The Trump Administration has been waging an all-out war on the U.S.’s asylum system, which for more than 50 years has provided shelter for people who need protection. To accomplish this reversal of tradition, they’ve put into place a series of policies that have made it nearly impossible for people to quickly and safely claim asylum at the southern border. Chief among them is the forced return to Mexico program, which has trapped tens of thousands of people in dangerous cartel-controlled cities in northern Mexico while they wait for distant court dates inside the U.S.
The circumstances these vulnerable people are facing in the meantime are dire.
…Previously, they would have been processed through the asylum system and then either detained or released inside the U.S. while their claims were evaluated by an immigration judge. But now, they’re given a sheet of paper that tells them to come back to the border months later for their first hearing. In the meantime, they’re stuck, with nowhere to go and most often nobody to help them.
…The river is rife with pollution, and people living in the camp have developed rashes and other skin problems from bathing in it. Next to a small, muddy clearing, a series of white crosses stood in remembrance of the children who’ve died by drowning in the river in recent months.
…The “Migrant Protection Protocols” were designed to make it so uncomfortable and dangerous for people who are seeking asylum that they will simply give up, exhausted and defeated, and return back to the dangerous situations they fled.
…In just a brief visit, we’d heard one detailed story of a kidnapping-for-ransom and witnessed another family living through that trauma in real time. The experience underscored the insecurity and fear that tens of thousands of asylum-seekers are being subjected to across the U.S. border right now.
Supporters of the new, punitive asylum processes say that most of the people seeking shelter at our southern border are liars who are after better work opportunities in the U.S. That simply did not gel with much of what we heard. One man said he’d been a municipal employee back home. He liked Honduras, and he hadn’t wanted to leave. But a street gang had threatened to murder him and his son if the young boy didn’t start selling drugs for them, so he felt they had no choice but to flee.