In a Facebook Live last week, KIND Vice President of Regional Policy and Initiatives Lisa Frydman recounted KIND’s recent visit to the U.S.-Mexico border at Juarez and the dire situation the Trump Administration’s border polices are creating for immigrant and refugee children and families there. Watch Lisa’s Facebook Live above or read her interview below to learn more about what is happening at the border and what you can do to protect immigrant and refugee children and families seeking protection. Lisa is a well-respected expert in immigration and regional policies.
Why did KIND go to the border?
KIND has visited the U.S.-Mexico border numerous times since fall of 2018 to understand and observe how policies implemented by the United States and Mexico at these borders impact children. We have seen first-hand efforts to limit access to borders, including the “metering” of asylum seekers, which requires asylum seekers to essentially take a number of wait in Mexico until their number is called for processing, and the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), which sends asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait for their court date in the United States, both of which greatly harm children. In addition to this recent mission to Juarez/El Paso, we have visitedTijuana/San Diego and Tapachula, Mexico along the Mexico/Guatemala border..
What did you see on this trip?
Here are our main observations:
- We met migrants, including families with babies and toddlers as young as 1, 2, and 3 years old, who were sent back to Mexico under the Administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) to wait while their asylum cases proceed in U.S. immigration courts. Some do not have court for a year. They must wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico until then.
- Although U.S. law requires Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to immediately process children alone who approach ports of entry without delay, unaccompanied children are encountering barriers to seeking safety in the United States on account of “metering” and the MPP
- We visited several shelters housing migrants who have been waiting weeks, in some cases months, for their number to be called so they can go to the port of entry and present their case to CBP.
- Fear and insecurity: Between the waitlist and the MPP, over 11,000 asylum seekers are waiting in Juarez for the chance to seek protection in the United States. They are scared. They feel unsafe and vulnerable to the many forms of violence in Juarez, some of which has directly targeted migrants. They risk violence by drug cartels, gangs, and even Mexican police or immigration officers who may extort them for money. Those who have been targeted and harmed in Mexico are afraid to report what happened to them. People are so desperate to reach safety in the United States and feel so insecure in Juarez, that some take the risk of crossing between ports of entry – leading to the death of some, including a 20-year-old young women whose body was found on July 29, 2019 after she drowned trying to cross back into the U.S.
- Conditions under which these families are living harm children. The shelters are well meaning, but lack the resources needed to provide for families, especially those with young children. Some shelters do not have diapers, others do not have enough food. People told us they were hungry and that they had to buy their own water. Medical care is poor. We saw sick children who were not getting the care they needed. One child was deteriorating physically and mentally. Children had no educational opportunities or places to play. These are not places for children to grow or develop.
- People are confused. They do not know their rights or how to access them, for example their right to seek medical care in Mexico. They have no information about their legal claim in the United States. They have no idea how long their case will take, how they are going to get to immigration court, what will happen in court, or how to find a lawyer.
What is KIND most concerned about?
- Children must have access to protection. Barriers should not be imposed to impede their ability to seek safety in the United States. Policies like the MPP and metering harm children and force them into dangerous living conditions for prolonged, and indeterminate periods of time.
- Children in particular are suffering grave harm, experiencing both short- and long-term trauma that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Their development is impacted each day they live in dangerous, unstable, and frightening conditions. Development of children is also undermined by the lack of education in the shelters. Some of this is irreversible.
- People waiting in Mexico to make their case for U.S. protection have little access to information. They do not know their rights, what will happen to them or how the process works, and the options they have
- There is little to no access to attorneys to help people make their cases for U.S. protection, without which it is very difficult to navigate the process, and very difficult to make their case.
What can you do to help?