Bring Asylum Seekers to Safety

Migrants face unwarranted violence at the border

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Thousands of migrants are trapped in Tijuana, with the oppressive tactics of the Border Patrol in front and the widespread violence and poverty of their homes behind them. They’ve come seeking help. Trump has the power to provide them a safe end to their journey, but he has chosen to give them anything but.

More than 6,000 people are waiting at the U.S.-Mexico border to be let into the United States. Many are coming to the country looking for jobs. Others were deported from the U.S. and are looking to reunite with their families. The common thread between their stories is their need to make a better life for  themselves.

The asylum seekers converged at a sports center in Tijuana in late November following their almost two-month trek through Central America. The group, originally consisting of about 160, left San Pedro Sula, Honduras in October.

The circumstances in Central American countries are dire. The asylum seekers hope to escape the political corruption, violence and poverty that plague their countries — problems intensified by U.S. military occupation in Honduras and Nicaragua.

The U.S. cannot turn its back on the number of people seeking refuge when it’s responsible for Central Americans needing to leave their countries in the first place. It’s shameful that their cries for help were met with ignorance and brutality at the border.

President Trump made his disdain toward asylum-seekers clear. At an October rally in Arizona, he referred to the migrants as “bad hombres” and told his supporters, “this country doesn’t want them.” He also threatened to cut or reduce aid sent to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador for not stopping people from moving toward the U.S.

This is a xenophobic administration. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed there are 500 criminals and gang members among the asylum seekers, but failed to explain how they were identified as criminals. Nielsen’s refusal doubles as admittance that the claim is yet another fabricated, fear-mongering story from the Trump administration.

At the border, Trump’s words are translated into crimes against humanity. U.S. Border Patrol agents used tear gas on hundreds of migrants to prevent a crowd from pushing through border gates. The crowd was not composed of alleged criminals and gang members, but included children, who fled from the attacks barefoot.

It’s unconscionable for such inhumane treatment to be directed at human beings. Even if tear gas is non-lethal, its use can have life-altering effects. We should never use lethality as the threshold for cruelty.

The U.S. government’s inclination to forefront aggressive action is disturbing and makes it difficult for migrants to believe entering the U.S. is feasible. It’s even harder for them to believe they could have a life in the country at all when the government blatantly disregards their humanity. They’ve left their home countries to flee from danger, only to have violence meet them at their destination.

Eligibility for asylum is a long process, involving a background check and interview after initial application. Despite the federal government’s insistence that it will only let people into the country legally, they have made no efforts to expedite the process. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials only process up to 100 applications for asylum from Tijuana daily. It could take over six months for all of the migrants to have their claims heard by asylum officers.

Trump issued a proclamation in early November that anyone who did not come into the U.S. through a port of entry would not be granted asylum. U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar placed a temporary restraining order on the proclamation and criticized Trump’s disregard for the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states a person may apply for asylum even if they did not enter at a designated port of arrival.

Tensions are likely to rise as more people arrive at the border. Tijuana city officials anticipate that as many as 10,000 migrants will need to stay in the city’s makeshift shelter. There isn’t enough room in Tijuana — the sports complex where the shelter is located already tripled its capacity. Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum declared a humanitarian crisis in the city on Nov. 23.

The migrants’ health and safety are at risk. Conditions in the shelter are unsanitary, and those who were affected by the tear gas may suffer permanent damage to their respiratory systems. It’s cruel to expect them to spend months in an adverse environment waiting on a sluggish government process.

The Trump administration’s neglect of laws protecting immigrant rights is inexcusable. It continues to demonstrate a lack of empathy for people of color, especially migrants. We cannot stand for these ideals.

We can help the asylum seekers directly by donating to organizations like Border Angels, which provide them with basic necessities like water, hygiene products and warm clothes. We should contact our congressional representatives to let them know we stand with the asylum-seekers and demand a more efficient process of applying for asylum. The people trapped at the border need help, and it’s deplorable for the U.S. to deny them of it.

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