Things That Matter

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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Here’s Everything You Should Know About Trump’s Plan To Further Limit Asylum For Migrants And Refugees

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Here’s Everything You Should Know About Trump’s Plan To Further Limit Asylum For Migrants And Refugees

Nicolas Chamm / Getty Images

In what many are calling the most sweeping changes to asylum law ever, the Trump administration has proposed new rules regarding how migrants and refugees qualify for asylum protection in the U.S.

The rules would have a major impact on the ability of people with a legitimate fear for their safety – or that of their family – to prove their case before U.S. asylum courts. In some cases, asylum seekers may not even be given a chance to pleas their cases before an immigration court as the rules could leave some decisions in the hands of front line screeners, such as Border Patrol agents.

Trump administration unveils sweeping plan to limit asylum claims.

The Trump administration has released its furthest-reaching plant yet when it comes to trying to change asylum law in the U.S. The administration is trying to change the meaning of “persecution” to make it harder for migrants and refugees, with legitimate fears of persecution and danger, to be able to secure asylum in the U.S.

The 161-page proposal, officially posted Monday in the Federal Register, would also streamline the asylum-approval process, letting immigration judges rather than immigration courts make rulings in asylum cases and redefining the definition of a frivolous application.

“Essentially, this rule tries, in a way that hasn’t been done before, to define what can be grounds for asylum,” said Jessica Bolter, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

The rule change could potentially bar relief to anyone who has passed through two countries before reaching the U.S. or who spent 14 days or more in one other country prior to arriving here. The administration also wants to bar asylum to anyone who has failed to timely pay U.S. taxes or who has been unlawfully present in the U.S. for a year or more.

It wants immigration judges to weigh someone’s illegal presence in the U.S. against them even though federal law specifically says people can seek asylum by crossing any part of the border and asking for it. And in addition to making fewer people eligible for asylum, it would give officers more power to deny initial asylum claims preemptively, with no need of a court hearing.

Critics of measure say the proposed changes would ‘represent the end of the asylum system as we know it.’

Credit: Nicolas Chamm / Getty Images

The new rules were quickly condemned to advocates like Families Belong Together, which called the proposed rule change “an assault on the fundamental right to seek asylum.”

“If fully implemented, they will gut years of progress in the U.S. to create bridges to safety for so many whose governments could not and would not protect them from severe harm and even death,” said a statement from Tahirih, which advocates for immigrants escaping gender-based violence.

The rule change would also put some of the most vulnerable people at increased risk of persecution.

Credit: Nicolas Chamm / Getty Images

For several years, the Trump administration has been working hard to keep asylum seekers from even reaching the U.S. border. As part of the government’s plan, the administration has signed ‘safe third country’ agreements with several Central American country’s – but several of these deals have shown to leave asylum seekers in increased danger.

In its deal with Guatemala, hundreds of non-Guatemalans have been sent to the country to apply for asylum there – predominantly women with young children, who may have well-founded fears of persecution. And the system has become so convoluted that many migrants and refugees were effectively compelled to abandon their asylum claims and return to the places they had fled in fear.

Meanwhile, at the U.S.-Mexico border, asylum seekers have been denied the most basic procedural safeguards, including the opportunity to present evidence or acquire a lawyer. Many had endured demeaning and coercive treatment by Border Patrol.

One Salvadoran woman told KITV that she was coerced into signing her “voluntary deportation” form at 2 a.m., believing it to be an asylum application. Soon afterward, officials chained her around her waist, ankles and wrists and sent her to Guatemala. “To them we are like bugs,” she said.

The new rules on asylum come just as the U.S. Supreme Court has said that Trump acted illegally in trying to end DACA.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled the Department of Homeland Security – and the Trump administration – had violated a federal administrative law with its policy ending DACA. DACA is the Obama-era program allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to live and work legally in the US.

The decision came as a bit of a surprise as many expected the court’s conservative majority to strike down the program in favor of Trump. However, the ruling effectively leaves the program in place until Congress a can take up the legislative process behind immigration and get something done for the benefit of DACA recipients and the nation.

Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Eliminating DACA

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Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Eliminating DACA

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

For three years, people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status faced an uncertain future. The Trump administration was involved in legal battles after abruptly eliminating the program. For the third time this week, the Supreme Court has handed down a major loss for the Trump administration as they protected DACA from Trump’s attack.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration cannot end DACA.

The 5-4 decision is the third major legal loss for the Trump administration this week. SCOTUS ruled earlier this week that LGBTQ+ cannot be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The court also refused to take up a case challenging California’s sanctuary state law letting the law stand.

The decision to temporarily protect DACA was a split decision with all of the conservative justices (Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel A. Alito Jr.) voting in favor of the Trump administration. Justice John Robert joined the liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan saving the program from the Trump administration, for now.

In the ruling, written by Justice John Roberts, the court cites that the acting secretary of state violated the Administrative Procedures Act when ending the program. Basically, the announcement was lacking substance and did not address key parts of the policy. This made the announcement void of an argument supporting the dismantling of the program.

The ruling is only temporary relief for the hundreds of thousands of young people on DACA.

While the program has been spared, it is not completely saved. The decision from the Supreme Court today focuses on the way DACA was eliminated, not the actual elimination. This means that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now has time to reevaluate its case against DACA to try again.

“The Court still does not resolve the question of DACA’s rescission,” Alito wrote in his dissent. “Instead, it tells the Department of Homeland Security to go back and try again.”

The conservative justices, while dissenting, did release statements that agreed with parts of the decision to block the Trump administration from eliminating DACA. The Trump administration first announced that they were ending DACA in 2017 with a press conference on the border led by Jeff Sessions.

Justice Sotomayor made her own headlines after calling the case a racist attack.

“I would not so readily dismiss the allegation that an executive decision disproportionately harms the same racial group that the President branded as less desirable mere months earlier,” Justice Sotomayor wrote in her concurrence of the decision.

Organizers and activists are giving credit to the DACA community for this victory.

The DACA community has led the charge to protect their status in the U.S. The movement has largely been done thanks to the work of DACA recipients fighting for their right to be here. For many, it is the only country they know after arriving to the U.S. without proper documentation when they were young children.

The president has tweeted his clear displeasure on the Supreme Court that he tried to stack in his favor by appointing two justices.

Both justice Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were Trump’s appointees. After three losses from the Supreme Court, President Trump followed his usual playbook and accused the Supreme Court of not liking him.

Now, it is time for Congress to act.

With DACA recipients temporarily spared sudden deportation, Congress must act and pass legislation protecting Dreamers from being deported. The Dream Act is one piece of legislation that offers DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship, something most Americans agree with.

READ: ICE Is Threatening To Reopen Deportation Proceedings Against All DACA Recipients Regardless Of DACA Status