First Asylee Released Into US Under 'Remain In Mexico' Policy
UPDATE: 6:30 a.m., Aug. 8, 2019:
A Honduran man, whose attorneys said became the first person on Tuesday to gain asylum status in the U.S. under the “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy, has been released into the U.S.
The man, known only as Alec, was released Wednesday from custody at the San Diego Ysidro Port of Entry 24 hours after the government considered sending him back to Mexico while it was deciding whether to appeal the immigration judge’s decision.
“We are delighted that Alec will not have to spend another night in a cold cell after having been granted asylum by an immigration judge, his attorney, Robyn Barnard said in a statement. "But Alec never should have been subjected to this cruel and illegal policy — one that knowingly sends refugees to danger, where they face kidnappers, traffickers, murder, and rape."
Alec, 30, was an evangelical church leader in Honduras, where he was targeted by MS-13 gang members for evangelizing young gang members, according to Barnard with Human Rights First.
He was one of the first asylum-seekers sent back to Mexico under the Trump Administration’s policy. Barnard said, after waiting in Mexico for six months for his court date, Alec may be the first under that policy to be granted asylum status Tuesday by an American immigration judge.
“We thought after waiting six months, after filing hundreds of pages of evidence to support his claim, and spending hours in court yesterday testifying, and the judge granting him protection, that his fight would be over,” Barnard said.
Instead, after the judge’s decision, a lawyer from the Department of Homeland Security announced that Alec would be taken back into Customs and Border Protection custody until the government could decide if it wants to appeal the decision.
In other asylum cases, once an asylum-seeker is granted asylum status, they’re immediately released from custody. According to Barnard, Alec had already been given security clearance from the government to be released from custody, and already had arranged for a sponsor to house him once he was released.
While Alec has been released, it was not yet clear if the government still plans on appealing the judge's asylum decision.
“This is the kind of person that we should be welcoming to our community, not putting him back into a detention cell and punishing him for being granted asylum,” Barnard told KPBS.