The United States is beefing up legal resources on the Mexican border to deal with a high-profile caravan of asylum seekers trying to enter the country, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on May 2.
More than 100 people, from Central America, have been stationed in a square near the entrance of the San Ysidro pedestrian bridge that leads from Mexico to California.
Officials recently permitted eight members of the so-called “caravan” of migrants across the border, where they could apply for asylum. The small group was made up of four children, three women and one 18-year-old man who had been waiting, with hundreds of others, since April 27.
This part of the “caravan” arrived at San Ysidro, near the Mexican border town of Tijuana, after a month-long journey, according to The New York Times.
The event has fuelled hope among the rest of migrants who are still camping in the San Ysidro port of entry, waiting to apply for asylum. They told reporters they will continue the sit-in until they are allowed to speak to border officials and convince them of their fears about returning home (Reuters).
Most of the people in the caravan come from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. They say they are escaping mortal danger after death threats, extortion and violence. Maritza Flores, 38, from El Salvador, is travelling with her two 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 tweeted on April 30, just few hours before the eight migrants were allowed in, saying that “the migrant caravan that is openly defying our border shows how weak & ineffective U.S. immigration laws are. Yet Democrats like Jon Tester continue to support the open borders agenda – Tester even voted to protect Sanctuary Cities. We need lawmakers who will put America First.”
Trump had previously demanded to refuse the entrance for the group and sought the deployment of the National Guard to assist border agents in detaining and deterring the migrants. However, international rules oblige the United States to accept asylum applications (Reuters). The president pressured the Mexican government in a tweet on April 3 to stop what began as 1,500 migrants, mainly from central America, from reaching the U.S. southern border.
During their wait in the border city of Tijuana, the group was assisted by U.S.-based advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, who organised the “caravan.” The group also received free consultations from volunteer lawyers.
According to The New York Times, organisers and lawyers had individuated around 200 cases that have a good chance of getting asylum.
Applicants must prove persecution or fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political belief or membership of a particular group in order to receive asylum. Then, if they successfully pass an interview with an official, their case is referred to an immigration judge (New York Times).
This trip started on March 25 in Tapachula, Mexican city close to the border with Guatemala. The caravan firstly carried 1,500 people but hundreds abandoned along the way, choosing to remain in Mexico or travel on their own (New York Times).
- WikiTribune is collecting ideas on how to report on the southern border and the “caravans” of migrants who are fleeing some of the worst violence in the world.
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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 these 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
- 77 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 it 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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