Trump Administration Gutting Asylum Law, Migrants Access To Legal Counsel - Advocacy Group

Trump Administration Gutting Asylum Law, Migrants Access to Legal Counsel - Advocacy Group

El PASO (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 03rd December, 2019) The Trump administration's immigration policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) is designed to restrict asylum protections for migrants and deny them access to legal counsel, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center Executive Director Linda Rivas told Sputnik.

In January, the Trump administration implemented the MPP policy which forces migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims process in the United States. The El Paso Times reported last month, citing Syracuse University TRAC Research Center's review of 47,313 MPP cases, that as of September judges granted asylum .1 percent of the time in 9,974 claims resolved.

"To hear that they [Trump administration] are seeing a .1 percent of asylum wins, tens of thousands of people being deported in their absence - we have no idea whether these people are alive or dead, we have no idea in what circumstances they went home - and to call that successful proves to us that this is exactly their point," Rivas said. "Their point was to cut representatives out of the picture and to gut asylum law and they're doing it, they've accomplished that, they absolutely have."

Under MPP, also known as the Remain in Mexico policy, immigration attorneys in the United States were cut off from being able to legally represent migrants stuck in Mexico under the program, Rivas said. The Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center is the only legal non-profit organization that is regularly going into Mexico to provide counsel, she said.

The MPP program was first implemented in the Mexican city of Tijuana and then expanded to other Mexican border towns like Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez in March. The number of migrants waiting in Ciudad Juarez, just across the southern border from El Paso, is 18,000 and 55,000 across the whole southern border, Rivas said.

On November 19, the Trump administration began to implement a new asylum rule to send asylum-seeking migrants to Guatemala, El Salvador or Guatemala as part of bilateral "safe third country" agreements with each country.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed later that week that the first group of migrants were sent to Guatemala.

Rivas said they don't expect the Department of Homeland Security to be transparent about the policy.

"That's very frustrating as an agency that has been in this community for 32 years. We do have a working relationship with Border Patrol, with OFO [Office of Field Operations], with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and we've not been informed that these programs are taking place, we have not been given any level of safeguards, we do not know anything about the administration of these programs and how we can work together," Rivas said.

Moreover, Rivas pointed out that although the Trump administration has claimed that its immigration policies like the MPP program have resulted in a decline in apprehensions at the border, it coincides with a migration pattern that usually drops around this time of the year due to factors like weather.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data available of the number of apprehensions from fiscal years 2015 to 2019 shows that migration picks up around February once the colder weather from October to January is over.

On October 29, acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said US apprehensions of undocumented migrants at the US-Mexico border reached more than 970,000 in fiscal year 2019, marking an 88 percent increase from last year. However, the agency has reported a more than 50 percent decline in apprehensions since May.

Caravans of migrants from Central American countries seeking asylum began to move toward the United States through Mexico last fall. US President Donald Trump called the surge of arrivals a crisis and declared a national emergency in February to secure funds to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

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