Twin Cities lawyers return after providing legal aid to asylum-seekers in Tijuana

December 27, 2018 06:20 PM

As migrant groups continue to gather on the U.S. border, lawyers are heading south to help with asylum claims.

Images of Customs and Border Protection agents using tear gas last month brought attention to the hundreds of thousands of migrants trying to cross the border at Tijuana.

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“It’s one of the largest ports of entry in the country,” said Ana Pottratz Acosta, a Mitchell Hamline School of Law professor.

She saw first-hand the backlog in processing those seeking asylum. Pottratz Acosta went to the border city with another local lawyer for four days in mid-December.

“When I was in Tijuana, they only allowed 40 people per day to be admitted and processed in the United States and apply for asylum,” she said.


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Pottratz Acosta was there as a volunteer with a Tijuana-based organization. She gave legal help to people still in Mexico as they presented themselves to U.S. agents with an asylum claim.

“For a lot of them, they were fleeing violence either at the hands of drug cartels, people in Central America,” she said. “They are fleeing the MS-13 or other gangs or organizations that were threatening to harm them.”

 

Others, she said, were fleeing for political reasons.

She's critical of the metering system, which only allows a certain number of people to start the asylum process each day, which includes paperwork and interviews.

Pottratz Acosta told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it’s causing the encampments along the border.

“It's not because there's a surge of people suddenly applying for asylum, it's because of the bottleneck being created because of this metering system,” she said.

Pottratz Acosta wants to see more resources sent south.

“It’s a humanitarian need, there are thousands of people waiting to present for asylum and they’re living in pretty bad conditions,” she said. “There’s really no reason for thousands of people to be waiting in another country to present themselves when we ought to have resources to process them so they're out of danger.”

Kevin McAleenan, the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner told CBS This Morning on Thursday that the border stations were not designed for families.

“Our stations are not built for that group that’s crossing today,” he said.

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