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Migrants Waiting To Apply For U.S. Asylum Up Against Ongoing Shutdown

Jan 12, 2019
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

While he has made the argument for stronger border security, hundreds of people wait on the other side to apply for asylum. A policy called metering puts a cap on the number of migrants who are allowed to apply each day. Cristian Sanchez is an attorney with the organization RAICES. He joins us from Tijuana, where he's been helping a group of migrants try to navigate the asylum process. Mr. Sanchez, thanks so much for being with us.

CRISTIAN SANCHEZ: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Who are some of your clients?

SANCHEZ: My clients are a group of LGBTQ migrants who have self-formed kind of a group to protect themselves from the wider discrimination from, you know, people during their trip and from the wider caravan.

SIMON: And they would like to apply for asylum in the United States.

SANCHEZ: That is correct.

SIMON: What do they have to do now?

SANCHEZ: They got a number from something called the asylum metering system where you get a number from an asylum book and your name is written down and you have to wait for that number to come up again. And when that happens, you can finally present yourself to American authority.

SIMON: How do you know when the number comes up?

SANCHEZ: That's the thing. You don't really know when it's going to happen, which causes a lot of confusion, and it creates a lot of difficulty.

SIMON: Obviously, a lot of coverage this week on the U.S. side of the border. Are you in a position to tell us in Tijuana and elsewhere on the Mexican side of the border what some of the reaction of people there has been like?

SANCHEZ: Yeah. I think the - it's not just a reaction. It's affecting how these asylum numbers get called. So it's more of a roller coaster in the last few weeks where one day, 40 numbers will get called, and Monday, nine numbers got called. Saturday, 20 numbers got called. And that's because people aren't showing up for their number, and we weren't seeing that before. But we're seeing that now because people are having to wait a really long time and either they become victims of crime or they try to cross illegally or something else happens to them, and they're not able to show up for those numbers.

SIMON: Mr. Sanchez, I - everyone is certainly entitled to an opinion like this. But you see these events close up. What do you think the effect of a wall would be?

SANCHEZ: I mean, a wall for this group wouldn't change too much since we work with and advise everyone who is trying to apply for asylum legally. But the wall is part of this greater sentiment and policy that acts as a deterrent for people who are applying for legitimate asylum claims. And the people I've talked to that are LGBTQ have suffered some of the worst things that I've heard in my career. And so they want to do this legally, but having to wait for weeks because of this metering system causes so much anxiety.

SIMON: Cristian Sanchez is an attorney with the organization RAICES in Tijuana. Thanks so much for being with us.

SANCHEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.