ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. Thousands of migrants who agreed to wait in Mexico for their asylum hearings in the United States are now finding out they may not be eligible for asylum at all. They’re stuck at the Kafkaesque intersection of two Trump policies designed to crack down on those seeking humanitarian protection. First, when they came to the U.S. to seek asylum earlier this year, they were given court dates but forced to wait in Mexico for their hearings.
It’s hard to find anyone in Washington who knows border issues better than Alan Bersin. His unique perspective combines years of frontline law enforcement experience with academic knowledge and intellectual interest in the historical, economic and social forces that are at work at the borders of the United States, especially the U.S.-Mexico line. Bersin became U.S. attorney in San Diego in 1993 and subsequently spent almost five years as President Clinton’s “border czar,” overseeing a border-wide crackdown on illegal immigration and drug smuggling. During the Obama administration, he served in several key posts in the Department of Homeland Security, including as acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, the force of 58,000 employees that includes the U.S. Border Patrol as well as CBP officers guarding air, land and sea ports of entry. He later served as assistant secretary for international affairs and chief diplomatic officer at DHS, a job he left last month.
Just months before Donald Trump’s surprise victory to the nation’s top office, Gov. Susana Martinez penned an op-ed about a bright spot in New Mexico’s otherwise weak economy. That bright spot is also a geographical location—the border. “We are quickly positioning our state as a gateway of international trade throughout the Americas,” Martinez wrote in June, “and we are embracing our newly found leadership role, which wouldn’t be possible without the cross-border relationships we’ve built.”
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Last year, for example, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, respectively, ranked as the two metropolitan areas in the nation with the highest economic growth in exports. In 2012 and 2014, New Mexico also led the nation in export growth. Nearly half of these exports—45 percent—are shipped south of the border.
It was a brazen attack. Some 60 gunmen linked to the brutal Zetas cartel descended on a quiet cluster of towns just south of the Mexican border in the spring of 2011 and launched a door-to-door extermination campaign that went on for weeks, leaving an untold number of people dead or missing. Yet in the five years since the slaughter in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, the Mexican government has failed to fully investigate, much less address the needs of the victims and their families, according to a preliminary report released today by a panel of scholars and human rights investigators. “It’s horrifying because it was all so blatant,” said Mariclaire Acosta, a veteran human rights investigator who advised the panel. “This wasn’t a hidden crime.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis made a historic trip throughout the United States, including to Washington D.C. where a number of New Mexicans saw the Pope speak on the White House South Lawn. Next year, Pope Francis is scheduled to make another trip even closer to New Mexico—but across a border. He will be visiting the Mexican state of Chihuahua and possibly even the city of Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas. From the El Paso Times:
The head of the Vatican advance team, Alberto Gasparri, was in Juarez on Nov. 4 to identify and evaluate places were the pontiff might visit and celebrate Mass, as well as to assess security and logistics issues, Lamadrid said.