Congress

‘Metered’ immigrants face long waits at the border

The informal policy can serve as a delaying mechanism, keeping migrants in Mexico before they can legally claim asylum at the border

A metering list outside the Centro de Información y Asistencia a Mexicanos in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on August 22, 2019. (Jinitzail Hernández, CQ Roll Call)

Besides the Migrant Protection Protocols program, U.S. border agencies have a less formal process to regulate the flow of asylum seekers seeking to cross the U.S.-Mexico border called “metering.”

Under this informal policy, Customs and Border Protection determines each day how many people it can process at each port of entry.

In El Paso, for example, CBP officers stand at the middle point of the El Paso-Juarez Port of Entry bridge and turn asylum-seekers away, sending them first to a Mexican government organization called Centro de Información y Asistencia a Mexicanos (CAIM), which provides health care and legal services to migrants and Mexicans.

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At CAIM, migrants get a number and are put on a list. Dirvin García, head of CAIM, said CBP calls them twice a day in the morning and late afternoon and CBP officers tell them how many people they can process on that day. CAIM then goes to its list and tries to notify the people next-in-line that they can cross the border for their asylum hearing.

Since October 2018, 18,500 people have registered with CAIM to wait in line for an asylum hearing in the United States, Garcia said in an interview. The U.S. government, CAIM said, has processed 12,225 on the list and another 6,000 are waiting in la Cuidad de Juarez to be called, as of Aug. 18. That’s in addition to the 48,000 people waiting in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols.

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In essence, metering serves as another delaying mechanism keeping migrants in Mexico before they can legally come to the border and claim asylum.

Courtney Collins, 20, a transgender woman from Honduras, is among those delayed by metering. She said she has been waiting for months in a shelter in Juarez to go to the Port of Entry and request asylum, and she’s on the CAIM list.

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Collins said since age 14 she has been a victim of sex trafficking and hate crimes in Honduras because she is a black transgender woman. That identification qualifies her for special status population in U.S. eyes, meaning she is not eligible for the MPP program and will most likely wait in a U.S. detention facility as her asylum case is being processed. She spends most of her days inside the shelter, afraid to walk down the street alone because of the prejudice and harassment she experiences from Mexicans and other migrants. She thinks her life could be in danger.

Collins said there are about 600 people ahead of her before she will be called to the Port of Entry to formally request asylum, and expects she will probably have to wait a few more months.

“I have feelings, I have dreams I have a lot of goals that I want to achieve in this world,” she said. But they are all frustrated at the moment while she waits.

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