by Mary Ellen Popkin
El Paso, TX – A federal in June 2018, ordered Immigration agents to stop family separations. According to an immigration advocate Camilo Perez-Bustillo, Director of Advocacy, Leadership Development and Research at Hope Institute, family separation are still occurring at the El Paso Border just at a slower pace.
When Roger Maier ( Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, El Paso TX ) was asked what is the process for asylum seekers? He emailed “Person arrives with or without documentation (most have some type of ID). CBP (Custom and Border Patrol) officers will try to establish the ID of the person, if there is any criminal history, etc. If the person claims fear or is seeking asylum that starts an administrative process that CBP follows. The person is assigned an A number and then is turned over to ICE ERO (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) for further processing. Again CBP plays no role in adjudicating asylum claims – our role is purely administrative.”
Activists argue CBP does n’t separate families but they are making it hard for them to cross legally into El Paso. Reports of CBP telling families they can’t cross today forcing them to stay in Mexico. Every day they wait there’s risk of being robbed, kidnapped, starved or dehydrated. Many choose illegal crossing and surrender to Border Patrol. Adults are charged and children sent to HHS. Previous administrations rarely did this because they knew it would result in family separation. Nearly 500 children remain separated.
Perez-Bustillo is concerned how the tent city in Tornillo, TX went from housing 300 “unaccompanied minors” to 3,000. When it was erected in 2018 it only housed boys now it is housing girls.
Perez-Bustillo believes the plan to build family detention centers at Fort Bliss is AG Sessions plan to violate the Flores 1997 court agreement, which states minors can’t be detained more than 20 days.
Migration from Latin America is down for 10 years ago but it varies from the Northern Triangle ( Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala) depending mostly on political unrest in these countries. He explained in 2008 Honduras had the largest number of refugees but since the 2009 Honduran coup d’état their numbers have decreased. Now it’s Guatemala with the greatest number of refugees. Indigenous people there are being killed and displaced due to mining.
Canadian company Tahoe Resources in 2010 gain right to mine silver on land situated in the middle of Guatemala’s southern agricultural heartlands. Thousands of families live off the land forcing Guatemala’s 60 percent indigenous population literally in a fight for their lives, land, and livelihood.
The consensus of immigration advocates is that until situations in the asylum seekers homeland they will continue to seek refuge.
When asked a long time immigration advocate at the El Paso border said he wanted people to understand ” We can’t let the current administration criminalize asylum seekers. Morally we can’t give in to their desire to dehumanize asylum seekers.”