Human Rights First on the Ground
After several months of tireless traveling, the migrant caravan has finally reached the Southern Border. Having already faced tremendous adversity and danger, the caravan did not expect to face a manufactured months-long wait in Tijuana. The Trump Administration has purposefully created a backlog at the border by reducing the number of asylum-seekers allowed to enter the port per day—falsely claiming “capacity” issues. Because of this, asylum seekers are forced to reside in overcrowded Mexican shelters that lack food, clean water, sanitation, and sufficient space to sleep or live while they wait for their chance to cross. Children and pregnant women must endure these severe conditions while they wait weeks or months for their chance at safety.
Due to the chaotic situation created by the Trump Administration, we sent monitors to the border to document real-life conditions and to share the stories of those seeking legal protection at our southern border. Our researchers reported on current conditions in Tijuana and interviewed several asylum seekers who are currently residing in Mexico in hopes of refuge in the United States.
At the port of entry between San Ysidro, California and Tijuana, Mexico, the Trump Administration has made requesting asylum as difficult as possible. On average, CBP only admits between 0-60 people into the port of entry per day. Some days, not a single person is accepted.
Since spring 2018 HRF, Amnesty, Al Otro Lado and others have documented CBP’s limited processing of asylum seekers at San Ysidro including days like today when no asylum seekers are accepted from the wait list. pic.twitter.com/JVzpXYtpY0— Kennji Kizuka (@KennjiKizuka) December 3, 2018
Mexican immigration officials and military guards are requiring a visa or passport for people to step foot onto U.S. soil—even though asylum seekers would not and could not have these forms of documentation. A woman with two children recently attempted to seek asylum at the Tijuana port of entry and was immediately denied by the guards. But unfortunately for her, this is the only port of entry that is accepting asylum-seekers in this area.
Even approaching the US port of entry at San Ysidro has become increasingly difficult in recent weeks for asylum seekers because of Mexican immigration checks. @humanrights1st pic.twitter.com/v37GEr5CtU— Kennji Kizuka (@KennjiKizuka) December 3, 2018
Because of these months' long wait times, many of the families have been forced to move to a shelter 30 minutes outside of Tijuana. Our researchers spoke with several pregnant women as well as children who are relegated to wheelchairs. Many are fearful because the shelter is 30 minutes from the border—they have no idea how they are going to travel to the port of entry to see when their number is called.
Many of the asylum seekers that our researchers spoke with have experienced life-threatening violence in Mexico. Due to a fear of deportation, asylum seekers have not been able to ask the Mexican police to investigate many of these incidents. In one case, residents attacked a Honduran family residing on a Mexican beach—battering them with rocks. After describing the assault to the Mexican police, officers refused to offer protection because the family was “not from here.” Our research and lived experiences make clear that Mexico is not safe for many asylum seekers. Trump is further exacerbating the problem by deliberately slowing down the asylum system.
With the US and Mexico considering a plan to force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their claims are decided, @humanrights1st’s @robynyakira spoke with asylum seekers who have faced danger in Mexico. pic.twitter.com/kIFYSLT0Uk— Kennji Kizuka (@KennjiKizuka) December 3, 2018
Trump’s policies at the border are threatening the lives of asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico. Clearly, Mexican shelters are inadequate to protect thousands of children, pregnant women, and families who are being forced to wait months to request their legal right to protection. The president’s illegal policies at the border are designed to fit into a “crisis narrative” by making conditions untenable, dehumanizing these families and forcing them to make impossible choices while they wait. That is why Human Rights First is fighting back, sending monitors to the border, and suing the Trump Administration on behalf of asylum seekers who have been illegally turned away.