Wednesday July 17, 2019
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Hope in Mexican Border Towns, Migrants Wait In Hope Of Rescue

Many migrants have been exposed to violence, said Gordon Finkbeiner of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, from “organized crime groups that are along the route.

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Migrants from Venezuela, Cuba and Guatemala wait at bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas for immigration officials to allow them to turn themselves in and ask for asylum in U.S., Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

Migrants have arrived in Tijuana and other border cities in caravans of thousands, while others come in small groups of a dozen or so. They have often walked for days through Central America, then ridden buses or gotten rides on trucks through the vast expanses of Mexico. In border cities like Tijuana, they find help in shelters run by charities.

Asylum seeker Angela Escalante is here with her husband and 7-year-old son.

“The situation is very bad, there are no jobs,” she said of her country of Nicaragua, blaming political violence there on President Daniel Ortega. “There’s no security so you can’t safely walk the streets,” she added.

Central American migrants settle in a shelter at the Jesus Martinez stadium in Mexico City, in Mexico City, Jan. 28, 2019.
Central American migrants settle in a shelter at the Jesus Martinez stadium in Mexico City, in Mexico City, Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

Post-traumatic stress

New arrivals say they also face violence from cartels and local drug gangs.

“It was around 14 years ago they killed the brother of my grandfather and a son of my grandfather, and because of this, they are still pursuing us,” said Jorge Alejandro Valencia, 19, from Michoacan state on Mexico’s western coast. He said the criminals later killed his grandfather, and they now are threatening his sister.

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Survey of Migrants From Mexico. VOA

Many migrants have been exposed to violence, said Gordon Finkbeiner of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, from “organized crime groups that are along the route. What we see and what we attend to is mostly situations of high levels of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder.”

A 23-year-old Honduran, newly arrived in a shelter, said a gang demanded he sell drugs, and he could see no escape except to leave his country. He asked not be identified, saying that the gangs monitor Facebook and if his identity is revealed, the gang would target his family.

US citizens wait, too

Africans and Haitians, who relocated from their countries to Venezuela, and Central Americans from Central America’s northern triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, all wait in the city’s shelters. Every case is different, and many are complicated.

A woman from Honduras has a 12-year-old son with U.S. citizenship and displays his passport. The boy, named Jimmy, was born in the United States but returned to Honduras with his mother when she was deported.

A middle-aged man named Efren Galindo was born in Mexico and grew up in Texas. Two years ago, he was deported and nearly killed by Mexican drug cartels, he explained as he displayed scars on his back and shoulder.

“I’ve been 46 years, [nearly] my whole life over there,” Galindo said, pointing northward to the United States. “I’m married to an American citizen. I have four American sons, an American daughter and 16 grand babies,” he added.

Credible fear, big backlog

To be granted asylum, petitioners must demonstrate a credible fear of persecution or torture, and show that they are not only fleeing poverty. Those who have been deported from the United States face added restrictions. Many having been barred from returning for five, 10, 20 years or more.

The U.S. immigration system, meanwhile, is overwhelmed, with a backlog worsened by the recent 35 day partial shutdown of the U.S. government in a dispute between Democrats in Congress and U.S. President Donald Trump over a border wall. U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services said in a statement Jan. 21 that it faced “a crisis-level backlog of 311,000” asylum cases that had yet to be interviewed for credible fear.

The backlog of all immigration court cases was more than 800,000 in November, according researchers at Syracuse University.

Many detention facilities that house illegal entrants are temporary, according to Border Patrol Agent Tekae Michael on the border south of San Diego.

“I know ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is completely overrun,” she said. “We don’t have enough immigration judges to be able to process efficiently and effectively and swiftly.”

Mexico is granting temporary papers to Central Americans, and volunteers from U.S.-based groups like San Diego’s Border Angels bring supplies to the shelters. Mexican businesses are making donations.

Also Read: Mexico to Relocate 120 Central American Migrants

Carlos Yee of the Catholic shelter Casa del Migrante says aid workers like him feel frustrated.

“We don’t have the power to work through this enormous bureaucracy. We only can say to them, be patient,” he said.

The city of San Diego is visible through a border fence, just 30 kilometers north of here, but these migrants in Tijuana face many more hurdles on their journey. Yet, they are still hopeful. (VOA)

Next Story

Trump Administration Gearing Up to Expedite Initial Screenings of Immigrants Seeking Asylum

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli has directed officers to interview detained immigrant

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Asylum officers usually wait about 48 hours to interview and hear the case of an immigrant. VOA

The Trump administration is gearing up to expedite initial screenings of immigrants seeking asylum, moving to interview immigrants within one calendar day.

Asylum officers usually wait about 48 hours to interview and hear the case of an immigrant who has been detained after crossing into the United States.

However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli has directed officers to interview detained immigrant within one calendar day. The news site Buzzfeed, which said it had obtained a copy of the directive released to CIS employees, first reported the policy change Monday.

VOA confirmed the report Monday night.

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The Trump administration is gearing up to expedite initial screenings of immigrants seeking asylum. Pixabay

“As part of our efforts to make the expedited removal process more efficient and effective, USCIS is modifying the consultation period to better align with today’s operational realities,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) spokeswoman Jessica Collins told VOA.

Though Collins did not say when the new set of directives would begin, she said, “This will help make the entire expedited removal process more expeditious and help prevent bottlenecking in the system.”

The Buzzfeed report said advocates believe the move is expected to give “immigrants less time to prepare for their interviews or recover from dangerous journeys.”

The credible fear interview (CFI) is an initial screening where immigrants must show there is a compelling chance they will be persecuted or can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country, according to the USCIS .

Also Read- Goa May Make HIV Tests Mandatory Before Registration of Marriages

“But by law, asylum-seekers have a right to ‘consult with a person or persons of [their] choosing’ before a CFI. Hard to do that within 24 hours,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council, shared on Twitter.

In the meantime, USCIS has updated their website to show the change.

“USCIS requires a wait of at least one full calendar day after the applicant arrives at the detention site before conducting the credible fear interview, in order to give the applicant time to contact a consultant,” the website shows — a change from “USCIS requires a wait of at least 48 hours … in order to give the applicant time to recover from the journey.” (VOA)