They’re Gonna Have to Wait Their Turn / by Karie Luidens

2019-01-25 - ACLU Tijuana Tents.jpg

Yesterday I shared a New York Times video about metering that included a quote from Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security:

We're metering, which means that if we don't have the resources to let them in on a particular day they're gonna have to come back. So, they're gonna have to wait their turn.

That’s such a common refrain among people who insist that they’re not xenophobic or anti-immigrant, they’re just opposed to people immigrating the wrong way. They need to follow the rules. They need to get in line. They need to wait their turn.

I’m not going to get into the immigration system as a whole and the many ways people enter our country legally or illegally and end up “undocumented” or “illegal aliens.” It’s messy and messed up and way too much to take on all at once.

So, staying focused on just the current situation on the ground at the U.S.-Mexico border: why don’t people who want to seek asylum do as Nielsen says and wait their turn at ports of entry?

Well, this recent post by the ACLU provides an eyewitness description of the conditions created by the Trump administration’s deliberate strategy of metering, as overseen by Nielsen herself. Read it and tell me: if you were the one who fled the threat of violence at home, walked a thousand miles with your children, and found yourself trapped in a crowded shelter or tent camp, with the promised land in sight on the horizon… how long would you wait? At one point would you decide you’d be better off just riding a bus out into the desert, crossing where there’s no one to block the entrance, and turning yourself in to Border Patrol agents once you’ve reached U.S. soil?


By Amrit Cheng
January 25th, 2019

The shelter [in Tijuana, Mexico] was small and dimly lit with rain leaking through the ceiling. The walls were closely lined with gray slab bunkbeds, and there was a hotplate in the corner by the window for cooking food. There were around 30 people staying there, although Erika said she’d seen as many as 80 on previous occasions. We also visited a “family shelter,” housed in a garage-like space with a concrete floor and corrugated metal roof.  Around 50 small camping-style tents filled the space, where families slept. […]

Unsanitary conditions plague all the shelters. Nicole Ramos, border rights project director at Al Otro Lado, reported “squalid conditions” at Benito Juarez, with “many migrants, including pregnant women and children, sleeping in the dirt with only plastic sheeting to protect them from the elements.”

Many people crowded out of the shelters are forced to stay in tent encampments out on the street. At one such encampment, one man called out to me, gesturing to a small tent on the sidewalk and said, “Esta es mi casa,” — “This is my house.”

In addition to dealing with inadequate shelter, asylum seekers have also become targets for organized crime. In December, two Honduran teenagers were killed after leaving a youth shelter to travel to Benito Juarez. Before that, 20 migrants were kidnapped outside Benito Juarez […].