Friday, May 24, 2019

GOOD: Pregnant women, other vulnerable asylum seekers are returned to Mexico to await hearings

Molly Hennessy-Fiske/Los Angeles Times
When Enma Hernandez crossed the Rio Grande here illegally about two weeks ago and approached Border Patrol agents seeking asylum, she told them she was eight months pregnant.
Hernandez, 26, said she had fled Guatemala hoping to join her husband and 2-year-old daughter in Miami. Instead, U.S. immigration officials returned her to Ciudad Juarez under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Rather than being released in the U.S. pending an immigration court hearing, Hernandez would have to wait in Mexico as her case progressed. She can enter the U.S under guard only for court hearings and then return to Mexico until her case is decided.
The program, officially dubbed “Migrant Protection Protocols,” debuted in San Ysidro in January and expanded to El Paso in March, one of several White House initiatives designed to deter asylum seekers who fear persecution at home. The Trump administration has also initiated wait lists at border crossings that have left thousands of migrants waiting in Mexican border shelters for the chance to enter the U.S. to apply for asylum.
Immigrant advocates point out that pregnant women are given priority on the wait lists coordinated by U.S. Customs officers, whereas Border Patrol agents — part of the same agency — include pregnant women in the Remain in Mexico program, placing vulnerable asylum seekers’ lives at risk by forcing them to wait indefinitely in Mexican border cities. Last week, some asylum seekers were returned to Mexico with court dates months away, some in January, because of a growing backlog in U.S. immigration courts of more than 800,000 pending cases.
Molly Hennessy-Fiske/Los Angeles Times
As of Friday, the U.S. had sent 6,004 asylum seekers back to Mexico under the program, and during the last month, authorities sent 1,713 to Tijuana, 933 to Mexicali and 2,035 to Juarez, according to Mexico’s immigration agency, the National Institute of Migration.
This month, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) proposed legislation, co-sponsored by 21 other Democrats, to defund the program. In addition, civil liberties groups have mounted a legal challenge, but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 7 allowed the returns to continue while the case is pending.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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