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A Year Of Trump’s ‘Remain-In-Mexico’ Policy Leaves Migrants Desperate, Vulnerable

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It’s been just over a year since the United States began returning asylum-seekers to Mexico under the “Remain-in-Mexico” program. The situation remains desperate for thousands of migrants in Mexican border cities.

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's been just over a year since the United States began returning asylum seekers to Mexico under the remain in Mexico program. KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler gives us a look at how the program is playing out South of the border.

Speaker 2: 00:14 Remain in Mexico. Came to Tijuana in the form of a 55 year old Honduran man walking down the ramp from the Santa Cedure port of entry on January 29th of last year. He was the first asylum seeker return to Mexico under the controversial migrant protection protocols or more commonly known as remain in Mexico. Since that day, more than 57,000 asylum seekers have followed in his footsteps across the Southwest border, returned to Mexico to wait for their day in immigration court in the U S the department of Homeland security said it created the program to prevent asylum seekers from being released in the U S before their asylum hearings. A program they call catch and release. DHS and customs and border protection declined repeated requests for an interview for this story with KPBS. It says, the remain in Mexico program is currently under internal review, but the administration of this program by DHS has placed migrants directly into danger. Asylum seekers have faced violence and persecution while waiting in Tijuana and have been virtually unable to access legal assistance. On top of that, Mexican authorities say they have their hands tied. They are simply complying with the wishes of the Trump administration.

Speaker 3: 01:29 You must [inaudible] always tells me is [inaudible] the styles from Neal's [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 01:36 Zeus. Alejandro Ruiz were. eBay is the federal delegate who act as the liaison between the Baha state government and Mexico's president. He spoke with KPBS last week in Tijuana. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador Mexico's president allowed remain in Mexico to expand and began a crackdown on immigration along Mexico Southern border. After the Trump administration threatened the country with crippling tariffs. Give this a little bit still. We read, they says that the goal for Mexican authorities has been to treat the migrants returned to Mexico with dignity. To that end, he says the government has opened up a hostel for migrants with social and health services and even tries to provide jobs for them. The Mexican government doesn't keep track of what happens to the migraines. Returned to Mexico. Many faced with a month long wait, enter the United States by jumping offense or walking through the desert. Some go back to their home country. Others fall victim to violence and the border cities. A report from the organization. Human rights first found that over 816 people in the program have been murdered, tortured, or attacked while waiting in Mexico for their court hearing. In late November, a 35 year old Salvadorian man was killed in Tijuana after being sent back to Mexico with his wife and kids. According to the coroner's report obtained by KPBS, the man was dismembered.

Speaker 1: 02:57 Really no comparison. It's as if the border

Speaker 4: 02:59 has descended into darkness and we're all just doing the best that we can to ensure that people survive.

Speaker 2: 03:07 Nicole Ramos is a lawyer with the organization. I'll throw a lotto which has provided legal and humanitarian support to asylum seekers in Tijuana

Speaker 4: 03:15 at our office and T Guana. We literally have had victims of human trafficking come to our office after escaping their traffickers, and we ourselves have been faced with date personal danger as we're forced to find places for people to hide.

Speaker 2: 03:29 More than 27,500 people have been returned to the two Juana Mexicali region from along the border to get to court. They have to line up early in the morning in Tijuana to be bus to downtown San Diego for their hearings. Less than 3% of those in court in San Diego have been able to find a lawyer. As legal service providers are stretched thin and private lawyers are fearful of traveling to see their clients in Mexico. We read, they, the federal delegate says the future of the program hinges on November's presidential election because we're sending this person listening to this. And he says that American voters will be the ones who decide if the program and America's current policy towards migrants along the Southern border will continue into Juana max with Lynn Adler, K PBS news.

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.