© 2023 KVNF Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

An Update On An Asylum-Seeker


We've been focusing on the Trump administration's policy of separating families at the border. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions also announced this week that the United States will no longer consider migrants fleeing domestic and gang violence as eligible for asylum in this country.


JEFF SESSIONS: Asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems, even all serious problems that people face every day all over the world.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That decision will affect hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers here whose cases are winding their way through the courts, including a woman whose story we have been following since last year. She's from El Salvador. And I met her and her son at the U.S.-Mexico border last May. They were fleeing gang violence, and they'd asked for asylum. The last time we caught up with her, she missed her hearing by going to the wrong courthouse thanks to confusing instructions and her lack of a lawyer. The judge ordered her deported. Mike Donovan is the CEO of Nexus Services, and he heard her story. He's now paying for her legal representation. We should first say she got her deportation order reversed. And she has her next court date in February, where her asylum claim will be considered. But Sessions' decision will make it much harder, says Donovan.

MIKE DONOVAN: The decision does affect everyone, but there is hope. The reality is that the attorney general's decision can be reviewed in the federal court system. And I believe it will be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The woman we are following has time to wait for the courts to sort out the legality of Sessions' ruling.

DONOVAN: But individuals who are unfortunate enough to have individual hearings or trials directly after the attorney general's decision but before the appeal process can work through are absolutely and disproportionately affected.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Donovan says there is a case to be made, though, even in light of these new rules.

DONOVAN: The people who are endangering her are people who can be considered quasi-government actors. In some of these countries, the police are also gang members. And it's very difficult to sort of parse that back. So I think it means that we're going to have to do more in sending investigators into countries to be able to prove these asylum claims with this more rigid standard.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We called up our asylum-seeker. And we aren't using her name for her protection. And she told me that she had no idea that Sessions had just made her claim that much harder. She says she's been asked by her lawyer to get documentary evidence to prove the threat against her.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She tells me it's going to be impossible because she says, "I never went to the police to report the threats against us." There was a case of a woman, she says, who was killed for going to the cops. She says she fled because the gangs were trying to recruit her son to involve him in drugs and killings. He went into hiding. And she says they would come by the house looking for him and threatening her. She says she doesn't want to go back to that.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She says she's still carrying the fear of going back there in her heart. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.