Compassion Reporting on poverty fighting and criminal justice

Compassion at the border

Compassion | Governments grapple with how to handle the thousands of migrants ineligible for asylum
by Rob Holmes
Posted 11/28/18, 04:15 pm

The caravan of migrants waiting just across the border in Tijuana, Mexico, has once again ignited the debate over U.S. asylum policy. More than 5,000 migrants are waiting in Tijuana to apply for asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry, which is processing fewer than 100 asylum cases a day. Fed up with waiting, about 1,000 caravan members attempted to enter the United States through vehicle lanes and by breaching the border fence Sunday. U.S. agents briefly locked down the border and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The New York Times blamed the chaos at the border on President Donald Trump’s plan to make asylum applicants wait in Mexico rather than the United States while their claims are processed. The Department of Homeland Security has argued for the change, saying most of the caravan migrants won’t qualify for asylum. Federal regulations stipulate that to be granted asylum, an immigrant must qualify as a refugee, meaning “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion was or will be at least one central reason” the applicant could face persecution in his or her own country.

“The overwhelming majority of these individuals are not eligible for asylum in the United States under our laws,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement posted Monday on Facebook. U.S. Customs and Immigration Services found only 60,566 people met the eligibility requirements to be asylum-seekers in 2017, according to the American Immigration Council. Historically, only 10 percent of Central Americans have been found eligible for asylum, Nielsen said, adding, “Most of these migrants are seeking jobs or to join family who are already in the U.S.”

Even if the administration were to allow asylum-seekers to await adjudication of their clams in-country, Mexico would still have to provide for the caravan migrants while they wait their turn to apply.

Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government signaled Tuesday a willingness to house the migrants but asked the Trump administration to reciprocate by contributing $20 billion to help create jobs in Central America to stem the flow of migrants from the impoverished region in the first place. Ismael Hernandez, founder of the Freedom and Virtue Institute, told me the long-term solution is for the migrants’ home countries to work to meet the needs of their citizens.

“The countries of origin and the country allowing this movement now have more of a responsibility to stop it and find answers to the economic woes of these people than the United States has an obligation to welcome them,” Hernandez said. He said welcoming the caravans would “create incentives for even greater mass movements.”

Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig Weeksville Elementary School in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Student poverty in New York City

The number of children in poverty in the New York City school system is at its highest level in five years, according to a new report from the city’s Department of Education. Nearly 840,000 students—74 percent of the total student population—receive free or reduced-priced lunches, a common poverty marker, and nearly 1 in 10 students was without a permanent home, according to The New York Post. A department spokeswoman said the jump in poverty-stricken students was partly the result of a new classification practice that better identifies low-income students. —R.H.

Tragedy at the border

A 26-year-old migrant woman from Guatemala fell while climbing a U.S.-Mexico border wall on Friday, impaling herself on rebar. San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott said her actions put herself and her children, ages 3 and 5, in danger. He said Border Patrol agents and emergency medical services acted quickly, and the woman is recovering in a local hospital. Her children remain in the custody of Border Patrol. Agents found her a mile east of the San Ysidro, Calif., crossing, where on Sunday Customs and Border Protection officers fired tear gas into a crowd of migrants trying to breach the border. —Charissa Crotts

Visualizing American poverty

Overflow Data recently published an interactive map showing the poverty rate of each U.S. state using census data from 2008 to 2017. The map shows Mississippi had the highest poverty rate in 2017 at 19.8 percent, followed closely by Louisiana, New Mexico, and West Virginia. New Hampshire had the lowest at 7.7 percent. The overall average for the United States in 2017 was 13.1 percent, higher than the pre-recession 2008 rate by 3 percent but still lower than its peak of 15.2 percent in 2012. —C.C.

Rob Holmes

Rob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course. Follow Rob on Twitter @SouthernFlyer.

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Comments

  • Xion's picture
    Xion
    Posted: Thu, 11/29/2018 02:44 am

    I was on the Mexican side of the border on a motorcycle when the border was closed.  I crossed back over to my home in San Diego through Tecate instead.  I am on the board of a church in Tijuana.  There is plenty of compassion, but I don't see how Trump is to blame.  There are many ways to immigrate legally.  Asylum is an extreme case of personal safety.  How do people waving their national flags and throwing rocks at US officials fit the profile of fleeing their country?  The reality is that the organizers of this caravan like People Without Borders are trying to impose their political will on another country.

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