WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
26 Nov 2018 | Press Release

By Bottlenecking the Asylum Process, the U.S. Government is Contributing to Chaos and Harm at the Border

Trump Administration Should be Working to Ensure a Prompt, Orderly Asylum Process, Not Contributing to Conditions that Cause Unrest

Washington, DC—Yesterday, a protest by Central American migrants who had arrived in Tijuana, Mexico as part of the caravan, turned into a dangerous and chaotic situation as U.S. Border Patrol agents fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd, which included families with young children. After a splinter group of protest participants attempted to rush from Mexico to the United States, the San Ysidro border crossing was temporarily shut down by U.S. officials.   

Maureen Meyer, Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights at research and advocacy group the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), issued the following statement in reaction to these developments:

“The Trump administration’s response heightens the danger to vulnerable populations, including families with children who are seeking refuge at the U.S.-Mexican border. The asylum process at the U.S. border has become slow and unmanageable, creating a critical backlog of people in Mexico border towns who are being pushed to a breaking point after waiting for weeks or even months for an appointment with U.S. officials. By severely limiting access to asylum in the United States at a time when Honduras and El Salvador rank alongside Afghanistan and Syria in the world’s top five most violent countries, the Trump administration is actively creating the conditions for a humanitarian crisis at the border.

“The Trump administration should be working to ensure an orderly, prompt process for those seeking to exercise their legal right to apply for protection at the border. That means tackling the untenable backlog of cases in the immigration court system, ensuring access to legal counsel for asylum seekers, and giving our understaffed ports of entry the resources they need to deal with this. Instead, U.S. border officials are repeatedly telling families who were forced to flee their homes because of horrific violence and who are now in inadequate shelters or sleeping on the streets in cities like Tijuana to ‘come back later.’ Customs and Border Protection calls this practice ‘metering,’ and it is creating a severe bottleneck that restricts migrants’ right to seek asylum.

“By slowing down its reception of asylum seekers, the U.S. government is placing major pressure on Mexico. As the backlog of migrants in border towns like Tijuana continues to grow, a major concern is how this vulnerable population will become more susceptible to criminal groups and corrupt officials who’ve long preyed on migrants by extorting, robbing and even kidnapping them. The Mexican government must ensure that it prioritizes the safety of asylum seekers at the border and provides them with the emergency humanitarian assistance they need.”