Border

More than 15,000 asylum seekers sent back to Juarez since start of 'Remain in Mexico' policy

Remain in Mexico

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - Getting through Ciudad Juarez was the final hurdle for many undocumented immigrants looking to make their way into the United States.

But for the past couple of months Juarez has become a temporary, and often dangerous, home for migrants.

"We started to bitterly cry," said Karina*, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. "We just kept saying it was so unfair."

Karina asked that we not use her full name for fear that identifying her could potentially affect the outcome of her immigration court case.

She's been staying at the Casa Del Migrante, a faith-based shelter in Juarez, since late May.

Karina is one of more than 15,000 migrants sent back to wait in Juarez while their asylum claims are processed in the U.S. It all stems from the Migrant Protection Protocols, or "remain in Mexico" policy.

Her three children and her husband crossed into the U.S. without documentation before her, and are now staying in Los Angeles.

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"Having to wait months and months in Mexico is not easy," Karina said. 

Karina tells ABC-7 she was forced to live on the streets for weeks, before being allowed to stay a Casa Del Migrante. She alleged that smugglers were trying to kidnap her.

"I lived through so much. At night, you could hear gunfire," she said.

Juarez Human Resources director Rogelio Pinal said these migrants do face danger in Juarez.

"It's a sad story," Pinal said. "Smugglers target them because they're vulnerable."

In April, President Donald Trump referred to the United States' asylum program as a scam. The Trump Administration's goal for the "Remain in Mexico" policy is to stop releasing asylum seekers in the U.S. Officials fear migrants won't show up to their immigration hearings, and therefore set their roots in the U.S. without proper documentation.

“There’s no one arguing that every individual that seeks asylum should be granted that benefit. Rather, we as immigration lawyers are seeking that they be given the due process to seek what the law allows," immigration attorney Daniel Caudillo said. "It’s an effective tool of getting attorneys to not want to represent those individuals. Many attorneys do not want to go Juarez to see these individuals. It’s a dangerous place for U.S. citizens.”

Denia, an Honduran immigrant sent back to Mexico, tells ABC-7 she does not want to continue waiting in Mexico.

"The so-called American Dream is over for me," she said.

Denia plans on willingly going back to Honduras -- the same country she fled after women in her town were being kidnaped and murdered. She doesn't want to deal with the uncertainty of living in Juarez.

But Karina, is not giving up. She plans on sticking around in Mexico until her asylum claim is resolved. Her dream is to be reunited with her family in Los Angeles. 

The Hope Border Institute is working with asylum seekers in Juarez, trying to set them up with attorneys.

“We know that together, the only way that we’ll be able to respond is to not be out of sight and out of mind. But instead to remain close, to remain vigilant," deputy director Marisa Limon said. "The amount of obstacles and hurdles that we’ve placed in front of people that have been fleeing trauma, have been fleeing violence, and only allow them to come, and stay in another country is very horrific.”

Still it's an uphill battle for many of these migrants to be granted asylum. Department of Justice statistics show less than 15 percent of applicants are granted asylum.

"Asylum law requires that the person demonstrate that they are a refugee," immigration judge Ashley Tabaddor said. "It is a pretty onerous standard."

Karina knows the odds are stacked against her. She fled drug violence in Guatemala, and recognizes there's a chance she could soon return to that.

"I would rather die in my home country than die in Juarez," Karina said.


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