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Waitlist For Asylum-Seekers In Tijuana Now At Its Highest Number Ever

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

Credit: Milan Kovacevic

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

For over a year, asylum-seekers in Tijuana have been putting their names on an unofficial list in a notebook, which saves them a place in line for the few asylum processing slots the U.S. makes available each day.

This week, the number of names in the "book" reached more than 9,000 people, its highest number ever.

By Reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler

This week, the list of people waiting to enter the United States through the San Ysidro port of entry reached over 9,000 people.

The existence of the unofficial book was made necessary by a Department of Homeland Security policy known as “metering,” which limits the number of people who can seek asylum in the U.S. at ports of entry each day.

Recently, those numbers, which weren’t very high to begin with, have nosedived. Fewer and fewer names are being called from the book even as the list of names increases.

RELATED: Trapped In Tijuana: US Asks Asylum-Seekers To Wait Amid Record Homicides

“There’s only been an average of three numbers called every day for the past month, there’s been a lot of distress and frustration regarding the metering system,” said Shane Mulligan, who works for Al Otro Lado, a legal services organization based in Tijuana.

According to Mulligan, wait times have reached 7-9 months for people signing up for the list this week.

The Department of Homeland Security has said in court that it instituted “metering” at the southern border due to the lack of bed space at ports of entry. Earlier this week, a group of asylum-seekers from Cameroon staged a protest of what they perceived as corruption over the Mexican government’s handling of the list.

KPBS has learned that many individuals being sent back to Mexico to await their asylum claims are being held in detention for days at the port of entry before being returned to Mexico. This further crowding of the port of entry has contributed to a ballooning waitlist and increasingly desperate asylum-seekers on the Mexican side.

Last week, Mexican immigration officials went six days without calling any numbers off the list. According to Al Otro Lado, in the past six months, there’s only been three days, all of which were holidays, where no people were accepted into the United States for asylum processing.

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

This week, the list of migrants waiting to enter the United States through the San Ysidro port of entry reached over 9,000. Plus, President Trump abandons his effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, Vice President Mike Pence visits San Diego navy bases and the family of a man who was shot and killed by San Diego police in 2015 has their suit reinstated by a federal appeals court.

Aired: July 12, 2019 | Transcript

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