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  • A migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, crawls through a hole under a border wall to cross illegally from Mexico to the U.S in Tijuana.

    A migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, crawls through a hole under a border wall to cross illegally from Mexico to the U.S in Tijuana. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 December 2018

About 82 percent of Exodus members are Hondurans fleeing death threats, judicial impunity, and a poverty rate that sits at 70 percent.

Tijuana-based human rights organization, Al Otro Lado, says that eight minors from the Central American Exodus were turned away by United States Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) agents at the Otay Mesa port of entry as they attempted to apply for asylum and were quickly taken into custody by Mexican officials.

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Nicole Ramos, Director of El Otro Lado, which facilitates free legal counsel to migrants and asylum seekers trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico, released a Facebook video and statement late Tuesday night saying that CPB agents refused to accept eight minor asylum seekers accompanied by volunteer attorneys and Al Otro Lado staff.

The Central American minors who traveled to Tijuana on their own were refused by CPB agents, which, says Ramos, defies “basic human decency, (and) flies in the face of CBP's obligations under Title 8, Section 1225 of the United States Code, the Trafficking Victim Protection Act, the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

El Otro Lado Twitter feed at the same time revealed that the agents told the lawyers that the detention center at Otay Mesa was full and the minors needed to go to another port of entry.

In her statement Ramos asks: “Why do the "leaders" of other nation states permit the United States to be the world's bully, trampling human rights? Why is CBP's decision to act outside the law based upon the administration's whims and highly dependent on who is watching?”

The human rights defender points out that U.S. agents only seem to “accept unaccompanied minors … when a U.S. Congresswoman” steps in.  

Last Saturday Democrat Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal went to Tijuana “to see how … asylum seekers … are turned back” at the U.S.-Mexico border. During her visit, Jayapal helped several Central Americans gain entry into the U.S. where she “witnessed their applications for asylum,” the Congress member tweeted.

"It shouldn’t take intervention from a Member of Congress and an incredibly compassionate Border Patrol Chief for those fleeing violence and persecution to seek asylum in the United States," Jayapal tweeted Dec. 1.  

Turning away asylum seekers in high numbers has been a regular practice of the Donald Trump administration.

El Otro Lado tweeted that after being blocked by U.S. border agents the minors and their lawyers were “corralled (by) about 13 Mexican federal police officers (who took) ... all the Central American minors into custody.” The organization hasn’t released a statement on the status of the minors.

“All of these children are fleeing horrific persecution,” the tweet continued.

About 82 percent of Exodus members are Hondurans fleeing death threats, judicial impunity, and a poverty rate that sits at 70 percent.

An estimated 10,000 Central Americans in five migration waves left their home countries starting Oct. 12 reaching Tijuana, Mexico in just over a month. About 65 percent of those traveling are mothers with children, according to El Pais, who were met with a militarized border, and U.S. security forces firing rubber bullets and throwing tear gas in some instances.

After an exhausting journey through Mexico and waiting for weeks in squalid conditions in Tijuana to apply for U.S. asylum, many of the original Exodus members have dispersed from the region while others, including moms and kids, are traversing the border wall that separates the two countries to turn themselves in to CPB agents hoping this will speed up their applications.

“What will (Department of Homeland Security) DHS Secretary (Kirstjen) Nielsen have to say for herself,” questioned Ramos in the El Otro Lado statement. “The world is waiting on the answer,” she ended.

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