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July 16, 2019, 6:55 p.m. EDT

Opponents sue as Trump’s new asylum restrictions go into effect

New rule would make it all but impossible for migrants from Central America, Africa, Caribbean to receive asylum

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By Associated Press

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The crisis has only served to intensify immigration as a campaign issue as Trump looks to rally his base like he did in 2016 with his vow to build a wall on the border.

At a crossing in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, 10 Cuban asylum seekers were called by Mexican officials and led across the Paso Del Norte Bridge to El Paso, where they were handed over to Customs and Border Protection officers. They were taken to a room where their possessions were searched, laid out on a table and bagged.

The immigrants will still go through the normal first steps of requesting asylum, but will face a dramatically higher bar to be allowed in the country.

Lawyers who represent Cuban migrants say that they are not deportable because Cuba will not accept them.

“I’d rather be in prison the rest of my life than go back to Cuba,” said Dileber Urrista Sanchez, who had hoped his number would be called Tuesday, but he was further down the list.

Sanchez, 35, has waited with his wife in Juarez for the past two months, renting a room with money his mother sends him from Las Vegas.

He said his mother left Cuba years ago because she was part of an opposition party. In retaliation, he said, the government took away his job as a chauffeur, and he and his wife had been imprisoned for days at a time for being “untrustworthy.”

He criticized the Trump administration’s new policy, pointing out that the first country he was able to reach after leaving Cuba was Nicaragua.

“How are we going to apply for asylum in Nicaragua when it’s just as communist?” he said.

Derek Mbi of Cameroon was among nearly 50 migrants who gathered in Tijuana. He arrived there about a month ago, and more than 8,100 people were ahead of him on the waiting list.

Processing new arrivals has ground to a virtual halt in recent days, down from an average of about 40 names a day.

Mbi, 29, joined a wave of Cameroonians who fled fierce government oppression against their country’s English-speaking minority by flying to Ecuador, which does not require a visa. From there, he traveled for months by bus and on foot through seven other countries to reach Tijuana.

Mbi learned about the new policy but mistakenly believed that it applied only to Central and South Americans. He hopes to settle with a friend in Texas.

For now, he is sharing a one-bedroom apartment with 13 Cameroonians in Tijuana and scraping by with odd jobs, like peeling tomatoes at open-air markets. He said many companies refused to hire him because his short-term transit permit in Mexico does not allow him to work.

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