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Report: Asylum Processing System Varies Along US-Mexico Border

A crowd of asylum seekers gather around "the notebook" while they wait to cross the border in Tijuana, Oct. 25, 2018.
Milan Kovacevic
A crowd of asylum seekers gather around "the notebook" while they wait to cross the border in Tijuana, Oct. 25, 2018.
Report: Asylum Processing System Varies Along US-Mexico Border
Report: Asylum Processing System Varies Along U.S.-Mexico Border GUEST: Rafael Fernández de Castro, director, Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies

Preassure either K PBS news as the asylum seeking process continues to evolve along the U.S. Mexico border. A new report looks at what Central American asylum seekers have been facing over the past couple of months as they wait to start their asylum claims. Their report is a partnership between UC San Diego the University of Texas at Austin and the Migration Policy Center. I spoke with Rafael Fernandez de Castro director of the Center for us Mexico studies at UCSD about the current situation at U.S. ports of entry on the southwest border. Well it takes very long for example in Tijuana could take up nowadays between three and six months. And what we find out in this story basically conduct in interviews along the eight ports of entry into Mexican Dunu state all the way from from Tijuana to Laredo is the CBP Customs and Border Protection. They basically doing what they call metering that is a process by which every single day they will come to the Mexican authorities. The other side of the border tells them we don't have enough capacity to process. We only have 40 let's say or 50. And you found that the metering policy here at the Sandy CGIAR port of entry goes back to the summer of 2016. Has that policy now extended along the entire border. Yes that is what happened here have started in Tijuana Sunday. Well basically what the Haitians though since they came in 2016 and the Haitians decided to just try to organize themselves. So they created these not Spanish. And now they continue to use the canal. What is very interesting in Tijuana for example is that the migrants who basically handle and control liberate the notebook also with a little bit of help with a group of it which is the humanitarian arm of the Mexican Immigration Institute that they help in the wake up every single Mondon that they were from to. And it's very telling because they do have to make decisions. And this is something that is very interesting because you see that society making decisions and very little transparency. Also in the Mexican side of the border about how these processes are taking place and there's a lot of confusion and that's why when the when the caravan came here it was very confusing and continue to be confusing to them how to go along and getting into the asylum seeking process in the United States. Right. And this this notebook that you mentioned is that used at other ports of entry on the Mexico side or is that Virgin use is basically using everywhere. But for example in Nogales Mexico. What are they doing there. Well basically I mean there were some people literally sleeping in the ports of entry with sleeping bags which are things. So the mayor there decided to take them into some shelters and the hope is of the mayor who's taking responsibility for that 14. So it all depends on what we see is that in the U.S. border. I mean in the U.S. ports of entry every single one is doing these metering creating these lines in the Mexican side. We don't see that there's one Polisi implemented in Mexico. It's a different reaction in Tijuana in Matamoros in Laredo in different ports of entry that we were doing research. In a statement to K.P. TSA Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said no one is being denied the opportunity to make a claim of credible fear or seek asylum end quote and that the number of people they're able to process depends on how much space they have available in their holding cells. Now does that seem like a reasonable explanation to you. If there are thousands of people waiting at the port of entry where Will CBP hold them while they're being processed. It is so obvious that they are trying to diminish the numbers of asylum seekers is that day they put an excuse to do do not process a lot of them as they should. I'm not here really as a Mexican to criticize the U.S. procedures. I'm more critical of what is going on in Mexico about the reaction in Mexico of the lack of I will say standard ice procedures in the Mexican side of the border that could be explained because we were transiting from the Penya president to the Ombudsman will up his residency. Now that we have a new president and there's a new commissioner for immigration in Mexico we should put our house in order and we should come with one policy that is transparent that it's easy for the asylum seekers to navigate. So for migrants waiting at the San Ysidro port of entry right now how soon before they can get to the front of the line to begin the asylum process. Well when the caravan came the backlog was about 27 28 Kondrat. Now I believe there is around 4000 or 5000 people ahead of you arriving there. So they processed 40 people so more that this is between 40 and 80. So it will take a few months for them to get into the first interview with the U.S. officials said do you think that these backlogs are sort of pushing people to take risks to come across the border. Yes. What I will say to some of the boats in the Caribbean. I will say those who have money and they are exasperated to come into the U.S. they if they get the money they may going to pay for the smuggler and they going to their life. We know that every year there's hundreds of Mexicans dying trying to come across undocumented states. And we don't know how many Central Americans. What he sees as her story that makes Equant the U.S. which are wonderful neighbors and we have these very sophisticated cooperation trade wise we have very limited cooperation migration wise it is for the Central American governments in Mexico and the U.S. Boody Iraq rock to and do something meaningful to protect these people who are really fleeing terrible violence and poverty. I've been speaking with Rafael Fernandez de Castro the director of the Center for U.S. Mexican Studies at the University of San Diego. Rafael thanks for your time. You're very welcome.

As thousands of migrants wait in Tijuana to claim asylum in the U.S., a new report paints a clearer picture of the asylum processing system on both side of the U.S.-Mexico border.

On the U.S. side, Customs and Border Protection officers have standardized their “metering” practice and extended it along the entire border, according to researchers at the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies at UC San Diego. “Metering” refers to a practice of limiting the number of asylum seekers admitted to ports of entry. CBP officials have said they follow this practice because of limited space in holding facilities.

Meanwhile, on the Mexico side, asylum seekers first need to get added to a wait list before they present themselves to U.S. immigration officials. But who manages the list varies by city, according to the report.

Rafael Fernandez de Castro, director of the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies at UC San Diego, shares more of the report's findings, Thursday on Midday Edition.