The Ongoing Journey for Asylum for 78 Central American Migrants
The Refugee Caravan is a group of migrants who traveled together across Mexico to the U.S. border in a peaceful protest supported by activist collectives Pueblo Sin Fronteras and Cultura Migrante. . The group left Ciudad Tecun Uman, Guatemala, on April 9th, and arrived in Tijuana, Mexico on Sunday May 7th to apply for asylum at the U.S. border.
All 78 aslyum seekers were accepted for asylum review as is required by international law, though this has not been the case for many asylum seekers coming to the U.S. recently. There were also no incidents of anti-immigrant coercion at the initial processing, which Pueblo Sin Fronteras said was due to careful organization, strength in numbers and media coverage.
“This is a huge success!” Pueblo Sin Fronteras wrote in a press release. “The doors of the USA are NOT closed to refugees, despite what Trump and his followers would have the world believe.”
There was one serious incident of abuse by US officials as one of the 78 individuals was sent back that day. This individual happened to be a U.S. citizen child who entered the U.S. with his Guatemalan father, as they applied for asylum in the US. During their interview, US officials found out the boy’s mother lived in Tijuana, and they threatened that if she did not get her son they would send him to foster care. The parents were terrified and complied with the officer and the boy was went back to Mexico where his life was in danger.
Pueblo Sin Fronteras stated that family separation is common, and the officials most likely did this so that they could “send the father to long-term adult immigration detention where he is more likely to despair and give up on fighting his case”. Officers tried to separate another family, but they remained together.
In the Detention Center
After the refugees were accepted for asylum processing at the border, they were then taken to detention centers to wait. One of the members of the Refugee Caravan was able to communicate to a family member and reported that the asylum seekers from the Refugee Caravan are
“being held in packed, freezing cold cells and are still wearing rain-drenched clothing from Sunday. They are given only 10 minutes to eat and are being accused of lying by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers.”
This member of the Caravan also reported that the asylum seekers are being held in the hieleras, the Spanish word for “Ice box.” The double meaning of the name implies a detainment facility operated by ICE officials, but also because the detention facilities are said to be kept very cold.
Pueblos Sin Fronteras also reported that CBP officers were intimidating and verbally abusing the Refugee Caravan participants in detention, which they are documenting. Family separation through the immigration detention system also continues to be an injustice. On May 9th, the organizers of the Refugee Caravan held a rally to support the detained asylum seekers.
Where are the Refugee Caravan asylum seekers right now?
All asylum seekers’ cases from the Caravan seem to have been referred for a Credible Fear Interview or a hearing in Immigration Court. This gives everyone a chance to fight for their asylum case, which is a fortunate contrast from recent illegal trend of turning away asylum seekers at the border. The Caravan group includes 19 men, 19 women and 40 children. They came from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and Cameroon. Following is a breakdown of where members of the Caravan currently are.
Five mothers with their children were paroled and released to sponsors in San Francisco, Houston, Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles. They will all most likely meet in immigration court for hearings set within the next few months.
Two minors have been sent to a facility in California run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The minors will be released to relatives as soon as paperwork is finished.
Three fathers with children were sent to a detention center in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Twelve mothers with children are in a family detention center in Karnes City, Texas. These detained families will have their credible fear interviews soon (a test to see they fear for their life in their home country), some are have been scheduled already for next week.
Sixteen adult men are detained (3 of them at Theo Lacy and 13 of them at Otay Mesa (both facilities are in Southern California). They are facing the toughest situation right now. Their credible fear interviews may take weeks or months to schedule, and then they will be detained until they can request a bond hearing, likely a minimum of 6 months or longer.
The day before the border action was dedicated to preparing the Caravan asylum seekers for the unpleasant realities of the US immigration detention system and legal asylum process, and efforts are still being put into providing the asylum seekers with the resources needed to present their cases successfully.
The Refugee Caravan’s current goals include supporting Caravan participants who were not prepared to present themselves for asylum on May 7th, but plan to do so soon. The Refugee Caravan is also working to ensure asylum seekers currently detained have access to the resources they need to accurately present their cases at their credible fear interview. Finally, the Refugee Caravan is working to get all participants out of immigrant detention centers as soon as possible.
Pueblo Sin Fronteras is currently looking for immigration lawyers or people who have training with asylum reviews to help with the asylum seekers’ cases. Pueblo Sin Fronteras is also in the process of organizing a letter writing campaign for the refugees, check out their website for updates on this. If you live in an area where aslyum seekers are, you can help to host a Welcome Reception event to invite them into their new lives in America.
For more information you can email the Refugee Caravan. For future updates from the Refugee Caravan and Pueblo Sin Fronteras, you can now sign up here.