Things That Matter

Trump Has Made It More Difficult For Cubans To Seek Asylum So Many Are Being Forced To Settle In Mexico

kpbs.org

Among the dilapidated buildings in Downtown Juárez lies Little Habana, a new restaurant emblazoned with Cuban flags, classic car art, and blasting reggaeton music providing the local growing community of Cuban asylum seekers a reminder of home. 

NPR recently reported about the new eatery that owner Cristina Ibarra opened four months ago once she noticed the burgeoning Cuban community that’s developing in the area.

She ran a taco business for 20 years before opening up a place that’s meant to evoke home for the refugees. 

“The Cubans leave their hotels and come to eat at the restaurant as if it were their own home,” Ibarra told NPR. “They stretch out, relax and talk. They share their experiences, their fears, their accomplishments … and that gives me tremendous satisfaction right now.”

The dishes are not interpretations but authentic recipes since all of her 14 employees are from the Caribbean island and advise her on menu items.

View this post on Instagram

Vamos a probar #ComidaCubana

A post shared by Francisco Nevarez (@nevarezpaco) on

The menu includes traditional fare like ropa vieja, pork chunks in a tomato stew, and three different types of rice. Her efforts extend to the decor and interior as well with bright orange and yellow walls, art depicting a street scene in Cuba, and, naturally, the lone star amid the red, white, and blue of the Cuban flag hanging on the wall. 

The restaurant opening occurred around the time of a new policy introduced by the Trump administration nicknamed  “remain in Mexico” since it requires those seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed. Before the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy, those seeking asylum could reside in the U.S. while they waited. 

The number of Cubans at U.S. entry ports and categorized as “inadmissibles” by Customs and Border Protection continues to increase with more than 20,000 expected to seek entry this year.

In 2016 during the Obama administration,  the U.S. deported 64 Cubans but in 2018, the Trump administration deported 463 and this year that number will increase to 560, the LA Times added. 

So far this fiscal year, 6,312 Cubans have arrived in El Paso seeking asylum, whereas the previous fiscal year had 394, according to Custom and Border Protection figures 

“This is a terrible moment for Cuban migrants. There’s desperation and alarm because of the latest measures,” Yaimí González, a 41-year-old who fled Cuba three months ago, said to The Wall Street Journal.

“I just don’t see a solution to our situation,” González added. She now sells french fries at a stand in Ciudad Juárez making $10 a day, which barely pays for the guesthouse room that she shares with four Cuban male migrants, WSJ reports. 

Though MPP affects all asylum seekers, Cubans have historically received better treatment as they were viewed as political refugees.

For decades, Cubans caught at sea would be forced to return but if they stepped foot on U.S. soil they could stay and seek permanent residence after a year and a day. Obama ended the policy, known as “wet foot, dry foot” – in January 2017 and Trump has not reinstated it. 

Now the Trump administrations has banned U.S.-based cruise ships from traveling to Cuba, economically affected groups catering to tourists on the island, and he also imposed restrictions on sending money to the island. 

While they wait for a decision on their case, economics continue to plague Cuban migrants who find work where they can in order to pay for whatever housing they can find in what’s considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. 

NPR spoke with Melba, 32, a waitress at Little Habana who arrived in April and told them that she’s found meaning in her work as she tends to fellow Cubans who, like her, eagerly await to find out if they’ll ever make it to the U.S. 

She and her husband rent a hotel room for about $12 a day and she earns about $20 per day plus tips at the restaurant, NPR reports. This is in stark contrast to her life in Brazil, where she worked as a doctor for nearly a decade as part of a Cuban government exchange program, the LA Times reports. When she was asked what she’d say to Trump if she could, she told the publication, “In Cuba, there is no freedom like you live.”

As the Trump administration continues to make it harder for Cubans and fellow asylum seekers to gain admission to the U.S. and the economy on their island deteriorates, places like Little Habana provide not only a taste of home but a respite from the inhospitable treatment they otherwise receive outside the restaurant walls. 

This Teen Girl Was Forced To Wait In Mexico Under The ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy And She Nearly Drowned In The Rio Grande

Things That Matter

This Teen Girl Was Forced To Wait In Mexico Under The ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy And She Nearly Drowned In The Rio Grande

In June, 25-year-old Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-year-old daughter Angie Valeria drowned in the Rio Grande trying to reach the U.S. to seek asylum. The horrific image of their lifeless bodies, face down, in the water, was published everywhere. Some said the image represented the immigration crisis, others said their death was the result of President Donald Trump’s anti-asylum agenda. The truth is both of those aspects, but the fact remains that countless people have died trying to cross through the Rio Grande, and some just don’t make it. Some, however, fortunately, survive. 

A 17-year-old girl Honduran asylum-seeker was swept into the Rio Grande and nearly drowned.

According to BuzzFeed, the young girl named Breni entered the river with a friend in order to bathe. However, both girls were taken in by the current. Her friend, a 14-year-old, sadly didn’t make it and drowned in the river. 

“They couldn’t get to me and the water sucked me in,” Breni said in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “All I could see was water before I went under and then everything went black.” 

Thankfully, the girl was rescued by fellow migrants who eventually were able to pull her out of the waters.

Her father, who was nearby, saw that she was being pulled out and believed her daughter was dead. According to the report, others did as well because her rescuers did chest compressions. Breni was taken to the hospital and it was there that she finally woke up.  BuzzFeed News reports that Breni and her father are living on the streets of Matamoros, Mexico awaiting their U.S. asylum hearing. They did not disclose why they had fled their country of Honduras. The father added that he feels the hospital released his daughter too soon. 

“It’s tough because I want my daughter to be okay and I know they didn’t give her the attention she deserved,” Breni’s dad said. “I wish we didn’t have to bathe in the river, but we do it out of necessity. We don’t have much here.”

