As predicted, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan and the acting heads of CBP, ICE, and USCIS went to the tent courts in Laredo, TX yesterday and tried to claim that Trump’s policies were successful and that the asylum hearings at these makeshift courtrooms were part of a fair process. With President Trump heading to the border near San Diego today and undoubtedly set to make similar claims about his administration’s “success,” another day’s worth of powerful reporting exposes why the administration’s spin is pure fiction and their policies are needlessly endangering and costing lives and trampling on real due process.
According to Pili Tobar, America’s Voice Deputy Director, “The Remain in Mexico policies are endangering lives and the tent courts in Laredo and Brownsville are kangaroo courts – part of a sham process designed to fail and one that makes a mockery of any true vision of justice. Even the fact that each of the DHS officials who are defending the policies are ‘acting’ heads underscores this point: instead of a real, accountable process administered by Senate-confirmed professionals, we’ve got a sham process administered by Trump acolytes and enablers. And the administration is so intent on restricting accountability, they are severely limiting media access to the proceedings, going so far as to disinvite immigration reporters they think will expose the miscarriage of justice they are perpetrating.”
Despite the Trump “acting” team attempting to manufacture the story yesterday, powerful accounts of reality are breaking through — from the sham asylum process to the human lives and safety at stake under the Trump Return to Mexico policy. Below, we provide additional details, including revelations of the Trump team’s attempt to limit media access:
Associated Press, “Migrants say they face danger before court in Texas tents”:
At least 42,000 migrants have been forced back into Mexico after crossing the border, according to the U.S. government. Many of them say they fled violence or threats in their home countries and hope to get asylum … Many of the migrants making court appearances complain of the dangers they face as they are forced to wait in crime-ridden Nuevo Laredo. The U.S. government has warned Americans not to travel to the area, citing safety concerns … Immigrants and advocates trying to help in Mexican border cities have reported families sleeping in overcrowded shelters, boarding houses or outdoor camps. Many have been bused south by Mexico to cities considered safer, though there was no guarantee that they would be able to return.
Critics say Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which oversee immigration courts, have illegally expedited asylum cases by turning the tents in Laredo and Brownsville into secret courts, restricting public access.
… Legal advocates have not been allowed to give migrants at tent courts ‘know your rights’ presentations, as they do at other immigration courts. On Tuesday, of 106 migrants scheduled to appear at the Laredo tent court, 52 attended, four with attorneys. Most of the no-shows were ordered deported, ending their asylum cases.
‘It’s like factory justice,’ said Charanya Krishnaswami, Americas’ advocacy director for Amnesty International USA. ‘They’re just trying to get as many people through with the least friction as possible. They know people having counsel will cause friction in their system — people will express fear and potentially win their cases.’
The Atlantic: “Trapped in Juárez: Life in the Migrant Limbo”
On the streets in Juárez, MPP is experienced by asylum seekers less as a policy and more as punishment, less as a law and more as a game with no discernible rules. People wait for months to cross into the United States and ask for asylum, then are handed a set of documents from U.S. immigration authorities that aren’t explained and, because 99 percent of asylum seekers in MPP never find an attorney, that they have little hope of understanding. Once back in Juárez, they must find work to feed themselves, but are often unsure if they can legally get a job. They must find housing, but this is already in short supply. Who is allowed to stay in the United States, who is returned here, and who can survive the violence has become puro suerte, I was told repeatedly — ’pure luck.’
…Juárez is still one of the most violent cities in the world. And for a migrant or asylum seeker, it is arguably worse. Four people in MPP have been murdered since the program began in March. Kidnappings in the city have since doubled. Asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable because they carry large amounts of cash, or have access to family in the U.S. who can wire them money, and criminals know this.
Univision, Telemundo, and several English language outlets highlight the drowning of a Honduran mom and her 2-year old son in the Rio Grande seeking to reunite with their family in the U.S. after being returned to Mexico via MPP
The Daily Mail (UK) notes, “The journey of a Honduran mother and her son to reunite with her husband and two daughters ended in tragedy last week when they were found dead near the Rio Grande. The migrant woman, identified by Univision as Idalia Herrera, was found drowned with her toddler son … Herrera is believed to have been staying at a makeshift migrant camp in northern Mexico with her son and decided to attempt the 300-mile journey from Matamoros, a border city on the southern bank of the Rio Grande, to the Ciudad Acuña-Del Rio border crossing.
EN24 highlights Univision’s reporting on the tragedy, noting, “The mother and child drowned in the Rio Grande had been returned to Mexico awaiting asylum … The tightening of US migration policies has caused an accumulation of migrants on the northern Mexican border that have saturated cities like Matamoros, where many of those who wait for the date of their immigration court have no place in shelters and must sleep in the open without access to hygienic services and difficulty in obtaining food.”
Laredo Morning Times, “Media barred from Laredo tent facilities as immigration hearings begin on the borde
Reporters are still not allowed inside the facilities, even though immigration courts are traditionally open to the public … Last week, the Society of Professional Journalists called on the Trump administration to immediately allow unconditional media access to these MPP courts. ‘Observing from a judge’s chambers allows media to see only where the government-controlled camera points inside the tents. What happens inside these courts are a matter of vital public interest. Barring media access is a grievous affront to transparency that prevents journalists from holding the administration to account,’ said Patricia Gallagher Newberry, the organization’s national president, in a statement.
The Department of Homeland Security inexplicably disinvited a BuzzFeed reporter from a media tour of the southern border this week, according to an email the organization’s news director sent the agency protesting the decision. The email, which I obtained, was written by BuzzFeed news director Tom Namako to DHS spokesperson Andrew Meehan. Namako wrote that he wanted to ‘protest the treatment of our reporter Hamed Aleaziz, one of the most authoritative, knowledgeable, and fairest immigration reporters in the country, by your agency.’ Namako said that Aleaziz was invited on the media tour with Sec. Kevin McAleenan and that DHS even requested his personal information for ‘security clearance purposes.’ But, Namako wrote, on Monday Aleaziz was ‘notified that he would be excluded from the tour.’