At least 88 members of the so-called “caravan” of migrants have been allowed to cross into the United States from Mexico. At the same time, the United States is boosting legal resources on the border, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
Among the group entering the United States were women, children and transgender people, who had been waiting to cross and apply for asylum since April 27.
The Central American asylum seekers have been camped in a square near the entrance of the San Ysidro pedestrian bridge, which is part of the largest land border crossing between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. Border officials said the crossing was busy and allowed only few people at a time to enter the United States, informing the rest of the group to wait for their turn.
Officials permitted the first eight asylum-seekers to cross the border on April 30. The group was made up of four children, three women and an 18-year-old man.
This part of the “caravan” arrived at San Ysidro after a month-long journey, according to The New York Times.
According to Reuters, the event has fueled hope among the remaining migrants still waiting to apply for asylum.
Threatened at home, unwelcome abroad
Most of the asylum seekers come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. They say they’re fleeing death threats, extortion and violence. Maritza Flores, 38, from El Salvador, is traveling with her daughters, aged six and three years old.
“We leave our countries under threat. We leave behind our home, our relatives, our friends,” she told the BBC.
President Donald J. Trump had previously said he would refuse the group entry to the United States and sought the deployment of the National Guard to assist border agents in detaining and deterring the refugees. However, international rules oblige the United States to give a fair hearing to asylum applications (Reuters).
During their waiting period in the border city of Tijuana, the group has been assisted by the U.S.-based advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras. The group has also received free consultations from volunteer lawyers.
According to The New York Times, organizers and lawyers have identified around 200 cases they say have a good chance of being granted asylum.
Applicants must prove they have been persecuted or fear persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political belief or membership in a particular group in order to receive asylum. They must then submit to an interview which, if successful, sees their case referred to an immigration judge (New York Times).
This so-called “caravan” first assembled on March 25 in Tapachula, Mexico, near Guatemala. The group was initially comprised of 1,500 people but hundreds abandoned the journey, choosing to remain in Mexico or travel on their own (New York Times).
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- Is it a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act to deploy National Guard troops to enforce immigration law?
- What is the Trump administration’s relationship with Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador? (The Central American countries that produce many migrants.)
- Why are Mexico’s immigration laws so tough considering the Mexican immigrant experience in the United States?
- Has Trump’s presidency deterred people from coming to the United States?
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Things to consider
- Seventy-seven percent of Republican voters cited immigration as a “very important issue” ahead of the 2016 election, according to a Pew Research poll. Two years later, 16 percent of Republicans consider immigration to be the number one issue facing the country, compared to 4 percent of Democrats who feel the same way.
- Roughly 52,000 Central American migrants arrived at the U.S. border in 2014. The Obama administration sent back many, others were given due process to see if they qualified for asylum. Those who didn’t qualify were prioritized for deportation, which angered many Democrats who saw the Obama policy as inhumane. Many Republicans were furious at the amount of resources expended to deport migrants who were allowed to live in the country (Los Angeles Times).
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