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Opponents Sue as Asylum Rules Start    07/17 06:16

   Hundreds of immigrants showed up at border crossings Tuesday in hopes of 
getting into the U.S. but faced the likelihood of being turned away under a new 
Trump administration asylum rule that upends long-standing protections for 
people fleeing violence and oppression in their homelands.

   TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) -- Hundreds of immigrants showed up at border crossings 
Tuesday in hopes of getting into the U.S. but faced the likelihood of being 
turned away under a new Trump administration asylum rule that upends 
long-standing protections for people fleeing violence and oppression in their 
homelands.

   The policy went into effect Tuesday but drew two swift lawsuits from 
immigrant advocacy groups in federal courts, one in San Francisco and one in 
Washington, D.C.

   "This is the Trump administration's most extreme run at an asylum ban yet," 
said Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union, an attorney on the San 
Francisco lawsuit. "It clearly violates domestic and international law and 
cannot stand."

   The policy represents the most forceful attempt to date by President Donald 
Trump to slash the number of people seeking asylum in America. It comes at a 
time when Trump's recent tweets telling four members of Congress to "go back" 
to other countries have set off an uproar.

   Trump did not mention the new practices Tuesday during a White House meeting.

   Under the rules, migrants who pass through another country on their way to 
the U.S. will be ineligible for asylum. Most of the immigrants arriving at the 
border this year pass through Mexico --- including Central Americans, Africans, 
Cubans and Haitians. That makes it all but impossible for them to get asylum. 
The rule also applies to children who have crossed the border alone.

   At the crossing in Tijuana, 12 people whose numbers were first on a waiting 
list to enter through a San Diego border crossing were escorted behind a metal 
gate to a white van that left minutes later to turn them over to U.S. 
authorities.

   Ndifor Gedeon, 27, arrived in Tijuana nearly three months ago with the hope 
of seeking asylum in the U.S. after being jailed in Cameroon by a government 
that has been going after the African nation's English-speaking minority.

   He was rethinking those plans after hearing that he may not have a chance at 
getting asylum because of the new policy and if his case is denied he will be 
deported straight back to Cameroon.

   "I feel sick," he said of the anxiety consuming him. "If I am sent back to 
Cameroon, I'd lose my life. The situation is very horrible."

   He speaks no Spanish and does not feel safe in Tijuana, which has one of the 
highest homicide rates in Mexico. Even so, he prefers Tijuana to returning to 
Cameroon.

   Trump has long complained that immigrants are taking advantage of the 
nation's asylum system to get into the country, and his administration has 
taken several steps to limit their options.

   Many of the measures have been rejected by the courts, but one notable 
exception is a policy that requires certain asylum seekers to wait in Mexico 
while their immigration court cases get resolved. About 20,000 have been sent 
back to Mexico, and thousands more are on wait lists just to get to the front 
of the line to get an asylum interview.

   Asylum seekers must also pass an initial screening called a "credible fear" 
interview, a hurdle that a vast majority clear. Under the new policy, they 
would fail the test unless they sought asylum in at least one country they 
traveled through and were denied. They would be placed in fast-track 
deportation proceedings and flown to their home countries at U.S. expense.

   Despite the policies, record numbers of immigrant families have been 
crossing the border this year, overwhelming border facilities and authorities. 
Five immigrant children have died since late last year after being detained by 
the government, and children have been found in squalid and overcrowded border 
facilities.

   The crisis has only served to intensify immigration as a campaign issue as 
Trump looks to rally his base like he did in 2016 with his vow to build a wall 
on the border.

   At a crossing in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, 10 Cuban asylum seekers were called 
by Mexican officials and led across the Paso Del Norte Bridge to El Paso, where 
they were handed over to Customs and Border Protection officers. They were 
taken to a room where their possessions were searched, laid out on a table and 
bagged.

   The immigrants will still go through the normal first steps of requesting 
asylum, but will face a dramatically higher bar to be allowed in the country.

   Lawyers who represent Cuban migrants say that they are not deportable 
because Cuba will not accept them.

   "I'd rather be in prison the rest of my life than go back to Cuba," said 
Dileber Urrista Sanchez, who had hoped his number would be called Tuesday, but 
he was further down the list.

   Sanchez, 35, has waited with his wife in Juarez for the past two months, 
renting a room with money his mother sends him from Las Vegas.

   He said his mother left Cuba years ago because she was part of an opposition 
party. In retaliation, he said, the government took away his job as a 
chauffeur, and he and his wife had been imprisoned for days at a time for being 
"untrustworthy."

   He criticized the Trump administration's new policy, pointing out that the 
first country he was able to reach after leaving Cuba was Nicaragua.

   "How are we going to apply for asylum in Nicaragua when it's just as 
communist?" he said.

   Derek Mbi of Cameroon was among nearly 50 migrants who gathered in Tijuana. 
He arrived there about a month ago, and more than 8,100 people were ahead of 
him on the waiting list.

   Processing new arrivals has ground to a virtual halt in recent days, down 
from an average of about 40 names a day.

   Mbi, 29, joined a wave of Cameroonians who fled fierce government oppression 
against their country's English-speaking minority by flying to Ecuador, which 
does not require a visa. From there, he traveled for months by bus and on foot 
through seven other countries to reach Tijuana.

   Mbi learned about the new policy but mistakenly believed that it applied 
only to Central and South Americans. He hopes to settle with a friend in Texas.

   For now, he is sharing a one-bedroom apartment with 13 Cameroonians in 
Tijuana and scraping by with odd jobs, like peeling tomatoes at open-air 
markets. He said many companies refused to hire him because his short-term 
transit permit in Mexico does not allow him to work.


(CZ)

 
 
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