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Venezuelan family traveled for 3 months, only to be denied asylum claim at the border

This city-run shelter for migrants in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is next to an international bridge that connects with El Paso, Texas.
Michelle Jokisch Polo/ WKAR
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Michelle Jokisch Polo/WKAR
This city-run shelter for migrants in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is next to an international bridge that connects with El Paso, Texas.

EL PASO, Texas – Diana, her two 5 and 8-year-old children, her father and her teenage brother David arrived at Ciudad Juarez on Tuesday but their eyes were on El Paso, Texas, just across from the Rio Grande border, where they were planning to petition for asylum.

They were tired after completing a 3-month journey from their native Venezuela. The family asked NPR to not use their last names because they feared speaking out could jeopardize their claim.

“We went through the jungle in the Darien Gap, Panama and then here,” Diana said.

This family is feeling the blunt effects of restrictions imposed by President Joe Biden’s executive actions last week restricting most asylum claims at the Southern border.

According to the president’s proclamation, when unauthorized crossings exceed an average of 2,500 migrants for seven consecutive days restrictions are imposed. This rule heightens the threshold for credible fear screening, that’s when a person makes the case that they fear for their life if they are returned to their home country.

Like this family, migrants hoping to get into the United States now wrestle with a difficult decision– Attempt to cross into the U.S. illegally and face deportation or staying indefinitely in the Mexican side for if restrictions are lifted.

Diana and her family weren’t aware that the new measures do not allow people crossing the border to petition for asylum. Only migrants with an appointment through the government mobile app, CBP one, can petition for asylum under the new orders.

“It cost us a lot to get here,” said Diana.

Her brother David said they were really excited at first when they heard that the border was nearby.

“When we got here they told us the border had closed,” David said. “We were disappointed.”

As soon as the family got off the bus in Juarez, in ninety-degree weather the family walked straight to the border to turn themselves in and petition for asylum.

Instead of going through a point of entry, they opted to cross the Rio Grande by foot.

Diana said they had waited over a month to get an appointment through the CBP One App and weren’t able to get one.

“I deleted it and gave up,” she said. “We just wanted to try and cross and turn ourselves in to the authorities.”

Upon crossing the border, Diana and her family were immediately pushed back into Mexico by U.S border patrol agents.

“I got really scared,” she said.

Diana was not expecting to be told she couldn’t stay. False information on Tik Tok and other messaging platforms give some people the impression that all immigrants need to do is show up at the border and they are allowed in with a pending court date.

“They won’t let us in,” she said. “They push us back.”

Defeated, hungry and tired, the family found respite at a city-ran shelter next to an international bridge.

That day was Diana’s 29th birthday, but it went without celebration. Instead, the family got food, water and a place to sleep. People from other countries were there too, so close to their intended destination, yet their hopes of crossing were slashed by the newer asylum policy.

“There’s people from Ecuador, Colombia and El Salvador,” Diana added. “There is a large group of people here.”

Diana embarked on the 2,200 mile journey from Venezuela to reunite with her husband in Florida.

Nearly nine months ago, he petitioned asylum through this same border area and got in with a pendant court date to hear his claim, but that was before the new restrictions were in place.

This story was reported through a fellowship on U.S. immigration policy in El Paso organized by Poynter with funding from the Catena Foundation

Copyright 2024 NPR

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community. Michelle is also the voice of WKAR's weekend news programs.
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