Lawmakers visit African migrants at US-Mexico border

Lawmakers visit African migrants at US-Mexico border
© Greg Nash

A group of lawmakers are sharing stories from migrants seeking to enter the United States following a visit last week to the country's southern border, where they met individuals from Africa and African diaspora countries who are awaiting asylum processing.

The group of members from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) visited migrants at the San Ysidro port of entry between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. CBC Chairwoman Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDemocrats blast CDC report on minorities and COVID-19 Pelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' COVID-19 increases importance of implementing reforms to organ donation system MORE (D-Calif.) led the group and was joined by fellow CBC members Reps. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDemocrats blast CDC report on minorities and COVID-19 Overnight Defense: Pentagon memo warns pandemic could go until summer 2021 | Watchdog finds Taliban violence is high despite US deal | Progressive Dems demand defense cuts Progressives demand defense budget cuts amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (D-Calif.) and Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeDemocrats introduce coronavirus-focused privacy legislation NY Democrats call for mortgage forgiveness in next coronavirus relief bill Hispanic Caucus pushes McConnell on 'Dreamer' bill MORE (D-N.Y.). Rep. Juan VargasJuan C. VargasActivists, analysts demand Congress consider immigrants in coronavirus package Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence taps health official to aid coronavirus response MORE (D), who represents California's single border district, also joined.

The lawmakers were accompanied by representatives from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. The group met with 30 individuals seeking asylum in the U.S., with migrants coming from countries including Sierra Leone in West Africa, Haiti and Jamaica in the Caribbean, and Cameroon in Central Africa, the CBC said in a statement.

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Most of the migrants stranded at the port of entry came from Cameroon, a majority French-speaking country where a simmering civil war in its English-speaking regions has forced more than half a million people from their homes, according to the International Crisis Group.

Mexico has long been host to third-country migrants seeking entry into the United States, but the number of African migrants in the country is growing as routes into Europe become more dangerous, according to multiple media reports.

The CBC members remarked on the dangerous and oppressive conditions African migrants often face on their route, which typically includes flights to South America and long overland journeys north through some of Latin America's most turbulent countries.

"They also shared harrowing stories of the brutal trek from South American countries like Ecuador and Colombia, including the many corpses they passed along the way. Migrants protested the racially-motivated mistreatment they faced at the hands of government officials, including in Mexico, such as segregated food lines and the denial of medical care for pregnant women in labor at immigration detention centers," CBC representatives said in a press release.

Mexico's northern border has become a bottleneck for third-country asylum-seekers amid the implementation of the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also known as "Remain in Mexico."

Under MPP, some migrants who apply for asylum are sent back to Mexican territory to await the adjudication of their asylum cases in U.S. immigration court.

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Although many reports indicate there are more migrants from Africa and the Caribbean transiting through Mexico — and many are stranded in the interior or south of the country — the number of those put into MPP remains small.

According to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, only a dozen citizens of African nations were in MPP as of September of last year out of more than 17,000 migrants in the program.

But the bottleneck created by increased immigration enforcement in Mexico and MPP has led to crowding in northern Mexico's migrant shelters.

African migrants, many of whom don't speak Spanish or English, have a harder time navigating the dangerous conditions in the region, CBC representatives said after returning from their trip.

"After the threat of U.S. tariffs, Mexico began holding asylum seekers, including those from African countries, in a country they do not know speaking a language they do not understand," they wrote. "The process used to determine who receives an appointment for asylum review is complicated by language barriers that prevent African migrants from fully participating."