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Ahead of tomorrow’s House Homeland Security Committee examination of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program, also known as MPP, two recommended watches and listens put the administration’s self-created human rights crisis – sparked by their approach to asylum, border, and MPP – into understandable and devastating context.
In a new episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj entitled “Trump’s Worst Policy: Killing Asylum,” Minhaj explains the real dangers of Remain in Mexico and the hurt the policy is inflicting on asylum-seekers:
… But Trump used [the caravan] media frenzy as rationale to issue a policy called MPP. Also known as “Remain in Mexico.” It means that people who come to America seeking asylum, now need to remain in Mexico while the U.S. processes their case.
…What you see in Guatemala is extortionists, rapists, thieves. The government does nothing to stop them. These people don’t want to claim asylum. They’re forced to claim asylum. Their sons are being recruited by gangs. Their daughters are being forced into prostitution. They’re living in such extreme danger, they have to evacuate. Asylum is a last resort and by making them wait in Mexico, we’re actually putting them back in the same danger they were running from. [There have been] “more than 340 public reports of rape, kidnap, and other violent attacks against asylum seekers who returned under this policy.”
…There is no evidence of widespread scamming of the asylum system. Of all the ways to immigrate to America, asylum is one of the hardest systems to go through. It is very rigorous. First, asylum seekers make the journey without help. They show up at America’s door. They prove their life is in danger and hope we take them in.
…[Lee Gelernet, a lawyer for the ACLU said] that Trump is doing everything he can to make it as hard as possible for migrants to even get to the door. That way they get scared away or maybe they die trying to get here.
Take metering. It’s a policy that puts a daily limit on the number of people who can claim asylum. So at the border between Tijuana and San Diego, asylum agents generally processed a hundred asylum seekers a day, But after Homeland Security put metering into effect, those agents were only allowed to process twenty a day. And now the wait list to even apply for asylum has ballooned to 11,000. That is the highest it’s ever been at that location. So if you’re fleeing cartel violence, it now takes now takes as long as nine months just to start the process of claiming asylum.
And in this week’s heartbreaking episode of NPR’s “This American Life,” entitled “688: The Out Crowd” (recording and transcript), Ira Glass shares interviews with migrants currently affected by Remain in Mexico, including one with an asylum-seeker named David and his son, who were kidnapped just hours after being forced to return to Mexico:
…[Reporter] Emily Green This guy who got kidnapped, I met him by chance, actually, before he got kidnapped, and he told me how scared he was that he would get kidnapped. I was on a bridge in Nuevo Laredo that connects Mexico to the US. Every day around 1:00 PM that month, the US was sending back migrants from the US side to Mexico under MPP.
… Emily Green He says he’s not a criminal. He’s a person who’s always made a living, but he can’t live in his country anymore. They’re from Honduras. David was a businessman. He ran a little clothing store.
The gangs there demand money. They call it a war tax. The tax kept hitting higher and higher until David’s family couldn’t pay it anymore. One night, the cartel broke into his house, threatened to rape his daughter, and so they fled.
Emily Green I’ve done lots of interviews with people like David, migrants in really difficult situations. This one felt especially hard. I think just seeing a father fall apart in front of his 11-year-old son.
David [SPEAKING SPANISH]
Emily Green David says he wanted to ask for asylum in the US, but the agents didn’t listen to him. They just gave him documents to come back to a court date in December. He can’t go back to Honduras, he says.
David [SPEAKING SPANISH]
Emily Green I don’t have anywhere to go. I don’t have anything. I don’t have money, he says. They say that here, where we’re being sent, a lot of people get kidnapped, and I don’t know what to do.
We only talked for 10 minutes. I ended up lending him my phone. He called his sister in New Jersey and explained what happened– that he made it to the United States only to be sent back to Mexico.
It was getting dark out, and I’d been told not to stay in Nuevo Laredo past dusk. I crossed back into the US to go to dinner, probably not a mile away from where I’d last seen David, and my phone rang. It was David’s sister. I’ll call her Laura.
She had my number because it was my phone he called her from earlier today. She was crying so hard I struggled to understand what she was saying. She tells me David and his son had been kidnapped just hours after I’d left them. She’d gotten a call from a cartel demanding ransom.
Laura [SPEAKING SPANISH]
Emily Green Laura says of the cartel told her the ransom was $9,000 for David, and another $9,000 for his son, so $18,000 total. They put David on the phone briefly so she knew he was alive, and then the kidnappers got on.