Andrea’s Story: Refugees Turned Away at the Border

Fleeing gang members who murdered her two sons, Andrea attempted to seek asylum in the U.S., but was denied entry multiple times before her asylum application was finally accepted. She is currently being detained at the Eloy Detention Center, awaiting her court date.

Like many people fleeing gang violence, Andrea suffered unspeakable losses at the hands of gang members who killed her sons. With her own life threatened, she escaped her native Guatemala with her friend Lisa (also in danger for helping Andrea; both names have been changed to protect their privacy), and undertook the perilous 2,000 mile journey through Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S. At the Tijuana–San Diego crossing, Andrea and Lisa sought entry twice, only to be told they lacked the proper paperwork and would have to return to Guatemala to obtain it. Instead, they traveled to Nogales to try again. There they met with the same bureaucratic obstacles, but sought the help of the KBI where they stayed at the women’s shelter and received assistance in filing a complaint against U.S. and Mexican authorities. Currently, Andrea and Lisa are being detained in Eloy as their asylum applications are processed.

Andrea’s story reflects the predicament thousands of refugees face at the border. Logistical red tape, overtaxed ports of entry, insufficient legal aid, and a lack of humanitarian priorities converge to create a refugee crisis within the broader context of unprecedented worldwide migration. For those refugees who come to the KBI, advocacy staff aid in harnessing resources—legal representation, interpreter services, communities of support—and navigating through the asylum application process. But the wider problem can only be addressed by changes in policy, which is why the KBI pursues research that documents the scope of the crisis and advocacy efforts that convey its urgency to lawmakers in Washington. Now, with the recent executive order increasing the obstacles to individuals seeking asylum, this work is more critical than ever.

Listen to Andrea’s story in her own words here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2pLrHa1OLw&feature=youtu.be. Her story is also profiled in this Washington Post (1/16/17) article about refugees blocked at the border: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/us-border-officials-are-illegally-turning-away-asylum-seekers-critics-say/2017/01/16/f7f5c54a-c6d0-11e6-acda-59924caa2450_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_mexicoborder-750pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.252bb9939b7a#comments. For more background on a complaint  filed by the KBI and other organizations, please see this press release from the American Immigration Council: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/news/complaint-filed-customs-and-border-protection-turns-away-asylum-seekers. And for information about how Trump’s executive orders will hurt women and children seeking protection, please read this document from the Women’s Refugee Commission: https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/rights/gbv/resources/1422-10-things-to-know-about-how-trump-s-executive-order-will-harm-women-children-seeking-protection.

Thousands of refugees are turned away at the U.S.–Mexico border without consideration of their claims.

Photo by Getty Images/AFP/Alfredo Estrella.

 

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