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Border & Immigration

Asylum-Seekers Sent Back To Wait In Mexico Rarely Have Lawyers

A line of asylum-seekers wait at the Pedwest crossing in Tijuana, Oct. 25, 2018.
Milan Kovacevic
A line of asylum-seekers wait at the Pedwest crossing in Tijuana, Oct. 25, 2018.

A new study shows that U.S. asylum-seekers sent back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which makes migrants wait there as their court case proceeds, are having an incredibly difficult time finding lawyers.

Between the beginning of February and the end of June, almost 13,000 asylum-seekers were sent back to Mexico and told to come back in a few weeks for a hearing in their immigration case. Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse tracks the federal court proceedings. It found only 1.3% of those asylum-seekers nationwide returned to court with an attorney. In San Diego, just 77 people out of 4,289 had legal representation.

Asylum-Seekers Sent Back To Wait In Mexico Rarely Have Lawyers
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

RELATED: Asylum-Seeking Mother, Son, Try To Navigate US Immigration System

In immigration court in San Diego, asylum-seekers in the MPP system would plead repeatedly for more time to find lawyers. Many immigration lawyers working in the U.S. do not have a license or insurance to meet with clients in Mexico, and they are wary of crossing the border, where customs agents could look at sensitive information.

By contrast, 37 percent of all immigrants who are allowed to remain in the United States during their court proceedings are represented by a lawyer. Studies have shown that greatly increases their chances of avoiding deportation.

A San Diego State University basketball player lost a cousin and her cousin's husband in the killing spree. Plus, a newly improved permit will provide much needed improvements to the bluffs and train tracks in Del Mar and asylum-seekers sent back to wait in Mexico rarely return to court with an attorney.