Asylum Seekers, Including Man Who Was In Migrant Caravan, Camp Out At San Luis Border

Nov 8, 2018

UPDATE:  Late Thursday President Donald Trump published an Executive Action saying asylum seekers can no longer apply for asylum if they've entered the United States illegally.  They can only apply at a legal Port of Entry.

The caravan of Central American migrants moving north towards the United States has reached Mexico City. The group is expected to split up as it approaches the U.S.-Mexico border. Organizers and human rights workers expect the majority to apply for asylum in the U.S. Right now, there are dozens of people camped out in line at the port of entry in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico seeking asylum.

There are two ways to apply for asylum (Update) in the United States. One is to cross the border illegally and, once caught, ask for asylum. The other is to approach an official port of entry, like the one here in San Luis Rio Colorado, and present your claim to a border agent. That's what dozens of people here are doing.

Stretched along a fence on the Mexican side of the port are dozens of blankets, many emblazoned with Disney characters, tied into makeshift tents. They cover migrants escaping the warm late October sun while they wait to make their claim of asylum to a U.S. border agent.

Occasionally, you can hear the laughter of children from under the blankets. Most of the people here are women and children. Zenaida Barrera is from Guerrero, a state on Mexico's southern coast.
 Like others here, Barrera has been in line for more than one week. She says her community is poor and violent. she worries about what she calls delinquents running the streets.

In January, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Guerrero, along with four other Mexican states. Guerrero, home to the resort city of Acapulco, is considered a level 4 risk, meaning do not travel there. The notice warns of armed groups operating independent of the government.

Barrera was about six places back from the front of the line. She said she hoped to speak to an agent within a few days. But, she said, agents are only speaking to a few people a day. If approved, Barrera said she will join family she has in Alabama.

Further down the line, we met Ulises Hernandez, who looked to be in his mid-forties. He was dressed in a grey t-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap. Hernandez was one of the few men in line and he traveled a long way to get here. He's been in waiting in line for five days.

Originally from Guatemala, Hernandez said he was with the caravan traveling north from Central America, but when the group reached southern Mexico he caught a lucky break and got a ride to San Luis R.C.

I asked Hernandez what kind of people were in the caravan and if President Trump's characterization of them as "bad guys" is accurate. Like him, he said many are just trying to escape poverty and crime. He said Guatemala just isn't safe.

For those who wish the migrants in the caravan harm, he said "I pray to God that you are never in a situation like this, because living on the streets is difficult."

Hernandez said he has already given his name to border agents and said he was waiting for his interview.

Most observers expect the caravan will break up into smaller groups as it approaches the border. Members of the group will then have a choice.

They can cross the border illegally or they can join the line. Migrants in San Luis R.C. say they face wait times of about two weeks.

Media reports say the caravan is reorganizing itself and may reach 5,000 people before it resumes its journey north.

The U.S. government has not said how it will handle a large number of asylum seekers at U.S. ports. However, the Trump administration upped the number of troops it is sending to the border, saying they will provide support to security efforts.