Remain in Mexico or, Better Yet, Go Home

Asylum Seekers in Tlaquepaque, Mexico, 11/2018

The “remain in Mexico” policy applying to migrants attempting to secure asylum in the United States by crossing the border and giving themselves up appears to be having an effect in dissuading new attempts.  For that reason, it is often cited as one of the key reasons for the recent decline of unauthorized border crossings (see “What Is the Real Reason for the Decline in Illegal Apprehensions?“).

The policy was put in place to answer the problem of migrants simply disappearing into the U.S. after initial processing. Since beginning  in the winter on a limited basis at the San Diego sector, in the past five months the policy has been expanded across the Texas-Mexico border.  A total of 20,000 would-be asylees have now been returned to the Mexican cities of Tijuana, Mexicali, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and Matamoros. Of these, 1,155 cases have been adjudicated.  No one has been granted asylum.

There continues to be a huge backlog of cases awaiting settlement and the wait can extend for months for even an  initial hearing. Given the long wait with the almost infinitesimal prospects of success, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that many of those “remaining in Mexico” are actually heading back to their home countries.  Exact numbers of such returners are hard to come by, but a Mexican official in the Mexican state of Baja California estimated that about half of the asylum seekers there have left for home. Tijuana shelter operators estimate that 40 percent of the migrants housed there have returned home as well.

Complaints of unfair treatment abound, of course, in spite of the fact that these asylee wannabes have placed themselves and their children in their current position after having ignored countless warnings not to make the attempt.

The Times quotes a Honduran  woman in Nuevo Laredo with her 7-year-old autistic son as saying her treatment felt “like a punishment.”  Her father is in Louisiana and her mother is in South Carolina, but she now says she just wants to go back to Honduras.

Another Honduran single mother was headed back home on a bus along with her two children, complaining that the U.S. immigration system was “a deception.”

A Honduran farmworker, in Nuevo Laredo with this wife and son, explained that he had hoped to join a brother in Los Angeles, but the family had been kidnapped twice and held for ransom  on their way north.  Now reluctantly turning south again toward home, he pointed toward the United States and said, “If anything happens to us over here, it’s the responsibility of the government over there.”

The disappointed would-be Americans typically blame President Trump for having thwarted their plans. As one Guatemalan woman said, “With Donald Trump, things will not change. Maybe after the elections.  But for now, no.”

Free southbound bus rides are being offered to migrants who have given up, and many are glad to get on board.   As the Times reports, “When the buses finally arrived in Nuevo Laredo around 1 a.m., nearly 200 migrants rushed to line up.  Many were smiling, relieved. One woman exclaimed: ‘Thank God we can go!’”

One such bus rider was Eber Ramirez, 42, who boarded with his 15-year-old daughter and 18-year-old niece. They had hoped to make a home with relatives in Maryland and Virginia, but after a week Ramirez had grown tired of “discrimination” and was headed back to Guatemala.  He said he would take with him a message for the rest of his family about the United States: “Never go back.”

Let’s hope they listen.

For more, see the Los Angeles Times.


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