Last weekend at the San Ysidro border crossing, two unaccompanied minors were among a small group asylum seekers who were illegally blocked from presenting themselves at the border—until a leading House Democrat stepped in. Congress member Pramila Jayapal of Washington state was visiting asylum seekers on the Mexican side of the border when she intervened.
“I was able to successfully assist five asylum seekers—two unaccompanied minors, a mother and her nine year old child, and a young man with a serious medical condition—into the United States,” she tweeted Saturday. “Initially they were denied, in violation of U.S. and international law, but I was able to intervene and ensure that they could simply present themselves for asylum in the United States.”
Jayapal said in a Facebook Live video that the incident occurred when she was returning to the U.S. and walked behind the group without identifying herself to port of entry officials. When the asylum seekers tried to present themselves, “they were told that they couldn’t go in because that port was not accepting any asylum seekers and they were going to be turned away.”
Despite a historic loss in the House last month, the administration has only escalated its attacks on asylum seekers. Border officials have been slow-walking processing, leaving many to have to wait for weeks and even months. Others have been turned away altogether. That appeared to be the case this past weekend, until Jayapal spoke out.
“It shouldn’t take intervention from a Member of Congress,” she continued, “and an incredibly compassionate Border Patrol Chief for those fleeing violence and persecution to seek asylum in the United States.” Donald Trump and his officials have continued to, without evidence, demonize members of the so-called “caravan” as criminals, but Jayapal, who has actually met some of them, talked to vulnerable people fleeing horrific conditions.
“Jayapal said most of the people she spoke with were from Honduras, which is one of several Central American countries with high levels of gang violence,” The Washington Post reported. “She described several conversations with migrants who had left dangerous situations back home, including a pregnant woman who had left her 3-year-old child behind, a 17-year-old boy who had been shot in both knees, and a mother of three whose partner had been murdered.”
Jayapal was also among the very first members of Congress, if not the first, to meet with a large group of asylum seekers torn from their children under the administration’s barbaric “zero tolerance” policy this year. In a press conference outside the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, Washington, this past June, she said that detained moms she met with “could not stop crying when they spoke about their children—young girls and boys who were taken from them with no chance to say goodbye and no plan for reunification.”
Jayapal said in her Facebook Live that whether these asylum seekers are able to stay here permanently is now up to the immigration courts, but all asylum seekers are asking for is a chance. “Really that’s all people are asking for, is the ability to be able to come in and start the asylum process, completely legal to do so, and actually something that we are required by international and by our own laws to do, is to allow people to come in and seek asylum,” she continued.