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Congress Members Camp Out With Asylum Seekers Including Honduran Mother And Children In Viral Tear Gas Photo

The Honduran family in the iconic photo from the U.S.-Mexico border are currently in the U.S. seeking asylum. According to Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) and Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.), who spent the night at a port of entry with a group of asylum seekers, Maria Meza and her five children are currently being processed for asylum. The photograph of Meza and her twin daughters running away from tear gas provoked outrage on social media and quickly became a snapshot of the chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Almost two dozen asylum seekers, many of whom were children, waited in the cold for eight hours at the U.S. port of entry.

Gomez and Barragan attempted to gain access to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry on Monday with a group of 15 asylum seekers, including Meza and her children. Officials told them they only had the room to process eight unaccompanied children and the rest would have to go to another port of entry. After eight hours of waiting in the cold, Meza and her five children and the unaccompanied minors were taken in for processing, Gomez said on Twitter.

“After 7hrs, I can now confirm: Maria Meza & her kids — featured in this @Reuters image fleeing tear gas at the border last month — just filed for asylum,” Gomez tweeted. “They’re on American soil. @RepBarragan & I are still here observing conditions on the ground.”

Meza and her children have been allowed into the U.S to make their asylum claims. It’s still unknown whether they have passed their “credible fear” interview. The interview is an initial screening in which asylum seekers must show proof that they would face persecution back in their home countries.

The members of Congress documented the long waits and conditions on Twitter for everyone to see how dire the situation is.

Barragan tweeted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent officers in “full riot gear” to surround the group. Images show the group seated peacefully with the members of Congress. Members of her staff were also detained, she said. Shortly after, CBP tweeted that families “without proper documentation and crossing US borders illegally” caused them to “hit capacity.” Barragan said their requests to see the facility at “capacity” were denied as they waited with the group. After 15 hours of waiting with the group, Gomez tweeted that he and Barragán left the border entry and that “most” of the group had been taken in for asylum interviews.

The legal aid group Al Otro Lado, organized the group of 15 asylum seekers, selected for how vulnerable they were waiting in Tijuana for asylum.

Nicole Ramos, a legal attorney for Al Otro Lado, has assisted asylum seekers to present themselves at various ports of entry in Tijuana for years and has noticed for some recent years that U.S. border officials have begun turning them away. She questioned many of the government’s methods in handling the growing backlog of asylum seekers. “It’s not representative of what the government has the financial capacity to do,” Ramos told the San Diego Tribune.

A system called “metering” has limited the number of asylum seekers at U.S. ports of entry each day.

The CBP says its ports of entry have capacity limits and aren’t prepared to process large numbers of migrant families requesting help. Gomez says that “metering” has nothing to do with the number of resources but a way to deter people from seeking asylum. Rising violence throughout Central America has caused thousands to flee to the U.S., many traveling by caravan across Mexico.

This has led to a backlog in asylum seekers that the CBP says has caused “a 121 percent increase in the number of asylum seekers.” Almost 93,000 claims of “credible fear,” the first step in seeking asylum, were processed this past fiscal year, a 67 percent jump from 2017, according to the CBP.

“What we’re seeing is that, basically, they’re making these migrants wait hour after hour and they’re saying that it’s capacity that’s the issue, but we’re seeing that’s not really the issue,” Gomez told Newsweek. “We’re seeing that they’re just deciding to limit the number of people they let in.”


READ: Trump Is Promising A Government Shutdown If He Doesn’t Get His Border Wall Funding

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Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

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Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

dr.giammattei / Instagram

Tuesday marked a new era of leadership in Guatemala as the Latin country swore in Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative doctor and former prison system director from the right-wing Vamos party. The 63-year-old won the presidency on his fourth attempt back in August with bold promises of changing a corrupt government and restoring the rule-of-law in city streets. 

“Today, we are putting a full stop on corrupt practices so they disappear from the face of this country,” Giammattei said at his swearing-in ceremony that had a five-hour delay.

His ceremony somewhat overshadowed by delays and protests against ex-President Jimmy Morales, who for four years dodged accusations of corruption. The scene of protestors throwing eggs and voicing anger at the outgoing administration was a reminder of the displeasure against the country’s deep-seated political corruption. It’s also a key reason why many are looking to Giammattei to bring change to the struggling country. 

As Giammattei takes office, there are questions on what his presidency will mean to Guatemala in the short and long term as issues over the future of an asylum deal with the United States comes into focus. 

One of the biggest issues confronting Guatemala and one that Giammattei will have to address early is the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) that was signed by Morales last July with the U.S. government. The agreement, which was highly opposed in Guatemala, lets U.S. immigration officials send Honduran and Salvadoran migrants that are requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border to apply for protection here instead. There is now increasing skepticism as reports say that the U.S. wants to expand the deal to include Mexican asylum seekers as well.

Last year, there were many Guatemalans that were part of a 3,000 migrant caravan that made its way up from Latin America to the U.S. The caravan consisted of people that were looking to claim asylum and became a symbol of the growing migration crisis at the southern border. President Trump frequently attacked the caravan and eventually threatened to impose tariffs on Guatemala if it didn’t agree to the asylum deal.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute, “as of Friday, 128 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers had been sent as part of the agreement,” with only a limited number actually applying for asylum there and others returning home. Giammattei has previously said that he’s willing to make changes to the agreement but on Tuesday said he would revisit details later. 

