Injustice on the border

Biden drops ball on helping migrants seek asylum in U.S.

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Tyrone Rothman/Bear Witness

Tyrone Rothman, Staff writer

This is the story of Marie, a San Jose resident who sought asylum in 2019.
In March of that year, Marie sought asylum at the San Diego-Mexico border. She was trying to flee the persistent dangers that she and her son faced in Sonora, Mexico, including sickness and fear of kidnapping and murder.

Instead of being housed safely in the United States while they awaited their court date, Marie and her son were kept in Mexico and forced to live in deplorable conditions. There, they were robbed by a criminal group, and didn’t report the crime to Mexican police, uncertain with how they would respond.

On the day of their court date in May 2019, they had less than an hour to speak with their attorney, who had little time to put their case together before the judge.

Under the U.S. Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the Remain In Mexico Policy, many asylum seekers faced situations similar to this one.

The policy forces asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. The MPP is one law of many which have demonstrated racial bias in the U.S. border laws.

Despite initial efforts from the Biden Administration to reverse it, a Texas federal court in August ordered the Biden administration to revive MPP. The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling, forcing Biden officials to reinstate the policy this month if approval is given from Mexico.

Humanitarian groups protested Biden’s initial conformity to the MPP. One group staged a virtual walkout from a meeting with Biden officials.

The Biden administration appealed the court ruling in late October, but the order is yet to be lifted.

The cruel nature of the MPP has been evident ever since it took effect in January 2019. Under the MPP, the decision to admit or deny a person’s entry into the United States lacked transparency and was determined by Border Patrol agents, who could pick and choose whether someone had a chance to seek asylum.

According to the American Immigration Council, many faced unfair — and often law-violating — treatment, facing asylum fees, extortion, deportation despite serious medical issues, family separation, and lack of or limited access to an attorney. They also were at risk of kidnapping.

Other reports cited Mexican police driving asylum seekers far away from their court hearing location, forcing them to miss their court date.

The Remain in Mexico policy’s negative repercussions are not just humanitarian, but also economic.

Santa Clara County, with immigrants making up more than one-third of its population, is home to more than 50,000 refugees. Meaning that roughly 1 in 40 people
in the county used resettlement services. Given that Santa Clara County has such a large refugee population, refugees are a pillar in its economy.

Many asylum seekers, like Marie who recently bought a house in San Jose, are prosperous in the U.S. when given the opportunity. In fact, refugees who have been in the country for 25+ years have an average median income $14,000 more than the national average.

It is crucial that the Biden administration continues to push to lift the Migrant Protection Protocols in order to protect asylum seekers from the traumas they may suffer in Mexico and to give them a chance to be successful in the United States.