The border crossing between San Ysidro and Tijuana is the latest flashpoint in the Trump administration’s efforts to demonize migrants and refugees.
Not everybody buying this bluster, thankfully. People on both sides of the border have been working to meet the needs of the migrants, and volunteers are delivering blankets, water, food and other necessities on a regular basis. Baby wipes, diapers, blankets, and tents are still needed.
The President, who apparently learned about a convoy working its way through Mexico from an item broadcast on Fox and Friends, has consistently mischaracterized the group as an organized attempt to enter the country illegally.
At a speech in West Virginia where he was supposed to be touting new tax laws, Trump chose to play the fear card, making up a scenario with no basis in reality.
“Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened,” he said Thursday about his speech kicking off his presidential campaign. “Everybody said, oh, he was so tough. I used the word rape. Yesterday it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”
Trump appeared to be saying that the caravan was somehow responsible for the rape of women. Or that men in Mexico are raping women in the caravan. There is no evidence either are true.
BuzzFeed News immigration reporter Adolfo Flores then tweeted, “I’ve been with the caravan for 12 days and haven’t seen or heard of anyone being “raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”
He added, “To be clear I haven’t heard of anyone being raped in or around the caravan.”
A majority of the group camping on sidewalks near the border crossing are women and children from Honduras and El Salvador, seeking asylum from violence in their homelands.
Despite attempts by the local police and immigration agencies to persuade the families to leave the plaza, the group of mothers and fathers voted has elected to remain in the plaza right outside the port of entry.
Noncitizens presenting themselves at the borders have a right to apply for asylum and other forms of protection. There is a rigorous assessment of all asylum claims and a multi-agency vetting process before anyone is granted the right to stay.
These caravan migrants are not criminals, nor are they “illegals.” They are families trying to save the lives of their children, using a legitimate path to safety. The United States has been admitting an average of 72,000 refugees from around the world each year.
The editorial board at the Union-Tribune gets it:
What’s not clear yet is if the Trump administration has broken with this long and honorable record. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s weekend statement that it had “reached capacity” at the San Ysidro Port of Entry for processing persons “without appropriate entry documentation” can be seen as in keeping with its past reactions to an influx of asylum-seekers, such as what happened in 2016, when thousands of Haitians sought entry. But given Trump’s comments, few will be surprised if the agencies that report to the White House have made something of a pre-determination that those on the caravan don’t qualify for asylum status — without even hearing their stories.
This callousness about refugees no doubt sits well with the millions of Trump supporters who believe his canard about America having open borders. It’s also likely to please the many people who look at European nations’ struggle to absorb more than 2 million refugees in the wake of the Syrian civil war and who fear that’s what might happen here.
But those who say the president merely wants to follow the law on asylum seekers — unlike the presidents who came before him — are lying to themselves. To the contrary, residents of violent, gang-dominated areas of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who believe they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” because they have crossed the wrong people are legally entitled to asylum consideration. Given that so many critics of U.S. immigration policies like to say “what part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” this irony is painful — and ugly.
Lorella Praeli, American Civil Liberties Union director of immigration policy and campaigns, said:
“Clearly, the Trump administration is using these asylum-seekers to fabricate a crisis to justify the further militarization of our U.S.-Mexico border, separation of families, and an unpopular anti-immigrant agenda.
“It’s a disgrace that Central American families and children are being vilified while seeking refuge from violence and other dangerous situations at home. Customs and Border Protection must stop hiding behind unelaborated capacity constraints and move immediately to process these asylum-seekers according to the law.”
On Sunday, about 150 people walked peacefully to the San Ysidro Port of Entry, where a small group of them entered to seek asylum. US Customs & Border Protection officers curtly told them that the port of entry was “at capacity” and that they would not be processing any asylum seekers at this time.
Yesterday, eight people were accepted for processing. The port of entry has a 316 person capacity, by the way.
From Maya Averbuch and Sarah Kinosian at Huffpo, setting the scene with some truth:
For the past two weeks, President Donald Trump and Fox News have taken turns warning Americans of a “big Caravan of People from Honduras” headed for the United States. As the “refugee caravan” makes its way through Mexico, Trump has insinuated the group will pour into the U.S. unchecked, bringing in drugs and crime, and he called for the National Guard to reinforce the border.
Trump’s warnings are detached from reality. Here’s the real story: The caravans have been organized since about 2008 to help migrants from Central America find refuge in the United States or Mexico. Eighty percent of the people who joined this year came from Honduras. And as chronic violence and a deep political crisis roil their home country, Trump’s harsh rhetoric and U.S. policy in the region have done little to deter them from seeking safety.
Here’s a snip from the Los Angeles Times:
Caravans for years have traveled through Mexico as a way of keeping Central Americans safe from criminal gangs and corruption. But this is one of the largest and by far the most visible, having provoked a series of jabs by Trump, who has complained that Mexico is doing little to stop the group from reaching the U.S. border.
At Saturday’s rally, Trump hyped the $1.6 billion secured in funding to build a border wall. “We come up again on Sept. 28,” he said, referring to the fall spending bill, “and if we don’t get border security, we have no choice; we’ll close down the country because we need border security.”
Here’s the Trumpian I’m-not-a-racist quote from the same rally:
Not to disappoint his adoring fans, Trump covered the hits: Bashing journalists and James Comey, comparing crowd sizes. He even talked about repealing Obamacare (“some people would say that we have essentially gotten rid of it!”).
When it came time to dish on the showstopper everyone was waiting for — The Border Wall — Trump, hyping the crowd, asked, “are there any Hispanics in the room?”
His supporters responded with ecstatic boos.
On Monday, the Department of Justice touted filing criminal charges against 11 suspected members of the caravan, alleging they illegally entered the U.S. It’s doubtful this is the case since the procedures for getting caught illegally crossing the border are different than asking for asylum.
From the Union-Tribune:
The suspects were arrested by members of the Border Patrol in areas west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
“When respect for the rule of law diminishes, so too does our ability to protect our great nation, its borders, and its citizens,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement.
But caravan leaders said Monday they had no knowledge that any of its members were arrested.
The U.S. government cuts a check to settle a claim against the Customs and Border Parol every 32 hours on average.
An analysis of US Treasury Department data on Customs and Border Patrol legal settlements by The Guardian reveals payments totalling $177 million over a 12 year period.
Claims related to employment or property amounted to $116 million. Another $60 million in legal settlements were paid where border agents were involved in deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union’s Chris Rickerd, who monitors CBP nationally, the settlements hint at larger patterns of misconduct that go unchallenged.
“There’s a whole web of things that make this a particularly hard road,” said Rickerd, citing fear among border communities whose livelihoods often rely on crossing checkpoints.
The story concludes by noting the data in the analysis only represents payments made from the federal government’s Judgement Fund, which pays out when an agency does not have funds available to compensate a claim for damages.
So much winning…
Trump will attend the @NRA Convention this weekend, but didn’t attend one funeral for the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.
We see your priorities, Donald.
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) May 1, 2018
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