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Mon Sep 16, 2019, 11:08 PM

Migrants at Laredo Tent Court Tell Stories of Kidnappings and Violence While Pleading Not to Be Retu

Migrants at Laredo Tent Court Tell Stories of Kidnappings and Violence While Pleading Not to Be Returned to Mexico
Under Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, asylum-seekers have been waiting for their hearings in Mexico. Many aren’t making it back to court.

Migrants must attend court in a hastily constructed tent facility near an international bridge in Laredo. GUS BOVA

Gus Bova
Sep 16, 2019, 4:05 pm CST

On Monday morning, 52 asylum-seekers were scheduled to appear in court at a complex of tent structures hastily constructed next to one of Laredo’s international bridges. More than 150 miles away in San Antonio, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez sat in her immigration court waiting for the supplicants to appear on a television screen, as I and a few other observers looked on.

Under Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the asylum-seekers had spent about two months waiting in Mexico, where many migrants have suffered kidnappings and assaults.

Only 26 of the asylum-seekers, half the total, made it to their hearing Monday. The rest, presumably, were stuck somewhere in Mexico, or had given up on their asylum cases and returned to their home countries. In Nuevo Laredo, returned migrants have been pressured by Mexican officials into taking buses to the city of Monterrey and even Chiapas, on the other side of the country. Nuevo Laredo is dangerous: A migrant shelter director was disappeared there over a month ago, reportedly after protecting Cubans in his care from kidnappers.

Only four of the migrants arrived Monday with attorneys, confirming lawyers’ claims that migrants in MPP are being denied reasonable access to counsel, which is key for navigating complicated immigration proceedings. One of the attorneys, Lisa Koop with the National Immigrant Justice Center, stressed to the judge that some of her clients were living in Monterrey and it was very difficult for them to pay for and arrange safe transport to Laredo.


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