When Magali Nieto Romero became terrified of the frequent gun battles between rival “narco” hit men, she left her rural town in Mexico and headed for the U.S. to seek asylum with her three children. She arrived at the Nogales border crossing on June 12, but she and her children were told to come back later, the Arizona Republic reports. The family is still waiting. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say ports of entry have a limited capacity to process asylum seekers. Critics believe that as the Trump administration began prosecuting parents and separating children who entered illegally, U.S. border officials limited the number of asylum seekers processed at border crossings to deter asylum seekers.
“It’s clear this is not merely a capacity constraint and it’s a deliberate effort to inch toward making people queue and wait in Mexico while at the same time they are saying that if people cross irregularly … then they are going to be criminally prosecuted,” said Brian Griffey of Amnesty International. “So it’s really a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario.” The area around the Nogales entry point has begun to resemble a makeshift refugee camp. Asylum seekers camped out at the port of entry have become a common sight, said Joanna Williams of the Kino Border Initiative. In the past, asylum seekers arriving at the border crossing were typically processed within 24 hours. Since May 12, she has noticed a significant slowdown in the number of asylum seekers processed by U.S. border officers at the Nogales port, to about three daily. Williams said the growing backlog of asylum seekers is not the result of a significant increase in the number of families asking for asylum but rather a slowdown by the Trump administration in processing them.