Things That Matter

US Border Patrol Sent This Man And His Child Back To Mexico And Hours Later They Were Thrown Into Trucks And Abducted

It seems like every day we hear another tragic story about a family being denied entry to the US, or a archer dying with his daughter as they attempt to cross the Rio Grande. The news coming from the US-Mexico border is largely framed in Trump’s quest to literally seal it off from the rest of the world. 

What we lose in that narrative are the stories that paint the truly disturbing picture of US complacency in the crimes that are being perpetrated against the people we are sending back to Mexico as they await their court dates. Many of these people are fleeing extreme violence and poverty in their native countries and yet the US is forcing entire families to wait in what they themselves call “no-go zones” — areas that are so dangerous the US advises it’s own citizens to avoid all travel to.

Trump’s ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’ – commonly known as ‘Remain in Mexico’ – is jeopardizing people’s lives. 

According to a report by VICE News, a man and his family were kidnapped hours after being turned back to Mexico. 

After being turned away by US immigration officials, under the guise of Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, a man identified as David says cartel members surrounded David and a dozen other migrants at a bus station. The exact same bus station the US border patrol had just dropped them off at. 

David is among the estimated 42,000 asylum seekers who’ve been returned to Mexico in recent months under President Trump’s new asylum policies. The Trump administration calls the policy “Migrant Protection Protocols,” but far from offering protection, the policy has led to a brutal wave of kidnappings in some of Mexico’s most dangerous border cities.

“They are sending them to a place that is too dangerous,” Laura, David’s sister, told VICE News. “Why are they doing this? Why, if Mexico is a place that is so dangerous?”

The man and his child were forced into trucks and taken away. 

David told VICE News that he and another dozen or so asylum seekers who had been returned that day to Mexico arrived at the bus station in Nuevo Laredo, a group of 20 men were already waiting for them. Immediately, the men forced David, his child, and the other migrants into trucks, as an immigration official looked their way but did nothing. 

And according to “David,” an immigration official looked their way and did nothing to help. 

David said the kidnappers took his few belongings, including the paperwork U.S. Customs and Border Protection had given him. Without it, he and his child can’t enter the U.S. to attend their hearing in December.

The kidnappers took a dozen pictures of each of the migrants who were being held, and they took notes on everyone — their full names, where they were from, their family members. The cartel was also holding at least 20 other men, plus dozens of children and women, who “were treated like pieces of meat,” David said.

They separated the women from the men, and beat any of the men who turned to look. David said one man tried to escape and they shot him dead.

The cartels know these are some of the most vulnerable people and they’re ready to make money off their suffering.

Powerful criminal organizations have seized on Trump’s changes, targeting asylum seekers with family in the U.S. by holding them hostage until their relatives come up with thousands of dollars to pay for their release.

And the US government is letting it happen.

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across from El Paso, Texas, more than 6,000 people are registered as waiting in line just to receive court dates. Many are at shelters run by charities where small children have been sleeping for months on exercise mats. Shelters have been attacked by gunmen, and migrants have been kidnapped by human traffickers as they wait for their names to be called by the U.S. Often, only 10 to 20 families a day are interviewed.

At a migrant camp on the Mexico side of the Gateway International Bridge, which links Matamoros to Brownsville, Texas, migrants don’t have access to showers and resort to bathing in the Rio Grande River, said Dani Marrero Hi, an outreach coordinator at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Earlier this week, a 17-year-old girl had to be rescued after she couldn’t swim against the current, she said.

The Hispanic Caucus wasn’t mincing words, saying they completely blame the administration for this tragedy. 

Several non profit organizations and members of Congress have admonished the administration for acting without care for any of these people’s lives and safety.

Yet a recent Supreme Court ruling empowers Trump to take his cruel ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy even further.

The decision allows the Trump administration to enforce a new rule sharply limiting who can apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. While a legal challenge proceeds, Central Americans who cross through Mexico won’t be able to claim refugee status in the U.S. unless they previously applied for protection from one of the countries they passed through.

After the court decision was announced, the White House issued a statement saying it allowed the administration to make “needed fixes to the broken asylum system,” adding, “This greatly helps build on the progress we’ve made addressing the crisis at our southern border and will ultimately make American communities safer.”

The latest blow to people fleeing violence and political unrest arrives amid President Donald Trump’s push to drive down border crossings. Those numbers have already plunged after he persuaded Mexico under threat of tariffs to send more than 25,000 national guard troops to its borders and to receive tens of thousands of asylum seekers awaiting court hearings in the U.S.

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This Pop-Up School For Migrant Kids Along The Border Went Virtual Thanks To Covid-19 But It’s Thriving More Than Ever

Things That Matter

This Pop-Up School For Migrant Kids Along The Border Went Virtual Thanks To Covid-19 But It’s Thriving More Than Ever

John Moore / Getty Images

The people traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to reach the U.S.-Mexico border aren’t living in some ‘migrant vaccuum’ where nothing else matters. They still have lives to live and experiences to have and, particularly for the young ones, an education to continue.

That was the thinking behind one sidewalk school that popped up in one of the many migrant camps along the U.S.-Mexico border. It was becoming filled with children from across Latin America who were forced to wait out their asylum process from within the border camps, thanks to Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. But their need for an education didn’t just go away.

One woman – with no formal teacher training – decided to help and launched what was called a ‘sidewalk school’ for kids in the camp. But it’s been incredible successful and has blossomed into an online academy for kids throughout the border region.

Despite Covid-19, this pop-up school for migrant kids along the border is thriving.

Just as the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted schools around the world, it’s also having an impact on a pop-up sidewalk school for asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The school, which launched to help fill the educational needs of a growing group of kids stuck at the border, had to go to virtual learning because of the pandemic. But instead of seeing that as a challenge, the school instead has blossomed.

