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U.S. Begins To Process Some Caravan Asylum-Seekers

People who traveled with the annual caravan of Central American migrants, rest where the group set up camp to wait for access to request asylum in the US, outside the El Chaparral port of entry building at the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, April 30, 2018.
Associated Press
People who traveled with the annual caravan of Central American migrants, rest where the group set up camp to wait for access to request asylum in the US, outside the El Chaparral port of entry building at the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, April 30, 2018.
U.S. Begins To Process Some Caravan Asylum-Seekers
US Begins To Process Some Caravan Asylum-Seekers GUEST: Ev Meade, director, University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute

>>> I am Maureen Cavanaugh, it is Tuesday, May 1. Our top story on midday addition, the less border patrol says the it have opened up processing and San Ysidro for a handful of asylum-seekers. Mostly women and children were allowed into CPD offices to begin the long legal process of requesting asylum. Process that is usually unsuccessful for the Applicants. Joining me as director of transporter Institute of the University of San Diego to explain with the asylum processes like. Before CPV accepted a few of the caravan members asking for asylum, they sent interview areas were full and they did not have the capacity to process new asylum applicants. Have you ever heard of space being an issue in the past? >> In the last couple of years where we had thousands of Haitians arrived and other national groups, there has been an informal process of a line. The line was started by migrants waiting in line. There is some precedent for this. What we don't have precedent for is the Department of Homeland Security and the president of the United States declaring that these people should be rejected at all costs. The president giving this message that he had directed Homeland security to make sure they did not get end. homeland security walked that back. That is the part we have not had. The difference in Washington not in the mechanics of the boarder. >>> How does this process begin for asylum-seekers? >> If you are an asylum seeker, you have to pass through a couple of different cordons to apply. Number one is a standard set of questions agents at the border asked anyone who asked to enter who is not authorized. There are a couple of questions on there that ask about fear. If they answer those affirmatively that they have a fear, they are detained in a holding cell. They are scheduled for a credible fear interview. That is a more detailed interview where the agent tries to verify if there is some foundation behind the fear they expressed. If they pass the credible fear interview, they are allowed to apply for asylum. The norm in the United States for people who will ply for asylum is that they are detained. The court said if they are detained for six months or more, they are entitled to a bond hearing. If their case is not adjudicated within the first few months, they will bond out. And then they enter our giant backlog immigration system where people wait a couple of years to get a hearing date. Often a couple of more years to have a hearing in front of a judge. >>> Are there standards that constitute credible fear as far as the officials are concerned? >> Yes. There is a legal process. There are standards there supposed to follow. It gives the officials a significant amount of discretion. It is a subjective assessment. There is a clear standard. It is not a high standard. The application for asylum itself is a high standard and the burden is on the applicant to prove their case. >>> Oval mothers and fathers be separated from their children while the asylum process continues? >> This is a matter of contention. And practice we have seen this happen at the border where families are separated. Adult couples are almost separated always. There is a law a consent decree from the florist case that is still being litigated in the federal courts for the Supreme Court basically agreed that the separation of families in the separation of children from their parents and the detention of children should only be a last resort. I think what we are encountering there with mixed signals from the administration is the first policy option or the last resort? It sounds like the former than the latter the way they articulated it. >>> The Trump administration refers the closing loopholes that allow immigrants in the U.S. What are the loopholes? >> I retract the term. I don't think it's a loophole. That is a law that was passed by Congress that has very clear standards. The problem with the system is it is enormously backlogged. They have the same docket more than 650,000 pending cases for fewer than 300 immigration judges. That is the real issue in terms of how long it takes to get these cases adjudicated and how long someone who eventually is not entitled in the United States gets to stay here. That is backlog that is not asylum standard. It demonstrates a failure to understand the system. If you look at the people who can get asylum, it is because they can get good legal help. The standard is high. You have to prove that not just conditions are bad in your country, but that you personally have been targeted for persecution on account of one of five protective grounds. The burden is on the applicant approved. It is a difficult situation to be in. I have served as an expert witness the for about 50 cases in Mexico. I will tell you that we submit hundreds of pages of materials, footnotes, sworn affidavits from witnesses, reports from NGOs, governments, the bar is very high. >>> The bar is so high, family -- how many applications get turned down? >> Conservatively 80% of Central American asylum cases and 90% of the Mexican asylum cases are rejected. There are other forms of relief the immigration courts can give. They can close the case administratively where they don't grant a person asylum but they don't removed them from the United States. In general, if you're coming from Central America or Mexico, you have a slim chance of winning an asylum case. >>> I have been speaking with Evan Meade with the University San Diego. Thank you. >> Thank you very much, Maureen.

Updated at 8 a.m. ET

A few of the nearly 200 asylum-seekers from Central America who traveled by caravan through Mexico to the U.S. border crossing at San Diego have been allowed to apply for asylum.

Eight asylum-seekers — three women, four children and an 18-year-old — who claimed to be fleeing violence in their home countries were allowed through the gate at the border separating Tijuana, Mexico, from San Diego on Monday evening, according to caravan organizers.

"We began processing undocumented arrivals again on Monday," a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) spokeswoman said. "As in the past when we've had to limit the number of people we can bring in for processing at a given time, we expect that this will be a temporary situation."

Reuters reports: "The first to enter were part of a small group from the caravan who Mexican officials let walk over a pedestrian bridge on Sunday and who have been camped at the San Ysidro gate ever since, when the CBP said the facility between Tijuana and San Diego was saturated. A larger group of about 150 people has not been let onto the bridge and was preparing for a second night sleeping in an open plaza on the Mexican side."

Most of the asylum-seekers are from Honduras and El Salvador, and many have harrowing stories of surviving violence in the country of their birth. The journey to the U.S. border has taken many of them a month on foot, freight train and bus. However, the bar for being granted asylum in the U.S. is very high and many will not be able to reach it.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the Justice Department to file criminal charges against 11 others, allegedly part of the caravan, who are said to have entered the U.S. illegally.

"The United States will not stand by as our immigration laws are ignored and our nation's safety is jeopardized," Sessions said in a statement.

The Justice Department complaints allege that the defendants were apprehended a few miles west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

President Trump has been tweeting about the caravan for weeks, and tweeted Monday, "The migrant 'caravan' that is openly defying our border shows how weak and ineffective U.S. immigration laws are," he wrote.

As The Associated Press reports, "Trump administration officials have railed against what they call America's "catch and release" policies that allow people requesting asylum to be released from custody into the U.S. while their claims make their way through the courts, a process that can last a year."

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