Asylum Seekers Sent to Dangerous Area 07/20 09:18
The U.S. government on Friday expanded its requirement that asylum seekers
wait outside the country to a part of the Texas Rio Grande Valley across from
one of Mexico's most dangerous cities.
HOUSTON (AP) -- The U.S. government on Friday expanded its requirement that
asylum seekers wait outside the country to a part of the Texas Rio Grande
Valley across from one of Mexico's most dangerous cities.
The Department of Homeland Security said that it would implement its Migrant
Protection Protocols in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros,
Mexico. DHS says it anticipates the first asylum seekers will be sent back to
Mexico starting Friday.
Under the so-called "Remain in Mexico" policy, asylum seekers are briefly
processed and given a date to return for an immigration court hearing before
being sent back across the southern border. Since January, the policy has been
implemented at several border cities including San Diego and El Paso, Texas. At
least 18,000 migrants have been sent back to Mexico under the policy, according
to Mexico's National Migration Institute.
The U.S. is trying to curtail the large flow of Central American migrants
passing through Mexico to seek asylum under American law. The busiest corridor
for unauthorized border crossings is the Rio Grande Valley, at Texas'
southernmost point. Other cities in the region were not immediately included in
The policy announcement came as groups of lawmakers visited the region
Friday to examine detention facilities operated by the U.S. Border Patrol,
including the processing center in McAllen, Texas, where hundreds of adults and
children are detained in fenced-in pens.
Standing outside the processing center, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon
criticized conditions inside the facilities and other Trump administration
programs cracking down on asylum seekers.
"We want them treated with dignity and respect as we would want our family
members to be treated," Merkley said.
U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragn, a California Democrat, tweeted that while
visiting the processing center, she encountered a 13-year-old girl who was a
U.S. citizen and had her passport with her. The girl was held with her mother
despite the facility being designed for immigrants in the U.S. without legal
permission, not citizens, Barragn said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that the mother and daughter had
been apprehended crossing the border illegally after the teenager had crossed
into Mexico to meet her mother. CBP said the two were detained at the
processing center for about five hours and released Friday afternoon.
DHS said it had coordinated with the Mexican government to expand its
"Remain" policy. The Mexican government did not immediately respond to requests
for comment. But the Trump administration has pressured Mexico to crack down on
migrants, threatening earlier this year to impose crippling tariffs until both
sides agreed on new measures targeting migration.
Matamoros is at the eastern edge of the U.S.-Mexico border in Tamaulipas
state, where organized crime gangs are dominant and the U.S. government warns
citizens not to visit due to violence and kidnappings.
The city is also near where a Salvadoran father and his 23-month-old
daughter were found drowned in the Rio Grande, in photos that were shared
around the world.
Many people have slept for the last several months in a makeshift camp near
one of the international bridges, including families with young children.
Thousands more stay in hotels, shelters, or boarding houses. Only a few
migrants daily have been allowed to seek asylum under another Trump
administration policy limiting asylum processing known as "metering."
A list run by Mexican officials has more than 1,000 people on it, said Elisa
Filippone, a U.S.-based volunteer who visits Matamoros several times a week to
deliver food and donated clothes. But many others not on the list wait in
shelters. There are frequent rumors that migrants are shaken down for bribes to
join the list, Filippone said.
She described a desperate situation that could be made worse if people are
forced to wait longer in Mexico for their asylum claims to be processed.
"I'm afraid that Matamoros is about to catch on fire," she said.
Filippone said Friday that she saw the camp closest to one of the bridges
being cleared away, though it was not immediately clear why or where the people
detained would go.
DHS recently implemented the "Remain" policy for migrants in Nuevo Laredo,
across from Laredo, Texas. About 1,800 asylum seekers and migrants are
currently waiting in Nuevo Laredo, where some have reported being kidnapped and
extorted by gangs.
"I don't want to go out on the street. I'm afraid the same men ... will do
something to me or my boys," said one woman, insisting on speaking anonymously
out of fear for their safety.
People in Nuevo Laredo were told to return in September for U.S. court
dates. At other points of the border, wait times have stretched to several
Unlike in criminal court, the U.S. government does not have to provide
lawyers to people in the immigration court system. Attorneys in South Texas
have long questioned where they could meet with potential clients in Tamaulipas.
Many migrants who get to the U.S. have exhausted all their resources by the
time they arrive, said Lisa Brodyaga, an attorney who has represented asylum
seekers for decades.
"It would be extremely difficult for them to find attorneys who would have
the time and the ability and the willingness to expose themselves to what's
going in Matamoros," she said. "I'm not sure how it's going to work."