New U.S. Asylum Policy Hasn’t Deterred Some Northbound Asylum Seekers

By Kendal Blust
Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 9:17am
Updated: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 9:20am

Audio icon Download mp3 (1.58 MB)

Padre Gilberto Lazama
Kendal Blust/KJZZ
Father Gilberto Lazama, director of the migrant soup kitchen, or comedor, in Hermosillo, Sonora.

The Trump administration published a new asylum rule in the Federal Register Tuesday. It bars most asylum seekers who failed to apply for protection in “at least one country” where they've traveled through on their way to the U.S.

That was news to a group of Honduran migrants taking shelter from the blistering afternoon sun under a tree near the train tracks in Hermosillo, Sonora.

They already knew seeking asylum would be hard, though, said Joel. And they have no plans on turning back.

“But we can’t go back to our country, we can’t," he said. "We can’t live there."

The 26-year-old asked that we only use his first name because he said he’s fleeing threats of violence and extortion by gangs in his home country.

He and his wife left Honduras with their 6-year-old son a month ago to ask for asylum in the U.S. He said, in Honduras, his family won’t survive.

Joel’s family was traveling with 23-year-old Giovani, who also asked that his last name not be shared. He left Honduras two months ago after his father was killed by gangs for not paying money earned from his small store, he said.

“There are people that come from our country, who maybe sell their land, their homes, the few things they have to be able to achieve their dream, to reach the United States and safety,” Giovani said.

He’s seen some of them turn back because of the difficulty of the journey. But most Hondurans don’t have that choice, he said.

Soup kitchen Hermosillo
Kendal Blust/KJZZ
Migrants eat a meal at the soup kitchen in Hermosillo, Sonora on July 16, 2019.

“Most of us have to leave. We’ve endured hunger. We’ve endured violence. We’ve endured rain and sun. And I have to reach the United States to help my family.”

Father Gilberto Lazama, who runs a soup kitchen for migrants in Hermosillo, said that’s why the new U.S. asylum policy is unlikely to deter many migrants from heading north.

“For all the policies, for all the treaties, for all the actions that these countries want to put in place, as long as the situation and conditions in those countries [people are fleeing from] don’t change, on a large or small scale, migration is going to continue,” he said.

Asylum seekers already face violence, injury and abuse on their journey north, Lazama said. Some become discouraged and decide to return home, but most are willing to take the risk.

If you like this story, Donate Now!