Asylum Seekers Are Being Imprisoned in an Abandoned Factory in Mexico Under Trump Admin Policy

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As Trump plans to declare a national emergency, we look at what some have called the real humanitarian crisis at the border. Riot police in northern Mexico blocked hundreds of desperate Central American migrants Wednesday as they tried to escape an abandoned factory complex where they’ve been imprisoned while waiting for the U.S. to process their asylum claims. More than 1,700 migrants have been held in the maquiladora in the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras since February 5, after they arrived in a caravan of people seeking asylum in the U.S. The vast majority have remained prisoners at the site, after the Trump administration adopted a “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers—processing just 15 asylum applications per day at the nearby Eagle Pass border crossing. We hear from a migrant adult and child who spoke with the Texas-based immigrant rights group RAICES, and get an update from Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika, the showdown over Trump’s border wall comes as riot police in northern Mexico blocked hundreds of desperate Central American migrants Wednesday as they tried to escape an abandoned factory complex where they’ve been imprisoned while waiting for the U.S. to process their asylum claims. More than 1,700 migrants have been held in the maquiladora in the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras since February 5th, after they arrived in a caravan of people seeking asylum in the United States. The vast majority have remained prisoners at the site, after the Trump administration adopted a “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers—processing just 15 asylum applications per day at the nearby Eagle Pass border crossing. This is one of the migrants speaking with your group, RAICES.

CENTRAL AMERICAN MIGRANT: [translated] We are not allowed to go outside. They have locked us up as prisoners. We need organizations to support us with hats and gloves, or with bedding and scarves. That’s what we need, because the cold is tremendous. And the real truth is that there are children here. There are sick people. There are seniors. And the truth is, we’re in an abandoned factory, and now we’re using it as a shelter.

AMY GOODMAN: [inaudible] because the person was afraid of being identified. RAICES was also able to speak with a child being held there just outside the facility. This is an excerpt.

ANA: [translated] My name is Ana, and I am 10 years old. I’m from Honduras. What is happening here? Well, I want everyone to listen to what I’m going to say right now. I do not want to be here. They need to let us out of here, because it’s really ugly. I don’t like it. It’s very confined, and there are lots of diseases. … The doctors don’t pay attention to us, nothing. We came to the doctor yesterday, and they told us there were no pills. There are no pills every day. For mom, there are never any pills. That’s why my mom gets angry. They don’t let us go outside. If we don’t go out without piece of paper, they won’t let us go out. We want to go to the convenience store, but we can’t. And here, we can’t sleep very well, because they don’t turn the lights off. Yesterday I went to bed at 1 a.m. My mom is sick. They don’t let us sleep. And there’s so much noise here. That’s why mom does not want to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this situation, Erika Andiola.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, it’s really hard to hear this 10-year-old girl, so I’m getting a little emotional. I apologize. But this is the actual—this is the actual urgency. We have children and elderly and human beings right now who are in this old factory in Mexico, being surrounded by Mexican police. They don’t know what’s going on. RAICES, our team has been on the ground trying to figure out how we can best support them. They’re not letting us inside the shelter. And not everybody is able to come out of the shelter, unless they have a humanitarian visa from Mexico.

And so, you know, we have heard a lot of stories, like Ana’s, of people who right now are trying to get out of there, trying to buy food outside, trying to get—you know, women trying to get necessities for them. And so, for us, it’s important to at least get in there and give them some information on what’s going on, because they have no idea what the process is. They have no idea how long they’re going to be there. And, you know, they know that they can come and knock on the door and ask for asylum. But, you know, we can’t really assess, or we can’t really give them advice on what they could possibly do, because they’re not letting us inside. They’re basically in this prison.

And so, that is the actual humanitarian crisis that is happening. And I hope that this little girl and all these folks who are actually telling their stories can actually touch the hearts of some of the politicians here. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to touch Trump’s heart, but at least, like I said, Democrats can hear this and see that giving them more money, to this administration, it’s not going to do anything.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika Andiola, we want to thank you for being with us, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

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