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  April 11, 2018

Trump's Border Policies are 'Gutting' the Right to Asylum in the US

President Trump's decision to send National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border and his treatment of immigrants as criminals serves to dismantle the right of refugees to seek asylum in the U.S., says Marselha Goncalves Margerin of Amnesty International
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GREG WILPERT: It's the Real News Network. I'm Greg Wilpert joining you from Quito, Ecuador. Last week, President Trump issued an executive order requesting National Guard troops to secure the southern border of the U.S. They are to, quote, stop the flow of deadly drugs and other contraband, gang members and other criminals, and illegal aliens into this country, end quote. The National Guard troops would be under the control of state governors but financed by the federal government. It is unclear how much the deployment will cost, but the goal is to deploy at least 4000 troops that would complement the nearly 17000 Border Patrol agents already along the southern border. At this time the governors of Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico have agreed to send their National Guard. California is still considering the president's request.

Trump justified his decision as follows.

DONALD TRUMP: We have very bad laws for our border. And we are going to be doing some things, I've been speaking with General Mattis, we're going to be doing things, military. Until we can have a wall and proper security we're going to be guarding our border with the military. That's a big step. We really haven't done that before, certainly not very much before. But we will be doing things with Mexico. And they have to do it. Otherwise I'm not going to do the NAFTA deal.

GREG WILPERT: However, according to the U.S. Border Patrol, the number of undocumented immigrants caught at the border in 2017 was the lowest since 1971. Joining me to discuss Trump's decision to mobilize the National Guard is Marselha Gonçalves Margerin. She is the advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA. Thanks for joining me today, Marselha.


GREG WILPERT: Amnesty International issued a statement about Trump's decision to mobilize National Guard troops to the border. What are your main concerns about this decision?

MARSELHA GONCALVES MARGERIN: The way President Trump is acting and his decision to send the National Guard is as if, is assuming or equating all immigrants with criminals, which is not the case. There are many immigrants, many of the immigrants, including the ones he was referring, are people who are fleeing their countries and have intentions to seek asylum. Every person has the right to seek asylum. And every person has the right to present to any border and request asylum.

When he, the other two times in which President Obama and President Bush have sent National Guards to the border, both in 2010 and before that was in agreement, it was really legitimately to detain drug trafficking at the border. And in the occasion that President Obama did that, he did in accordance and in coordination with the Mexican government.

GREG WILPERT: So what do you think might happen now if these National Guard troops get sent to the southern border of the United States? How would it affect the immigrants' rights to claim asylum in the United States, or to seek refugee status?

MARSELHA GONCALVES MARGERIN: Well, in terms of the National Guard they actually would not be able to detain or arrest anyone. They would be there as eyes, in some ways, and would have to call a CBP, a Customs Border Patrol agent, to do an arrest. Having them there would increase militarization in the communities who live across the border, who is not happy to see increased militarization. Militaries are not for policing, or not to handle immigration work. On the second, it really increases these things and creates a sense of urgency where there isn't one, that the immigrants that arrive at the border, it can intimidate people who are seeking asylum or receive our refuge.

Amnesty International and other organizations have documented several cases of individuals who arrived at the U.S. border requesting asylum that have been turned away. People don't leave their home just because they want to. There are different types of migration, and the UN Refugee Agency, Amnesty International, many other organizations have documented that the increased number of people leaving the Northern Triangle of Central America, countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and even Guatemala, many of them would have a legitimate claim to asylum at the U.S. border. We have also documented border agents separating children from families, and this is increasing. What President Trump is doing with his allies in Congress is that they, they are gutting the asylum protection, they are gutting the refugee protection. They want to eliminate all these protections that currently exist in U.S. legislation, which is in conformance with U.S. obligations, with international human rights standards.

GREG WILPERT: You know, shortly before Trump actually issued his executive order he sent out a tweet where he specifically mentions a caravan of Hondurans coming to, through Mexico to the United States. And they were trying to, seeking entry to the United States. What can you say to us about these refugees that are supposedly moving through Mexico at the moment? And what kind of, what kinds of refugees, what do we know about them as refugees if they're coming mostly from Honduras?

MARSELHA GONCALVES MARGERIN: Every person has an individual case that needs to be analyzed by a case officer, in the case of the United States. Right? So every person, doesn't matter where they come from, if they arrive to a Border Patrol office and say that they are seeking asylum because they are afraid of being killed in their home country, regardless of where they've come from, if they express this credible fear, they have to be allowed to do that, right. What is happening is by putting militaries at the border, by telling, by border agents telling that you don't accept asylum here anymore, you are intimidating people to the south.

So the situation in Honduras has deteriorated since December, when there was a presidential election which was not considered legitimate by the Organization of American States monitors. The United States government has accepted that result. But it's a country in which Amnesty has documented that many people who have asked have been detained. There are accounts of individuals who could have been tortured. And if people are afraid of any retaliation in terms of, that would threaten their lives, or gender-based violence, either, both Honduras and El Salvador have high numbers of killings against LGBTQ individuals, LGBTI individuals, as well as high, high incidence of crimes against women and girls. So gender-based violence is one cause that people can request protection in another country. There has been several cases documented by several organizations of women that have been sent back, and have been killed afterwards. One piece , notoriously documented by to New York, the New York magazine a couple of months ago.

GREG WILPERT: Unfortunately we're going to leave it there, for now. But this is certainly something that we'll continue to follow. I was speaking to Marcelha Gonçalves Margerin, advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA. Thanks again for having joined us today, Marcelha.


GREG WILPERT: And I'm Greg Wilpert for the Real News Network.


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