The country, one of Latin America’s poorest nations, is a key part of President Trump’s plan to curb illegal immigration and asylum claims. mostly from those coming to the U.S. Southern border. The issue for many living in Guatemala is how to let those seeking asylum when itself has become a major source of U.S. bound migrants. 

Poverty levels have only grown in the last 20 years and income inequality levels continue to be a big problem in the country. 

One of the big platform issues that Giammattei ran his campaign on was helping the shorten income inequality gap and poverty levels that have only grown in the last 20 years. Fifty-nine percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line and almost 1 million children under the age of 5 are believed to live with chronic malnutrition, according to the AP. 

There is also the rampant problem of street violence and cartel gangs that have had a major effect on the daily lives of many in the country. Giammattei plans to address this with reforms that include designating “street gangs as terrorist groups.”

“This is the moment to rescue Guatemala from the absurd. It is the moment to combat corruption and malnutrition,” Giammattei said on Tuesday in his first address to the country as president. “There is no peace without security, I will present a law that aims to declare street gangs for what they are – terrorist groups.”

There is hope that Giammattei will turn a new page in Guatemala that will see change come to all in the country that has faced uncertainty for years. But only time will tell if this is indeed new leadership or business as usual.

“We will bring back the peace this country so dearly needs,” Giammattei said. “We will govern with decency, with honourability, and with ethical values.”

READ: In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative

Mexican National Jumped To His Death Off A Bridge After He Was Denied Asylum

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Mexican National Jumped To His Death Off A Bridge After He Was Denied Asylum

El Mañana de Reynosa / Facebook

To understand why undocumented immigrants will do everything in their power to get to the United States is to fundamentally understand what is at the core of their fears. They are not all seeking the “American Dream” or to have a better life, many are seeking to have a life free of fear and violence. For many people seeking asylum, it’s a matter of life or death. Remaining in their home countries means death, and there’s no other way of saying it. People are dying at the hands of gangs and the cartels. So, when people risk their lives to enter the U.S. without documentation, it’s because they have nothing to lose. The worst part of all is being turned away by the U.S. because some of these have nothing else to live for. 

A Mexican national in his 30s or 40s cut his throat and jumped to his death off a bridge across the Rio Grande after he was denied by the U.S. border patrol.

Credit: @mlnangalama / Twitter

The man, who has yet to be identified, committed suicide on Wednesday, Jan. 8, and according to several news reports, was seeking asylum. Reports say that he jumped off the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which is between the Mexican border city of Reynosa and Pharr, Texas. 

We attempted to reach information about his death via the U.S. border patrol. However, because the death occurred on Mexican soil, American officials do not have to comment about the death or include it in any of their reports. 

Mexican officials are investigating the death further.

Credit: El Mañana de Reynosa / Facebook

The prosecutor’s office for the Mexican state of Tamaulipas did release more information about the man saying, “He was attempting to cross to the U.S. side to request asylum. When he was denied entry, he walked several meters (yards) toward the Mexican side and cut himself with a knife.” The death occurred around 5 p.m. local time. 

It’s unclear why the man decided to take such extreme measures, but as we noted earlier, some of the undocumented people have said returning home is like facing death. 

According to footage made available to the Spanish-language publication, El Mañana de Reynosa, a video shows the man pacing back and forth on the bridge while officials attempt to calm him down.  The standoff lasted for about 15 minutes. Since the man was behaving dangerously, U.S. officials closed the gates to the border and stopped international entry. After the man jumped, the Red Cross arrived at the scene where he was pronounced dead. 

Undocumented people are facing even more hardships when getting denied asylum. Aside from “remaining in Mexico” until it’s time for their asylum hearing, some are now being transferred to Guatalama even if they’re Mexican.

Credit: El Mañana de Reynosa / Facebook

This week the Trump Administration announced that some Mexican nationals would be sent to Guatalama under near agreements between both country officials. 

“Certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protection in the United States may now be eligible to be transferred to Guatemala and given the opportunity to seek protection there, under the terms of the Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement,” a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement to NBC News.

To make matters worse, the outgoing Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said that agreement never became official. He said the U.S. would have to discuss the matter further with the new president. 

“It’s more than clear; in the agreement, it only lays out Salvadorans and Hondurans,” Morales said, according to Time magazine. “The United States has talked about the possibility of including Mexican nationals, but that they have to discuss it with the next government. In the last visit we made to the White House with President Trump we were clear saying that that negotiation had to be done with the new government.”

All of this disorganization by the part of the United States just complicates matters more for the vulnerable undocumented community. They seek to enter the United States, and getting turned away means more uncertainty than before. 

This is not the first time a person has committed suicide soon after being deported. 

Credit: @adv_project / Twitter

In 2017,  44-year-old Guadalupe Olivas Valencia also jumped to his death soon after he was deported to Mexico. He had been previously living in California, working as a gardener. 

READ: Trump Administration Plans To Send Some Mexican Asylum-Seekers To Guatemala And Mexico Is Fighting Back