What started out with one teacher at one camp on a sidewalk, how now blossomed by hiring 20 teachers – all asylum seekers themselves – to give classes via Zoom to children across the border region.

To be able to switch to distance learning, the teachers and students were outfitted with more than 200 Amazon tablets by The Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers. The organization was founded by Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, who lives across the border in Brownsville, Texas, and has been crossing to help the asylum seekers by providing them food and books.

It started in just one migrant camp with one teacher but it’s blossomed ever since.

A program like the sidewalk school was severely needed as hundreds and thousands of kids starting being forced to wait at the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s well-known that the border region is one of the most dangerous and violent parts of Mexico and that only underscores the need for quality activities.

Many point out that parents aren’t sending their kids to Mexican schools because they’re afraid to be apart from them. Crime is common here, and kidnappings have been reported. Other parents say registering for school in Mexico is difficult. But program leaders want the kids to be able to continue their education, and they say that many of the asylum-seekers have skill sets they can put to use at the school.

Parents are grateful, too, with one woman telling NPR that she knows “her children will be safe at the sidewalk school, and it gives her time to meet with an immigration lawyer. Volunteer attorneys have been coming over on the weekends to give free legal advice. The asylum-seekers could wait for months to be able to make their asylum case in the U.S.”

Teachers try to give the students some sense of normalcy amid the often dire circumstances at the border.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Many students start their day with an arts and crafts class. Kids are asked to draw on paper plates then outline them with flue and drop glitter. Then they get to hang their creations from trees.

One impromptu teacher, who told NPR he preferred to remain anonymous, said that he wants the kids to “see other people appreciate the artwork they did and let them know how important they are, too, even to people, like, just walking past and driving by. It’s beautiful work.

The classes have offered children not only the chance to catch up on studies that were interrupted when their families fled violence in their homelands, but also a distraction from the long days of boredom.

Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is what is fueling the need for programs like these.

Credit: JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images

It’s the Trump policy of ‘Remain in Mexico’ that has forced programs like these to exist in the first place. The program forces asylum seekers to wait south of the border as their immigration cases proceed through the U.S. court system.

It leaves thousands of families living in tents or at Mexican shelters. Previously, asylum seekers were allowed to remain in the United States with relatives or other sponsors while their cases proceeded.

Many have spent more than a year with their lives in limbo, and the wait has only grown longer with the Trump administration suspending immigration court hearings for asylum-seekers during the pandemic.

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The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

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The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

In its continuing campaign against immigrants and refugees, the Trump administration has increased the costs of immigration proceedings – in some instances by more than 80%. These new fees could make the cost of seeking asylum protection in the U.S. or becoming a citizen out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes.

The Trump administration announced major changes to the fees charged for immigration proceedings.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced it would dramatically increase the fees for U.S. immigration services on everything from refugee asylum requests to naturalization services. The new fee structure, released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is expected to take effect on October 2.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes. It will also have an outsized impact on business that hire foreign workers.

The agency, which has closed offices and suspended most services during the pandemic, has said it faces a significant revenue shortfall that could trigger furloughs. Earlier this year, the agency requested $1.2 billion in emergency funds from Congress.

The U.S. will now be one of just a few countries that actually charge refugees to file asylum requests.

Credit: Gregory Bull / Getty Images

With the new fee charged to refugees and asylum seekers, the U.S. will become one of just four countries that actually charge for this application. The new fee for asylum is a blatant attack on the most vulnerable among us and is another way for the administration to target and restrict protections for those fleeing their home countries.

The $50 application fee for asylum applications now puts the U.S. in the same ranks as Iran, Fiji, and Australia. The new rule would also raise the cost for an asylum applicant to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) from the current zero to $490, one of many policy changes to discourage potential asylum applicants. DHS commented, “DHS does not believe that the EAD fee is unduly burdensome for asylum seekers.”

However, one asylum officer who spoke with BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity said the fee was discouraging.

“The larger problem is that humanitarian applications by their nature should be free,” the officer said. “The idea of charging people who are fleeing — and not helping if they don’t pay up — is disgusting.”

Another asylum officer said it will cost the agency more to collect the fee than $50, “which doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adjudicating an asylum application.”

Other fees – from green card replacements to citizenship applications – will also be going up.

The new fee changes impact several categories of services offered by USCIS that will impact our community. Two of the most common types of visas issued by the agency (L and H-1B visas) will increase by 75% and 21% respectively.

The L visa – which is used for short term work in the U.S. – will increase from $460 to $805. The fee for an H-1B petition (which is used by employers to hire highly-skilled workers) will rise from $460 to $555.

For season workers in the U.S., of which there are hundreds of thousands, their fees will also increase by almost 50%. The current fee for these visas is $460 but the H-2A (season agricultural) will rise to $850 and the H-2B (seasonal non-agricultural) will rise to $715.

USCIS would increase the cost of the application (N-400) to become a U.S. citizen by more than 80%, rising from $640 to $1,160 (for online filings, although a separate $85 biometrics fee would be eliminated). 

The new increased fees come as the agency faces a financial crisis that many say are of its own making.

Many are concerned about the timing of these fee increases because USCIS is in the midst of historic mismanagement, that has face the agency from a substantial surplus to a deficit so severe USCIS has requested a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, held a July 29, 2020, oversight hearing that helped explain how the Trump administration caused the financial problems at USCIS through its policy choices on immigration.

“Under the Trump Administration, USCIS has issued a flurry of policies that make its case adjudications more complicated, which reduces the agency’s efficiency and requires more staff to complete fewer cases,” testified Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. “There are dozens if not hundreds of such policies.” 

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