Families Seeking Asylum As New ICE Policy Takes Effect In Arizona

By Michel Marizco
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 7:51pm
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 8:52am

Asylum seekers wait their turn to cross into the U.S. from Nogales
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
Asylum seekers wait their turn to cross into the U.S. from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, and speak with a Customs and Border Protection interviewer.

Wearing an over-sized grey sweatshirt, Merami Vera sat in a group of 20 asylum seekers waiting for their chance to speak to a Customs and Border Protection interviewer at the downtown Nogales, Sonora port of entry.

"We've been in line five days and, before that, we were in a migrant shelter. We were in the migrant shelter for about 20 days," she said in Spanish.

She’s fleeing a death threat her family received in their native Guerrero Mexico, she said, and hopes to claim asylum, get a job and get ahead.

It won’t be an easy process, and it’s not one she’s familiar with, but her story is a common one at the border right now. Families arrive in large groups from the desert or turn themselves over to CBP officers at the ports, nearly 13,000 last August — the last month for which the Homeland Security Department has made numbers available.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it must release some of these immigrants or it will violate a court order limiting how long it can keep children in immigration detention.

Claudia Arevalo is an immigration attorney in Tucson. She's worried the new policy will add to an already complex court system.

"For us, it’ll be like well, he’s not here in Arizona. So now you have to contact an immigration attorney in the city where they’re going to be released," she said.

ICE is working with church groups to organize the release of families. Some churches in Phoenix and Yuma reported several hundred immigrants being dropped off with little warning.

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