illegally turn away people trying to present themselves for asylum at ports of entry. (The Trump administration maintains that it’s not turning anyone away — just trying to manage limited capacity by telling people to come back when they can be processed.) But stopping people before they can set foot in the US is an apparent escalation.
Just as the government is promising to prosecute anyone who seeks asylum “the wrong way,” by crossing into the US illegally, it’s raising serious questions about how possible it is to seek asylum the right way either.