Schneider says sending migrants to Mexico compounds their misery
Sending migrants to purgatory in Mexico compounds their misery and undermines America's moral standing in the world, Rep. Brad Schneider said Friday.
The Deerfield Democrat was part of a congressional delegation checking conditions at the southern border in Texas after the federal government this year imposed its "Remain in Mexico" policy.
"We've just transferred the suffering from one side of border to the other," Schneider said.
The Department of Homeland Security in July expanded its program requiring asylum-seekers, mainly from Central America, to await an immigration court hearing in Mexico rather than the United States. Officials say the new Migrant Protection Protocols are working to end a humanitarian crisis at the border and prevent exploitation of immigration laws.
Schneider said migrant children at Casa Franklin, an Office of Refugee Resettlement facility in El Paso, appeared healthy and well cared for Friday compared with horror stories of mistreatment emerging in early July at border detention centers.
But it was a different story Thursday at the shelter Casa del Migrante in Ciudad Juárez, one of Mexico's largest and most crime-ridden cities.
Asylum-seekers, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, are sleeping on the floor -- and those are the lucky ones to have a roof over their heads, Schneider said. "They're just biding their time. ... Some people don't even have a date until 2020."
"I saw a variety of people and heard horrific stories," he said. Those included 11- and 12-year-olds from Honduras who fled gangs. "They were told, 'Now you're my girlfriend,' but a more appropriate description would be 'sex slave.'"
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan testified to Congress in July that his department has "dedicated every available resource to address the mass migration to our borders, including personnel, technology, and innovative outreach and engagement with international and nongovernmental industry partners. However, despite our efforts, the system is overwhelmed. The nation is facing a full-blown security and humanitarian crisis along our southwest border."
McAleenan blamed human traffickers for taking advantage of loopholes in U.S. law to exploit vulnerable families from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador trying to enter through the southern border.
Dysfunction at the border is hurting commerce, Schneider said. "They have fewer people to man the check stations at the border entry. Instead of 12 to 14 lanes, five of those were closed."
The result adds two to four hours for cars and trucks trying to cross the border station at El Paso, which is across the border from Juárez. "That affects supply chains."
Schneider -- who was in the delegation along with fellow suburban Democratic Reps. Bill Foster of Naperville, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg and Jan Schakowsky of Evanston -- said he's hopeful Congress can modernize its immigration policies when it reconvenes, and that includes recognizing the importance of asylum, which the White House has cut back.
Casa Franklin cares for children who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors. On one wall is a chalkboard mural showing the flags of the U.S. and Honduras, Schneider said.
"These kids bring with them the idea of love for a nation they don't know," he said. But "we're denying them the dignity and humanity of being able to apply for asylum and have their cases heard."