Conflicted Reports Bring Uncertainty to Asylum Seekers Making Claims

9 months 1 week 2 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 December 07, 2018 7:24 PM December 07, 2018 in News - Local

WESLACO – There are conflicting reports on whether asylum seekers are able to make their claims at the Hidalgo-Reynosa port of entry.

Anyone who wants to request asylum has the legal right to do that at any port of entry.

A study and reports from those working with asylum seekers say this is may not be the case at this port of entry; U.S. Customs and Border Protection says otherwise.

The last time Jodi Goodwin helped an asylum seeker come through the Hidalgo port of entry was in September.

"I received a call from the shelter in Reynosa that there was a young boy who had been shot twice and needed medical care. He and his father had both attempted to apply for asylum multiple times and had been rejected,” Goodwin recalls.

She was able to cross him over by working with CBP officers.

"But without intervention, yea, that doesn't happen," she says, as she reflects on the changes after the Zero-Tolerance Policy was implemented in April.

The Strauss Center study, Asylum Processing and Wait Lists at the U.S.-Mexico Border, focused on studying asylum claims at ports of entry throughout the southern border.

They report policies in place stand between asylum seekers in both countries.

On the U.S. side, there's a metering process – that's when CBP processes claims according to space in their facility.

In Mexico, immigration officers stop them at ports of entry.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS witnessed this process in August with a family of four.

The study found the port of entry asylum seekers choose makes a difference in how long they wait.

They studied the progress in November 2018.

In Brownsville's Gateway International Bridge, between none to six people were processed a day, with a wait period of two to eight weeks.

In Laredo, one to four are processed per day with a two-week wait.

San Diego, anywhere between 20 and 80 are processed daily at a wait of up to 12 weeks.

McAllen was not able to be determined, but some unofficial estimates from Mexican officials have it at ten at the most per month.

A shelter manager in Reynosa we spoke with tells us no one from his shelter has been allowed to request asylum since about three months ago.

Many have left back home or gone to the Matamoros port of entry.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS called a spokesperson for CBP. Rick Pauza told us requests have been made as recent as November at Hidalgo, but did not disclose a figure. 

The shift in pace and rules have immigration attorneys on this side of the border trying to keep up.

"You mean changing the rules in the middle of the game? Yea. It's difficult," says Goodwin.

Goodwin is used to the normal complications of working with asylum cases.

Now, there's a new list that adds to that challenge.

"You can't get your client in. You can't get your credible fear interview. Sometimes it's difficult to even make sure that immigration will accept your notice of appearance as an attorney of record, because they won't let you. Their emails, or their fax machine doesn't work, or they won't answer their phone," she says. 

CBP says they're working to keep up with claims. 

What remains to be seen is if CBP is aware of the changes to processing by Mexican immigration and how that affects who and how many go through Hidalgo.

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