Asylum seekers and their supporters marched toward the San Diego-Tijuana border on Monday to demonstrate against a border policy that has prevented thousands of people from seeking protection in the United States.
They also criticized the disparities caused by the policy, known as Title 42, as Ukrainians are now allowed to cross and seek protection while asylum seekers from elsewhere in the world are turned away.
As part of the protest, a small group of asylum seekers attempted to seek protection at the San Ysidro port of entry, but Customs and Border Protection officials told them they could not enter.
Organized by the group Defend Asylum, the march marked two years since the Trump administration implemented Title 42, which border officials can stop asylum seekers and other migrants who lack documentation from entering. in the USA. If they attempt to enter US soil without permission, the policy states that authorities can deport them to Mexico or their country of origin.
“Seeking asylum is a right for anyone in danger in their country of origin,” said Francel, a Haitian asylum seeker, speaking in Spanish. “We are no longer asking for Title 42, no more deportations that put people’s lives at risk.”
He said his sister died last year after being deported under Title 42 to Haiti.
“Title 42 denies me the right to be happy, the right for my children to live with dignity. It deprives me of the right to peace and deprives me of a weekend in the park with my children,” a Mexican woman who asked to be identified as Mari said in Spanish.
CBP did not respond to a request for comment. The Biden administration has said Title 42 is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, but critics, including many public health experts, have questioned the policy’s validity.
Asked previously about disparities in who is allowed to seek protection, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 order remains in place.
“The Department of Homeland Security continues to operate in accordance with this order to the extent possible,” the spokesperson said. “Per the CDC order, DHS is excluding particularly vulnerable individuals, on a case-by-case basis, from Title 42 for compassionate reasons.”
Mari, 34, said she fled Jalisco with her children due to threats from organized crime and her former partner and arrived in Tijuana about seven months ago. While the family waited, her granddaughter was born.
The baby, aged 1 month and 15 days, was the youngest participant in the walk of around 50 people.
Carolina, a 58-year-old transgender woman from Mexico, said she was there to represent the LGBTQ community as well as older migrants.
“I don’t feel safe in my country,” Carolina said. “Ukrainians also have the right (to seek asylum) because of what is happening to them, but they should give us the same possibility.”
Guerline Jozef of Haitian Bridge Alliance read a statement written by a group of Jamaican women stranded in Tijuana after fleeing their country because of the threats and discrimination they face as lesbians. The group did not want to identify themselves in front of the media.
The women said they faced discrimination in Tijuana as well as at home. While in downtown Tijuana, the women were arrested by city police and detained by Mexican immigration for 16 days, they wrote, adding that this was the worst period of their life.
“It hurts not to be able to live freely and be ourselves,” Jozef read. “We want to live. We don’t want to die. We want to be free.
Protesters chanted as they marched from a nearby migrant shelter to a pedestrian bridge near the San Ysidro port of entry.
“Adelante los migrants”, they sang, “por el asilo”. Forward, migrants, for asylum.
They held bilingual signs reading “Everyone has the right to life” and “We are migrants and we are human beings”.
A small group of asylum seekers – the family of Mari, Carolina and a family from Guerrero – approached the line to try to seek protection in the United States, accompanied by lawyers, activists and the press .
Mexican police led the group to a car-only lane instead of the sidewalk where pedestrians wait to cross the border. Since last week, a chain-link fence had been installed, separating the sidewalk from the car lane. When the group reached the border, a newly installed crowd control fence prevented the group from walking to the pedestrian entrance. CBP agents and plainclothes officials watched from inside the United States.
An officer wearing a badge bearing the name “Schneider” stepped forward to speak with the group. She shook her head.
Mari didn’t know exactly what the woman said since Schneider was speaking in English, but Mari knew what she meant.
“It was a total no,” Mari said.
Mari felt sad and rejected when she returned to the shelter, she said.
“I feel like we have no value,” she added.