House of Representatives members Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) joined 21 Honduran asylum seekers as they stood on United States soil and demanded that their asylum claims be processed immediately. Their fight directly challenges the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CPB) decision to make people wait in Mexico if the nation is experiencing strains on its capacity limits, ABC News reports.
The group camped at San Diego’s Otay Mesa port of entry, with Barragán and Gomez live tweeting their experiences from the southern border yesterday (December 17). The politicians said they “were seeking to investigate reports that CBP has been turning away asylum-seekers, claiming that their ports of entry have reached capacity,” The Hill reports.
Barragán said a group of minors and a family trying to present themselves were “being ignored,” and Gomez posted just after 10 p.m. that CBP “has refused to show @repbarragan and I any sign of a capacity issue and we have been here for five hours.”
.@RepJimmyGomez and I have been at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry for almost 4 hours now where a family + a group of unaccompanied minors are attempting to legally present themselves for asylum. They are being ignored. pic.twitter.com/aAB2Gc0Seu
— Nanette D. Barragán (@RepBarragan) December 18, 2018
The family went viral after a photo was taken of them being tear gassed by U.S. agents. Listen to their story: pic.twitter.com/2dmv0elXDI
— AJ+ (@ajplus) December 18, 2018
ABC News spoke to Nicole Ramos, an attorney at Al Otro Lado, a legal group working to support the migrants, and she said that by last night, CBP had processed “eight unaccompanied children, one mother with five children and one man.”
“Children are sick, they’re crying,” Ramos continued. “They’ve had to use the bathroom. We’ve had to get blankets and food for them.” CBP still hasn’t given a status update on the 21 Honduran asylum seekers, according to ABC. Authorities deny they are turing away people seeing asylum, but admit they are asking them to wait in Mexico.
Officials say they are asking people to wait in Mexico because they don’t have the resources to handle the volume of asylum-seekers. As Colorlines previously reported, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of migrants seeking asylum at the southwest border, according to new statistics released by the Department of Homeland of Security on December 10. There has been a 67 percent increase in claims this year alone, according to the report.
Kevin K. McAleenan, the CBP’s commissioner, said in a statement, “These numbers reflect a dramatic increase in initial fear claims by those encountered on the border, which is straining border security, immigration enforcement and courts, and other federal resources.”
ABC reports that critics, on the other hand, believe CBP is stretching the truth about resources and is “limiting the number of asylum claims to deter people from coming.”