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A Migrant Family Put Their Hopes In President Biden. Now They’re Safe In The United States

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They flew a Biden 2020 flag at the migrant encampment, saying it gave them hope. Now they're safely in the United States.

Speaker 1: 00:00 As more asylum seekers are let into the United States by the Biden administration. Those who have waited months in desperate conditions in Mexico are finally seeing their dreams come true. KPBS reporter max riven nether joined one Honduran family as they started their new life in the United States.

Speaker 2: 00:22 It's early March at the migrant encampment and El Chapo or a Plaza in Tijuana. There, hundreds of asylum seekers are looking for information, any sign that they'll be allowed into the U S under the new Biden administration. Braden Latinas is one of those asylum seekers. He has a six month old son strapped to his chest. He and his partner had been waiting in Mexico for a year and a half to declare asylum in the us fleeing as Honduras deteriorates, amidst political violence and social instability, Latinas pose a flag. He's carrying with him out of a backpack. It's a Biden for president flag and Latinas waves it in front of him. To him. It represents a new chance, a possible reversal of fortune after a brutal few years sitting in mission bay park in San Diego this past Tuesday, Latinas cheers up thinking about what his family has had to go through to get here. His son is now nine months old and on the verge of walking

Speaker 3: 01:32 [inaudible] he said

Speaker 2: 01:33 He had plans just to give up. He had come so far already just to be stopped at the border for so long. Lainez shows off scars on his arm from a machete attack in Honduras, which he says was politically motivated. Laziness that he thought he was going to be killed in the attack. But God must've put a guardian angel in his path when who defended him, because he has no idea how he was able to escape. He left the country with his clothes, still wet. His mother had just done laundry that escape led them to Mexico, but then [inaudible] and his partner URISA, Razo encountered a Trump era policy known as title 42, which has put a near total halt to the processing of all asylum seekers at the border. In recent weeks in agreement hammered out by the Biden administration and the American civil liberties union has allowed vulnerable asylum seekers to enter the United States. Razo describes just how bad things were in the migrant encampment, where they moved to after a year already spent in shelters in Tijuana

Speaker 3: 02:43 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 02:43 It was all very difficult. She said, the children cried from the cold. They gave us blankets. It was very sad, but we triumphed and here we are. Thank God. They got help from the group [inaudible], which has assisted thousands of vulnerable asylum seekers in after crossing the border. Last week, they stayed in a hotel room, paid for by the state until travel could be arranged on Tuesday, Aidan pellet, from the Jewish family service of San Diego, help the family get ready to move to New York where their sponsor awaits. The group helped more than 3,600 migrants entering the U S during the month of may. He showed the young family how to navigate San Diego international airport.

Speaker 4: 03:28 It's we're really excited that that we're separated. We never seeing arrivals again. And we're seeing the rivals in the numbers that we are, because we know these are all people that are really in desperate need of help. And when I think what we're doing is it's showing that we can both protect public health and afford folks the access or the right to take side.

Speaker 2: 03:47 Lena says he got comments about the flag. He flew with the president's name on it. I know he says people try to insult him, bring him down, but he was holding onto it. Not out of support for a politician, but because it gave him hope of someday getting into the U S on Tuesday Lena's Razo and their son walked down the jetway to a plane they'll face years of uncertainty about their status in the U S but for the first time in two years, their lives are no longer in immediate danger.

Speaker 1: 04:22 Joining me is KPBS reporter, max reveling, Nadler, and max, welcome.

Speaker 5: 04:27 Good to be here.

Speaker 1: 04:29 This was obviously a deeply moving experience for that family, max, how is it that they were picked out among so many to cross the border?

Speaker 5: 04:39 Yes. So the process is a bit opaque right now, ups legal service providers in Tijuana and other border cities pick families that seem to be in especially vulnerable situations. I feel like with this family, they had problems with the police in Mexico. They were living in this migrant and Cameron and their child is really young, you know, moved to the camp when he was six months old and now is nine months old. Uh, so this obviously became a priority, but once these legal service providers send a list of the ACLU and the ACLU sends the list to the button administration and the department of Homeland security, it's really unclear how the decision is made is who gets to come in they're pre-screening these families, but we really don't know the criteria. So all we know is that they got in. And

Speaker 1: 05:22 Why is this family going to New York? Do they have family there?

