NOGALES, Sonora — Dozens of families marooned on the Mexican border demonstrated Wednesday against the shutdown of the U.S. asylum system that has persisted since March.
The Nogales event, which included more than 100 demonstrators on both sides of the border, was part of a coordinated set of protests also taking place at the Douglas-Agua Prieta crossing, Tijuana-San Diego and elsewhere.
Over the last three years, the Trump administration has cracked down on asylum seekers first by separating families, then by forcing them to remain in Mexico while waiting for their court hearings, and finally by shutting down asylum at the border altogether. The shutdown was justified by the declaration of emergency following the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.
Asylum-seeking children were given a leading role in the marches, which were organized by a coalition of churches and activist groups.
One 10-year-old named Fanny, from the state of Guerrero, started the testimonials by recounting how gunmen demanded payment of protection money from her mother, who ran a small store in the embattled Mexican state.
“We didn’t want to pay them the protection money, and they ended up taking everything from the store,” she said.
The gunmen threatened the family, beat Fanny and her mother, and shot their father before they fled in November 2019. They were just a little too late arriving, Fanny’s mother, Yonely, explained.
They got a number in the “metering” system that existed at the time. In March, their number was about to come up, giving them a chance to go into the port of entry to begin the process of requesting asylum. But then the COVID-19-inspired shutdown occurred.
They were about eight days too late.
One Honduran family, accompanied by a priest and attorney, entered the DeConcini Port of Entry Wednesday in Nogales to request asylum. They were denied consideration.
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