by WorldTribune Staff, July 7, 2019
A Democratic member of Congress dispatched staffers to Mexico to advise migrants on how to exploit a loophole in the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy, a report said.
Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas sent members of her staff to the border town of Ciudad Juárez to find migrants who were sent back to Mexico from El Paso. The migrants were coached by Escobar’s staff to pretend they cannot speak Spanish in hopes of being returned to the U.S., the Washington Examiner reported on July 5.
The loophole exists because the “remain in Mexico” policy requires returned migrants to be fluent in Spanish while they stay in that country for up to five years pending a U.S. judge’s asylum claim decision.
The National Border Patrol Council’s El Paso chapter and several Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel told the Washington Examiner that aides to Escobar and the local Catholic diocese have interviewed thousands of migrants in Juarez over the past few weeks to find cases where they say Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials may have wrongly returned people.
“What we believe is happening is Veronica Escobar’s office is going … to basically second-guess and obstruct work already done by the Border Patrol,” said a senior union official who shared evidence with the Washington Examiner from concerned CBP managers and rank-and-file members.
Escobar’s staff are reportedly re-escorting migrants back to the port and telling officers the Central American individuals with them cannot speak Spanish. This is in spite of the migrants having communicated in Spanish days earlier, CBP officials said.
“What we’re hearing from management is that they’re attempting to return people, and the story was changed in Mexico, where a person who understood Spanish before now doesn’t understand — where a person who didn’t have any health issues before now has health issues,” the union representative said.
A DHS official aware of the situation said Democrats, including 2020 presidential hopefuls, “are furious that these migrants” are not permitted to “await their court dates in the U.S., where they have the opportunity to disappear and slip into the interior never to be seen again.”
“By opposing a system that assists migrants and speeds wait times, these individuals are exposing a cause that looks more like a cover story for their political motivations. Any efforts to subvert and obstruct federal law enforcement operations should receive a full review,” the DHS official said.
Escobar’s team has sought interviews with 6,000 people who were returned last month, according to one CBP official. The union learned from an intelligence unit within CBP that those doing the interviews are wearing recording devices during the interviews.
“They went through and interviewed everybody, cherry-picked them, brought them back, and now are using them as tag lines. They’re going over there and manufacturing a lot of these issues,” said the union official.
The Examiner cited three border officials who said they were concerned the interviews might be used to suggest the Border Patrol is wrongfully turning away a large number of asylum-seekers.
“We had finally found a happy medium ‘cause we always get crapped on when it comes to immigration laws, and then they’re finding loopholes to bring them back,” one border official said.
Mark H. Metcalf, a former federal immigration judge during the George W. Bush administration, said the involvement of Escobar’s office was likely “more of a stunt than a genuine threat to the integrity of the process.”
“She’s trying to obviously say these people have been wrongly denied their claims and they’re waiting when they shouldn’t be,” said Metcalf.
Metcalf said a criminal case would exist if Escobar were found to be complicit in an effort to perpetrate a fraud, which would have to include knowingly injecting false statements during interviews, follow-up conversations, and documents presented to U.S. officials.