The number of migrants deaths at the border is unclear, though as of June there have been more than 283 deaths. 

According to the Associated Press, “283 migrant deaths were recorded along the 2,000-mile border last year. The death toll so far this year was not immediately released.” Many of those deaths occurred when people were trying to cross the Rio Grande. Several deaths were recorded this summer, and earlier this year in May, a raft that overturned killed four people, including a baby

“The Rio Grande Valley Sector currently has multiple campaigns focused on rescues and danger awareness, such as ‘Operation Big Rig’ and ‘No Se Arriesgue’ to combat smuggling and ultimately save lives,”  Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in the release, in June, according to CNN.  

The Rio Grande stretches 1,885 miles and is used by migrants to cross into the U.S. 

While the CBP claims to have agents to help migrants at the Rio Grande Valley, other information express the contrary. The Associated Press reports that Border Patrol spokesman Ramiro Cordero said in June that “that in past years, agents would be posted near canals and hear the cries of help from migrants. But they are doing other duties this year with so many immigrants showing up, some in poor health. ‘Unfortunately, because of the large influx of illegal aliens and agents having to be diverted to other duties, such as transporting, hospital escorts … there are not a lot of agents readily available to hear these cries.'”

As of August, there are an estimated 58,000 asylum seekers that are stuck in Mexico under Trump’s policy because they’re awaiting asylum hearings.

The New York Times is reporting that 58,000 asylum seekers remain around Mexico’s border, in various cities, as they await their hearing. The backlog for these asylum hearings is up to six to eight months. The reason why the asylum seekers remain close to the border is that they’re unsure of when they will be called for their court hearing. According to the Mother Jones article, they can sometimes be told to appear within hours.

On Sept. 9, federal courts “reinstated a nationwide injunction blocking a Trump administration asylum ban that denied asylum to anyone at the southern border who had transited through a third country en route to the United States,” the American Civil Liberties report after they filed a lawsuit against Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy.  ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt stated, “The court recognized there is grave danger facing asylum-seekers along the entire stretch of the southern border.”

READ: Thanks To Trump’s ‘Remain In México’ Policy, A Man And His Kid Were Kidnapped Hours After Returning To Mexico

A Federal Judge Just Blocked The Trump Administration’s Attempt To Block Asylum Seekers From Entering The US

Things That Matter

A Federal Judge Just Blocked The Trump Administration’s Attempt To Block Asylum Seekers From Entering The US

U.S. Customs and Border Protection / Flickr

A California federal judge has restored a nationwide injunction on Monday, effectively blocking the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants who have not first applied for refuge in a “third country” they’ve traveled through. This is just the latest twist in an ongoing legal battle that started back in July when both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice announced the measure. The ban would have basically ended asylum for individuals whose only option is to travel upward through Mexico and other Latin American countries.

San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar had previously issued a nationwide injunction blocking the rule. The ruling was then upheld last month by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals who narrowed the ban only border states within its jurisdiction, California and Arizona. The question was then sent back to Tigar. On Monday, he ruled it should apply across the entire U.S. border, pending a trial on the legality of the Trump administration ban. 

“The question now before the court is whether those harms can be addressed by any relief short of a nationwide injunction. The answer is that they cannot,” Tigar in his ruling. The injunction now in effect is deeply flawed and should be stayed pending appeal and pending any further proceedings in this Court. 

The ban is a major part of President Trump’s anti-immigration policy and a key issue of his reelection campaign.  

Credit: @haleaziz / Twitter

The reinstatement of the injunction is another blow to the Trump administration that has made multiple attempts to lower the number of asylum seekers at the southern border. Mexico deployed more than 5,000 troops to their southern border back in June after President Trump threatened to place tariffs on Mexican imports if the country didn’t help deter the number of Central American migrants passing through.

To this point, the deployment of troops seems to have had some effect on the flow of immigration as  U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced last week that the number of border apprehensions dropped by more than 56 percent since peaking back in May at 144,255.

President Trump told reporters on Monday that he didn’t agree with the judges ruling. “I think it’s very unfair that he does that,” Trump told reporters. “I don’t think it should be allowed.”

“Immigration and border security policy cannot be run by any single district court judge who decides to issue a nationwide injunction,” the White House said in a statement. “This ruling is a gift to human smugglers and traffickers and undermines the rule of law. We previously asked the Supreme Court to set aside the district court’s injunction in its entirety, our request remains pending with the Court, and we look forward to it acting on our request.”

Many immigration and legal unions are celebrating the ruling who see the judges decision as a huge win for asylum seekers.  

Credit: @ACLU / Twitter

When the rule was announced back in July it quickly drew legal challenges from several immigrant-rights groups which accused the Trump administration of imposing a virtual asylum ban. They also saw the rule as setting a dangerous precedent and in return hurting the safety and security of migrants seeking safety in the U.S.

“The court recognized there is grave danger facing asylum-seekers along the entire stretch of the southern border.” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued the case, said in a statement.  

Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan didn’t agree with the ruling as he told reporters that he was “frustrated” and described it as a result of “unprecedented judicial activism.” “It’s very very frustrating but we’re going to keep going. We’ll continue to work within the current legal framework address this,” Morgan said at the White House on Monday morning.

Melissa Crow, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement that while Tigar’s ruling is a step in the right direction there still remain many hurdles for asylum seekers. 

“This ruling levels the playing field for all the vulnerable individuals and families seeking refuge in the United States. With this decision, regardless of where they cross the border, these people should be able to seek asylum. Sadly, while this ruling removes a major hurdle, far too many obstacles remain, as this administration’s war on asylum-seekers appears to know no bounds.”

READ: Trump Has Made It More Difficult For Cubans To Seek Asylum So Many Are Being Forced To Settle In Mexico