Customs and Border Protection officials were dead-set on blocking a pregnant asylum-seeker and her family at the border on Saturday—until Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden literally swooped in behind the family to intervene, The Washington Post reports.
The officer told a pregnant woman, her husband, and their 3-year-old son, “We’re full” when they presented themselves at the Paso del Norte port of entry. But unbeknownst to the officials, Wyden and his staffers were behind them, having met them while visiting at a Mexican shelter, and after hearing about complications from her pregnancy, encouraged them to try to present themselves at the border.
Wyden “told the officers that Mexicans are exempt from the ‘metering’ program CBP has used to strictly control the number of people allowed to request asylum at ports of entry,” the Post continued. “He also told the officers the woman was late term in her pregnancy and suffering complications.” A supervisor was called, and just minutes later, the family was allowed to pass through.
CBP tried to explain its way out of its mess by claiming that the family should have said right off the bat that they were Mexican and that the woman was pregnant, but the family did both. “I feel very confident that if the family had tried to present alone,” said immigration attorney Taylor Levy, “they would not have been allowed in.” Officers also told Wyden’s staff they couldn’t take pictures, but the American Civil Liberties Union attorney traveling with them told them they absolutely could.
This is not the first time a legislator has had to intervene like this: Last year, officials also tried to block five asylum-seekers, including two kids, until Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s intervention. “It shouldn’t have to take being escorted by a U.S. Senator to get asylum seekers and migrants to safety in the United States,” Wyden later tweeted. The current status of the mom is unclear, but its a fact that asylum-seekers are facing dire circumstances that the administration is only making worse.
Wyden said he also toured a privately operated detention facility in New Mexico, where four detainees are currently on a hunger strike. “They have lost all hope that America would help them in the face of persecution,” he said they told him through an interpreter. “I spoke to one man who said that he couldn’t read or write. He didn’t know how to get in touch with a lawyer, and he made it clear that he would rather not live another day, than to stay in this facility.”