Amid the pandemic, racial tensions and the upcoming presidential election, some may have forgotten the thousands of asylum seekers along the US-Mexico border. Many asylum seekers have been waiting there since January to take the next step in their search for political refuge, but there is no end in sight.
Migration protection protocols, known as the “stay in Mexico” policy, allowed immigration officials to send thousands of asylum seekers back to Mexico while their cases were decided by the US court system. immigration. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the policy aims to respond to the growing number of asylum applications.
In July, DHS Suspended Hearings for those awaiting asylum in Mexico due to the pandemic. The agency has established health criteria for Arizona, California and Texas to meet before hearings resume.
Now, “asylum at the border is virtually impossible,” said Luis Guerra, a lawyer with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. America. “Covid is being used as an excuse to close the border.”
Mr. Guerra said it was illogical for DHS to claim that it is too dangerous to hold asylum hearings, while maintaining that it is not too dangerous to hold people in detention.
“Asylum at the border is virtually impossible,” said a lawyer from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. “Covid is being used as an excuse to close the border.”
“Our asylum procedure is not meant to help people get asylum,” he said, noting that it is difficult for asylum seekers to find legal help in the system. “There is no rhyme or reason to explain why some people succeed and others don’t.”
US immigration courts have denied asylum claims to a recording rate last year, with 69 percent of asylum applications rejected. In San Diego and El Paso, where courts hear asylum claims from the US-Mexico border, the denial rate has exceeded 90%.
On September 21, a group of about 60 asylum seekers and immigration advocates gathered on the Mexican side of the border at Parque de las Golondrinas, just south of the main port of entry in Nogales, Sonora. They practiced chanting as organizers urged social distancing and handed out hand sanitizer.
The group marched past shops in Nogales near the border, holding signs reading “Todos tienen el derecho de solicitar asilo” (“Everyone has the right to seek asylum”) and “La migración es un derecho humano (“Migration is a human right”). The Kino Border Initiative, which helped organize the protest, streamed the march live on Facebook.
The asylum seekers who gathered in the park had arrived in Nogales from many Latin American countries, including Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The group paused briefly to say a Hail Mary at the port of entry, then walked a few hundred yards west to a spot on the border wall where they encountered a small group of leaders and of interfaith advocates who had gathered on the American side of the wall. in solidarity.
“My only option was to leave Honduras,” Ms. Sánchez said, bursting into tears. “Please open your hearts. We just want, in a way, to be as blessed as you are.
Yolani Sánchez, one of the speakers at the rally, said gangs tried to kidnap her eldest daughter years ago in Honduras. After her husband reported the incident to the authorities, gang members came to their home to beat him. Her husband and eldest daughter fled to the United States.
When gang members came looking for Ms Sanchez’s husband, she refused to say anything. They came back time and again, but she didn’t cooperate with them. Thus, the gang members sexually assaulted her youngest daughter, who was 14 years old. Her brother, furious at what had been done to his niece, confronted the gang members. They killed him.
“My only option was to leave the country,” Ms Sánchez said, breaking down in tears as she addressed those watching on Facebook. “Please open your hearts. We just want, in a way, to be as blessed as you are.
Mardoqueo López left Guatemala with his 9-year-old son in January. They have been waiting in Nogales to seek asylum since February. Members of the infamous Mara Salvatrucha gang, MS-13, threatened him. “They beat me and left me for dead,” he said. America. “Even after we fled, they were walking past my house and shooting bullets into the walls.”
His wife and two daughters have left home and are living with a family friend.
“We just want to be treated humanely by the United States,” he said. “We come to seek protection for our families. I am a father. I never wanted to be separated from my family like this.
“We just want to be treated humanely by the United States. We come to seek protection for our families.
Nearby, Xiomara Martínez gave her two children bottles of water. She, her children and her brother, Sergio, made the trip to Nogales from Honduras. They have been in Mexico for six months.
“We were given a [application] asylum number, but they keep changing [hearing] date,” she said America. She is a single mother and her two children are US citizens. Her son has a medical condition that she says needs treatment in the United States.
“They couldn’t heal him [in Honduras],” she said. “He was born in the United States. It’s his country. We don’t have insurance. He should be treated there.
Her brother drove a small transit vehicle for a living. MS-13 and 18th Street gang members extorted so much money from him that he couldn’t pay his bills. After Mr. Martinez reported the gangs to local authorities, the gangs threatened his life.
“I was told I was going to suffer the consequences,” Mr Martinez said. “I sold my little bus and we left. We are not criminals. We are not thieves. We are not murderers [as] President Trump and so many others think.
While waiting indefinitely at the border, asylum seekers face a number of other threats, including kidnapping, torture, rape and sexual assault, Guerra said. “Organized crime focuses on the migrant population because they often have connections in the United States,” he said. “They target asylum seekers. They can kidnap them and get extortion money.
Criminals will abduct migrants, take their cellphones and call each of their contacts to demand ransom, Guerra said. Many of those waiting in Mexico because of migrant protection protocols have been trapped in the same situation.
And crime is not the only threat to people forced to hang their lives at the border. The lack of testing makes it difficult to accurately estimate Covid-19 infection rates in towns bordering Mexico. With space running out in official shelters, many migrant families are living in tents and makeshift dwellings, which means physical distancing is a challenge. Humanitarian outreach agencies have changed the way they deliver services with the community spread of the coronavirus in mind.
Some who fled persecution in their home countries are found by their persecutors, he said. “There are few shelters, so they are easy to find,” Guerra said.
Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson, who was unable to personally attend the rally, sent a message to be read during the rally.
“In defiance of our legal and moral tradition as a nation, our modern representations of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are stuck in situations of persecution and danger instead of being allowed to join the families and communities that await them. receive,” he said. in the statement. “As a member of American society, I recognize my own complicity in this social sin and invite us to repent for our nation’s choice to inflict pain on families who simply seek safety.”