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No Sign Of New U.S. Program Aimed To Keep Asylum Seekers In Mexico


A controversial change in the United States asylum system was supposed to start yesterday at the San Diego port of entry. But there was no sign of change. Reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler was there just across the border.

MAX RIVLIN-NADLER, BYLINE: The day began like most days have since large groups of asylum-seekers began arriving in Tijuana from Central America last November.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Sylvia Balarcez Madia (ph).

RIVLIN-NADLER: The list of names of people whose turn it was to claim asylum was read out loud. And 25 asylum-seekers were let into the U.S. A man sang as he watched as some of his loved ones were admitted.


RIVLIN-NADLER: The new policy requires most asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico as their legal case winds through the American court system. That was supposed to start Friday. As the day went on, however, it became clear that no asylum-seekers in the U.S. would be returned to Mexico, which only led to more confusion for those who had already traveled thousands of miles to the border.

Twenty-four-year-old Denis Lazaro, who had traveled from Guatemala, was worried about the safety of his two young daughters if they have to wait months and possibly years in Tijuana.

DENIS LAZARO: (Speaking Spanish).

SIMON: He said it just didn't seem fair.

Nicole Ramos, an immigration attorney, believes the policy will make completing the asylum process almost insurmountable to migrants.

NICOLE RAMOS: This isn't remain in Mexico. This is stay in Mexico forever.

RIVLIN-NADLER: The Department of Homeland Security has not responded to a request for comment about when the plan will be implemented. For NPR News, I'm Max Rivlin-Nadler in Tijuana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Max Rivlin-Nadler
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