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Asylum Application Surge And The Shutdown

More Border Protests Planned

Asylum requests at the border are on track to more than double this year, with many of those requests coming from Central American immigrants crossing in South Texas.

Fronteras Desk reported in August the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that during the first half of that month some 450 people showed up at San Diego's border crossings claiming they feared returning to their home country.

A more recent Associated Press story has it that many Mexicans are fleeing north from a particular region called Tierra Caliente, 250 miles west of Mexico City. According to the AP, 44 women and children were released in San Diego in a 30 day period, after citing "credible fear" of return to their home country. They are now awaiting hearings befor an immigration judge. Those cases may encourage others to make similar claims at the border.

This rush at the border comes at the same time that immigration activists are using the system along the border to mount their own protest against deportation policies and what they see is a need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Earlier this week a group of people, some of whom had lived in this country without documents, presented themselves at the Laredo, Texas, border crossing and were arrested. Since then eight have been released, and others are planning asylum pleas.

This is the second round of such protests. In August, a similar group, dubbed the Dream 9, crossed at Nogales, Ariz. and were eventually released to await immigration hearings.

That wait may now be even longer. The shutdown of the federal government means that the backlog in immigration cases will be worsened this week with a partial shutdown of the immigration courts. Most cases already languish for up to a year, and there are 350,000 pending applications.

The Washington Postreports that 16 immigration courts are closed nationwide, while 42 remain open; 23 of those courts only handles cases of detained immigrants. Judy Londonn is a public defender in Los Angeles. According to the Post, she says:

This is a nightmare. It is already a nightmare, because of the huge backlog in the court system. When we go into court, we are often told the first available trial date is a year later. This could mean more delays of months, or even another year.

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