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Spotlight on Inequities of Trump’s Relentless Effort to Subvert Due Process for Asylum Seekers

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New reporting and first person accounts spotlight the details and consequences of the Trump administration’s relentless and multi-faceted effort to restrict access to a fair asylum process. Here’s the sham process the Trump administration has set up in order to deny fair access to asylum:

First, they’ve eliminated the ability for vulnerable people to stay and apply for asylum in the U.S. Then they force these vulnerable people into harm’s way in Mexico through the MPP or “Remain in Mexico” policy, where individuals and families face increasingly dangerous conditions. Finally, after interminable delays, if asylum seekers are finally able to get to a supposedly ‘fair’ asylum hearing, many find that it is taking place in a “kangaroo” tent court in Laredo or Brownsville and without a lawyer, with judges on a video screen, and with no transparency, outside observers or accountability.

Policymakers, candidates, and journalists continue to highlight the fundamental inequities of the above sham process, with powerful first-person stories and testimonials reminding us what’s at stake:

On Monday, democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro escorted 12 asylum-seekers, some of whom are facing threats for being disabled and LGBTQ, over the US-Mexico border. Within hours all 12 migrants were sent back to Mexico. Buzzfeed reports:

‘Hours after we were told LGBT and disabled asylum seekers would have their cases heard, they have been returned to Mexico,’ Castro said in a tweet. ‘By law, these migrants are supposed to be exempt from the Remain in Mexico policy—but [Customs and Border Protection] had decided to ignore their due process. Outrageous.’

The US government’s decision not to allow the group to enter highlights the difficult circumstances asylum-seekers face while their cases are heard in US immigration courts. A Reuters analysis in June found that only about 1% of people in MPP had their cases removed from the program. The policy, which has sent more than 48,000 asylum-seekers back to Mexico, has been rolled out away from US eyes and lauded as a success by the administration.

The Department of Homeland Security has said vulnerable populations may be excluded from the policy on a case-by-case basis, including immigrants who are ‘more likely than not to be persecuted’ in Mexico. Immigrants with known physical and mental health issues should also not be subjected to MPP, according to guiding principles for the program.

Today, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, led by Juaquin Castro (TX-20), will visit kangaroo tent courts in Laredo, TX to witness the sham of an asylum process which awaits the few vulnerable migrants who are able to have their cases heard. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Late last month, the Department of Homeland Security set up courts in large white tents next to the border bridges to Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo to hear Remain in Mexico cases. The department barred public access and has required migrants to show up before dawn for hearings. Some migrants said they were kidnapped while traveling in the dark to court last month. Others have left Mexico before their court hearings, returning home on free flights and buses south provided by the Mexican government and the United Nations-affiliated International Organization for Migration.

[Julian] Castro’s brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, plans to lead the group on a visit to the Laredo tent court Tuesday.

NPR is reporting on vulnerable African migrants currently stuck in legal-limbo in Mexico. After months of being forced to live in tents outside a Mexican immigration facility while awaiting proper documentation, the migrants are planning a march to the US border to petition asylum: 

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST: More than a thousand African migrants, many of whom have risked their lives to try to get to the United States, have been stuck in limbo in southern Mexico. They want to be able to travel north to the U.S. safely. They’re threatening to go en masse if they don’t get Mexican travel documents, but Mexico is under pressure from the Trump administration to stem the tide of migrants. NPR’s Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: For nearly two months, hundreds of African migrants have been camped out in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula. They’ve pitched dozens of tents in front of the main Mexican immigration detention facility here.

KAHN: Henry, a migrant from Cameroon who won’t give his last name out of fear of retribution, says he had to flee his village as soldiers attacked them last October. He says he got separated from his family and spent months looking for them, sneaking back into Cameroon from neighboring Nigeria several times.

HENRY: I was traumatized because I kept thinking, they are dead. Are they alive? Are they dead?

KAHN: He finally decided he had to flee for good and caught a plane to Ecuador. It took him several months walking through the jungle, taking buses and paying off corrupt officials in seven different countries before arriving in Mexico.

HENRY: That was when the greatest problem started here. It was the worst.

KAHN: He says Africans can’t find work here in Mexico’s poorest state. He says there are no jobs, and racism against blacks is terrible. He was told he could only apply for asylum, something he says he won’t do. Luis Garcia Villagran, a human rights activist, has taken on the Africans’ cause and says under Mexican law, the migrants have a right to a humanitarian visa or residency