Migrants at the Border Feel They Have No Choice But to Enter the U.S. Illegally (HBO)

EL PASO, Texas — In the two hours before sunset on a recent afternoon, Border Patrol agents working the line between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso saw more than 100 migrants step over the Rio Grande and into the United States.

They were nearly all families traveling together from Central America seeking asylum, and they crossed in groups ranging from six people to 40. When they spotted Border Patrol vehicles, they calmly walked over to turn themselves in — the first step to requesting asylum for those who enter the country illegally.

Carlos, a migrant from Honduras who crossed the border carrying a pale and coughing toddler, said he had initially planned to cross legally through an official port of entry. But out of the tens of thousands of people waiting, the U.S. allows in only a small percentage of asylum seekers on any given day.

“The truth is that my son couldn’t wait,” said Carlos. “He is very sick.”

The number of people found crossing the border illegally has shot up dramatically since the beginning of the year. In April, according to data released last week by CBP, the number nearly hit 100,000 — the highest it’s been in 12 years.

That’s as clear an indication as possible that the Trump administration’s strategy to deter Central American asylum seekers — which includes metering at ports of entry, expanded detention, and forcing families back to Mexico to wait out their asylum cases — has failed. VICE News went to the border to find out why.

This segment originally aired May 15, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

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Agents put razor wire on El Paso border fences

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is installing coils of razor wire at ports of entry in El Paso, Texas, across from Juarez, Mexico. CBP says it’s responding to increasing numbers of migrants in Juarez. (Feb. 22)

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Border police conduct massive drills at Tijuana crossing

Traffic was halted for half an hour at the border crossing between Tijuana and Otay Mesa on Saturday, as agents of the Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) carried our security exercises.
Police officers in full riot gear can be seen marching in front of the border in formation before they carry out drills, which included the setting off of multiple tear gas canisters.

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Asylum Seekers Are Being Turned Away Illegally At U.S.-Mexico Border (HBO)

Customs and Border Protection agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry — the largest crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border, connecting Tijuana and San Diego — have been routinely and illegally turning away asylum seekers for the past several months, according to immigration advocates.

Migrants who present themselves at the port of entry are told to go to Grupos Beta, a unit of Mexican immigration, to be given a date at which to return to the border. According to federal law, border agents are supposed to grant an interview with an asylum officer to migrants who requests asylum or express fear of returning to their country.

Nicole Ramos, a U.S. immigration attorney based in Tijuana, regularly accompanies her clients to the port of entry. “When we get to the port of entry, we approach a CBP officer, and I invariably explain: ‘This person is seeking asylum,’” she said. “Almost every single time, except for one time in the past year, a CBP officer has always said that a person can’t apply for asylum there.”

Read: “Immigration raids hit major cities throughout the U.S.” – http://bit.ly/2kza5SE

Read: “Trump already has Mexicans losing faith in their own economy” – http://bit.ly/2lMg6kc

Watch: “Trump’s biggest foreign policy decisions since taking office” – http://bit.ly/2kr6KtL

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Undocumented and Underage: The Crisis of Migrant Children

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Between October 2013 and May 2014, authorities at the US-Mexico border began detaining underage migrants at an alarming, never-before-seen rate. During this period, thousands of underage migrants ended up in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facilities along the border.

Capacity at CBP detention facilities was overwhelmed by the influx of migrants, who predominantly came from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. As overcrowding became more severe, conditions for the migrants worsened. Lacking proper installations and sufficient personnel at the facilities, Department of Homeland Security officials began to release underage migrants into the custody of family members in the US, and cited them to attend immigration hearings at a later date.

The situation is similar in Mexico. The flow of underage migrants in the border region has increased rapidly, and shelters for child migrants report that the Central American population they care for now outnumbers the population of Mexican children.

VICE News travelled to the border between Texas and Tamaulipas to speak to people who have been detained on both sides of the border. They told us about their reasons for crossing the border, how they were detained, what their stay was like inside the detention centers, their plans for the future, and their fears.

Now migrants have two options: return to their country, where they could be killed by gang-related violence, or attempt to enter the United States again, hoping that their luck will change, and they will achieve their American dream.

More on VICE News:

The Worst Job in New York: Immigrant America: bit.ly/1qO5BF6

Mexican Deportees and Outsourced Labor: bit.ly/1uQlc9I

Deported Veterans of America: bit.ly/1nyjVCL

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