Although the Trump administration’s malicious “zero-tolerance” policy has been impetuous from the start, a recent government report has corroborated the long-standing reservations of immigration advocates.
The report, issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, suggested the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) effectively contributed to illegal immigration by mishandling the number of people legally seeking asylum at ports of entry along the U.S. border.
President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies weren’t just problematic for the undocumented immigrants, but also affected people with legitimate asylum claims who were essentially denied their basic rights to be heard at the border.
As a result, such immigrants were left to make a very difficult decision – and turns out, many of them apparently decided to take the riskier route of entering the country illegally.
“Although DHS asserts that the Zero Tolerance Policy and metering at ports of entry are distinct issues, a CBP official reported that the backlogs created by these competing directives likely resulted in additional illegal border crossings,” the report said. “The fact that both aliens and the Border Patrol reported that metering leads to increased illegal border crossings strongly suggests a relationship between the two.”
However, the repercussions of “metering” —the practice of regulating how many people can enter the U.S. to seek asylum — are hardly surprising, considering advocates have long made the same argument about the practice.
“The blocking of access and limiting of access to the port of entry is a constructed denial that forces people to enter the US through irregular means. I have seen that play out repeatedly,” said Nicole Ramos, the Tijuana-based director of the border rights project for Al Otro Lado. “I know [the government’s] argument, they’re not asking people to wait indefinitely, they’re just asking people to wait, but at what point does that wait become an actual denial and how much of a wait time is considered acceptable when people are in immediate risk?”
Before the Trump administration imposed its draconian family separation policy, there was a standardized procedure in place for immigrants seeking protection from conditions in their home countries to seek asylum in the United States.
In fact, the international law prohibits the U.S. government from sending away people with legitimate humanitarian claims to countries where their lives are in danger.
However, things turned upside down when the administration decided to prosecute everyone who crossed into the U.S. illegally — including asylum-seeking parents who were separated from their children.
According to the report, some migrant families who tried to seek asylum the “right way” were urged to go through the port of entry to avoid being separated from their children.
But, due to inadequate immigration facilities at the border, they were turned away and told there wasn’t any room for them.
For instance, according to the inspector’s report, a Border Patrol officer said illegal entries increased when asylum-seekers were metered at ports of entry.
Likewise, a woman told inspectors she tried to ask for asylum about three times, but was turned away every single time. Subsequently, she decided to try her luck by crossing into the U.S. illegally.
The report also detailed the procedure through which Border Patrol officers stationed at the Southern border determined if a person seeking asylum can be processed. When the entry was too crowded, the asylum-seeker was told to return later.
“Although the Office of Inspector General (OIG) team did not observe severe overcrowding at the ports of entry it visited, the team did observe that the space designated for holding asylum-seekers during processing is limited,” the report added.“Depending on who is being held on a given day and the configuration of the hold rooms, the facility can reach capacity relatively quickly. At one port of entry the OIG team visited, CBP staff attempted to increase their capacity by converting former offices into makeshift hold rooms.”
Ramos, who focuses on refugees seeking asylum in the U.S., claimed she had seen people wait seven to eight weeks for their chance to ask for asylum.
She recounted the case of one of her clients from Mexico, a transgender woman who was almost kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking. Ramos said the woman was told to leave the city in Mexico immediately because the people behind her were reportedly very powerful. The woman ended up crossing into the U.S. illegally as a result.
Similarly, Ramos said, another woman who was turned away at a port of entry in California was soon kidnapped along with her toddler son by drug gangs.
During the days she was reportedly held captive, she was repeatedly raped and forced to watch the murders of other immigrants. When she was finally released, she reached a port of entry in Arizona, bleeding, covered in dirt, and sobbing.
But, she was still turned away.
She was eventually able to cross at a port of entry with the help of a non-profit, said Ramos.
“When you turn away desperate people, they enter through irregular means which allows the government to federally prosecute them for illegal entry and use the prosecution to take away their children,” Ramos added. “And they use the optics of people entering illegally to say ‘They’re flooding the border, we need the wall.’ They’re creating the crisis and using the crisis to justify the rhetoric against people who are doing their best to follow the law.”
In other cases, certain asylum-seekers tried to get the attention of the authorities by creative means.
For instance, one woman reportedly pretended to wash car windows until she was close enough to the U.S. official to ask for asylum. Another hopped on a U.S.-bound bus and asked for asylum when a border agent asked for her documents.
All these cases just prove how desperate and helpless certain people were and yet they were repeatedly turned away by the U.S. officials.
That’s not just sad but it’s also inhumane.
“You’re the U.S. federal government, you’re arguably one of the wealthiest countries in the world,” said Ramos. “Figure it out in a way that doesn’t deprive people of their human rights and put people at risk.”
The Trump administration didn’t just create a situation of an utter chaos, it also miserably failed to keep the influx of immigrants at bay which was apparently the ultimate goal.
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