Speaker 5: 05:27 It's interesting. Around 70% of asylum seekers have family, uh, living in the United States, this family doesn't. So they're going to a sponsor in New York, part of a nonprofit organization where they'll begin their, their life in, in New York

Speaker 1: 05:44 And of the asylum seekers who are finally crossing the border into San Diego. Do most of the people stay here or do they leave for other parts of the country?

Speaker 5: 05:54 The vast, vast majority leave for other parts of the country, Los Angeles. Um, but as far away as I I've met people who are going to Minnesota, Wyoming, it's really where people have settled in, in immigrant communities across the country. And oftentimes these are rural areas that need labor. So people are often on the move. San Diego is not the cheapest place to live, and it doesn't have an especially large community of, uh, non-Mexican of Latinos. So, uh, people just end up going elsewhere.

Speaker 1: 06:25 There was a us Supreme court ruling on asylum seekers this week, telling courts not to rely exclusively on the asylum seekers, personal stories of persecution, but also consider conflicting evidence gathered by fact-finders. How big a change is that for people facing asylum hearings?

Speaker 5: 06:45 Yeah, you got to remember, it's always an incredibly uphill battle for people to win asylum in the U S and it's almost impossible to do so without a lawyer, having a lawyer changes that and having a lawyer would be able to kind of, um, go against this conflicting evidence that would be gathered by fact finders that would be gathered by ice or the government, the department of justice. So helping having a lawyer would help people in this situation, this just stacks the deck against them even further, because again, the vast majority of people are not represented in their asylum hearings. They're not represented in their possible removal hearings. So, um, you know, this just makes, it makes it more difficult.

Speaker 1: 07:25 We heard from Mr. [inaudible] about the machete attack he suffered in Honduras. How would he go about proving that story to authorities?

Speaker 5: 07:34 Well, first off, I mean, he showed me the scars on his face and on his arm on top of that, he said, he's in touch with his mom who has photo evidence of immediately after the attack. Uh, things like text messages can be used to, um, prove somebody's, uh, persecution and other, you know, corroborating evidence. If, if the country conditions have sewn this Honduras right now, again, is, is a really a dangerous place for people that the president is currently was an unnamed co-conspirator in a drug case in federal court, in New York this past spring. So, uh, it's, it's not out of the ordinary that somebody would have these unfortunately would have this type of attack on them

Speaker 1: 08:16 And hear about how backlog the immigration court system is and determining asylum cases. Has there been any improvement in that?

Speaker 5: 08:25 Well, I'm glad you asked the Biden administration has actually propose a new, uh, expedited docket just for asylum seekers who cross at the Southwest border, you know, otherwise known as a rocket docket, cause it moves really fast. Um, that might be seen as an improvement from the administration side, but for advocates of asylum seekers, they really don't see that as an improvement because instead of getting a months to prepare their cases, some people might only have a matter of weeks. And as we know, because they have so much trouble finding lawyers, if they're unable to put together a strong case themselves in, in a matter of weeks, they'll most likely not have an affirmative asylum finding and be subject to removal. Now,

Speaker 1: 09:10 Max, you often report on the terrible experiences of people being stuck in Mexico, waiting to get into the U S yet. This report also expressed concerns for the family. Now that they're here, is it a difficult road that lies ahead for them?

Speaker 5: 09:27 Yeah, I mean, it's difficult because they're, they're showing up they're they're asylum seekers. They don't have family in the west, they don't speak English. Um, but there is a lot of support for them. I think the very fact that they are going to be met with a sponsor says that somebody is looking out for them. Hopefully, uh, if they want to get asylum, they'll be able to find a lawyer. Um, but these are all things that take money and time and effort. Um, so while they're no longer in immediate danger, just the very nature of no longer having any official status in this country makes it really difficult to kind of, uh, establish a life here and that uncertainty will haunt over them forever. Seeing as though their son who was born in Mexico is Mexican they're Honduran. Uh, obviously the son might have status as a Honduran, but it's just going to complicate matters even further.

Speaker 1: 10:21 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Rivlin, Nadler, and max. Thank you very much. Thank you.

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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.