Earlier this year the Trump administration ordered that anyone who passed through a “third country” on their way to ask for asylum in the United States was barred from applying for asylum here. That’s kind of a travesty of the “safe third country” rule that applies only between Canada and the United States. To say that Guatemala or even Mexico is a safe country for asylum seekers is a sick and dangerous joke.
Federal Judge Jon Tigar quickly enjoined the new restriction all over the country, meaning that it could not take effect until after a full court hearing. A few weeks later the Ninth Circuit limited Judge Tigar’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit. Today, taking into account the arguments made by the Ninth Circuit when they sent the case back to him, Judge Tigar again extended the protection of his ruling to all people approaching the southern border.
That’s good news, albeit a very limited and restricted bit of good news. The bad news continues, with almost unbelievable abuses of asylum seekers happening daily.
Take the case of the Salvadoran woman who crossed the Rio Grande eight and a half months pregnant, fearful for her safety in Mexico.
“[Border Patrol] Agents took her to the hospital, where doctors gave her medication to stop the contractions. And then, according to the woman and her lawyer, she was almost immediately sent back to Mexico. There, she joined the more than 38,000 people forced to wait across the border for immigration court hearings …
“The woman was waiting Thursday with her 3-year-old daughter in a makeshift tent camp in Matamoros, Mexico, next to an international bridge, due to give birth any day, said her attorney, Jodi Goodwin.
“She’s concerned about having the baby in the street or having to have the baby in a shelter,” Goodwin said.”
No court ruling protects her. Trump’s dangerous and cruel “Remain in Mexico” policy continues to send asylum seekers back to some of the world’s most dangerous cities to wait for months between immigration court hearings in the United States. When they are forced back across the border into Mexico, these asylum seekers have no place to go and no way to get legal representation.
“Over and over, the judge asked, “Why are you here without an attorney?”
“Everyone gave the same answer: No attorney would represent them when they’re not based in the United States.
“I also saw the judge berate respondents over and over again for not filing a home address.
“One respondent answered, “I don’t have a specific place I’m living in.” Like many migrants stuck in Mexican border cities under MPP, he’s homeless. He and his son are hopping from place to place, sometimes landing a bed in a shelter, or sleeping on the streets.”
Waiting in Mexico they face the same dangers they fled in their home countries:
“These are cities that the U.S. State Department itself is recommending Americans avoid due to extreme violence. There, migrants are particularly easy and obvious targets—they have darker skin, distinct facial features, foreign mannerisms, and strange accents. Even without those detectable traits, they’re easy to spot when lining up at the port of entry for court or walking into shelters. Kidnappers know that most have loved ones in the United States, which makes them lucrative hostages….
“Taylor Levy, a pro bono immigration attorney in El Paso, said one client and her children had been kidnapped twice in Juárez. The woman managed to pay both ransoms, and though she showed asylum officers evidences of the ransom payments, the government still sent her back, saying just because she’d been kidnapped twice in the past does not mean she’s likely to be kidnapped again.
“Levy said she once watched a group of men snatch a family right before her eyes. When she tried to intervene, the kidnappers threatened her as well. So Levy thought of her two adopted daughters and stood, helpless and devastated, as the kidnappers dragged the family away: “I can’t stop thinking about them, ever. There’s just rampant, rampant amounts of kidnapping [in Juárez]. I know my life is in danger every time I go over there.”
Even when they are allowed to briefly cross the border for a court hearing the administration will now deprive asylum seekers of the chance to speak to a judge. Massive new tent courts will have immigration judges in distant cities conducting video hearings before shuffling the migrants back across the border. The tent “courts” scheduled to open this month have been shrouded in secrecy.
“Months after construction began, much about Homeland Security’s $25-million tent courts in South Texas remains a mystery, even to lawyers who expect to represent their migrant clients as soon as this week. What day the hearings will begin, where lawyers should file paperwork and even whether attorneys can meet their clients beforehand — all remain unanswered questions in this border town…
“While federal immigration courts are public, the tent courts are unique because they were built on Homeland Security land. Homeland Security facilities generally are not open to the public beyond occasional press tours, meaning the public and the media could potentially be prevented from observing the hearings.”