In the past, people seeking asylum in the United States could gain admittance into the country pending processing of their claims. Asylum-seekers would be able to stay in Colorado and other safe areas while the government determined their status.
However, this year a new policy went into effect forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico until the government finishes granting their claims. This policy goes by two names: the “Remain in Mexico” policy or Migrant Protection Protocols.
Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol claim that the policy is necessary to stop the exploitation of migrants by human smugglers by preventing people from entering the United States on purportedly fraudulent visa claims. They assert that the policy is working because apprehensions, i.e., arrests, at the southern border have dropped by approximately 68% over an approximately six-month period.
However, one immigration attorney states that the policy has sparked a humanitarian crisis at the border. People seeking asylum are already fleeing the threat of violence and persecution in their countries of origin. The new policy forces them to remain in areas of Mexico that are reportedly under the control of drug cartels and therefore unsafe. Thousands of migrants are living in makeshift camp cities without access to proper medical care.
Parents report that they fear for their children. One father claims that a man believed to be a cartel operative sexually assaulted his young daughters as they washed in the Rio Grande. Another father reports being unable to do anything when his 2-year-old epileptic son has had convulsions in their tent at night.
Recent changes to U.S. immigration policies have been bewildering, to say the least. Those with questions about seeking asylum may find an attorney to be a source of valuable information and assistance.