On the Texas/Mexico border, Chaos and Confusion soars as Mexican asylum seekers are expected to attend court hearings in huge tents by the border crossing in Laredo Texas. Many of these migrants are fleeing their home country due to fear of their lives because of drug gang violence and even kidnappings.
The tent courts were introduced after Trump announced that some migrants seeking asylum would have to stay in Mexico during their immigration proceedings. In places like San Diego and El Paso, the court hearings were done with an in-person judge, yet in these new tent courts, everything is done via video conference. Hearings are lasting several hours at times and they’re being advised to arrive up to 4 hours in advance causing further concerns amongst activists.
The tent courts have been put in place in an attempt to maintain the Migrant Protection Protocols program, informally referred to as “Remain in Mexico” which has been criticized by many. The courts in Laredo are expected to assess up to 300 cases per day, but this still means that the 40,000 migrants hoping to find a better life here in the US will need to remain in Mexico until everything is finalized.
We spoke to Samuel Sánchez, spokesperson for Reviewbox, who has family members that emigrated to the US a few years ago. “One of the many things that is causing issues and difficulty for migrants under the MPP is their significant lack of representation by an attorney,” said Sánchez. “Only a small percentage of the hopeful migrants bring an attorney along, because it’s such a gray area regarding visa issues. Because of the location of these tent courts is on Mexican soil, many attorneys are unsure if they are able to practice lawfully.” This is leaving many migrants with a lesser chance of a successful hearing, as they’re having to represent themselves and are not fully versed in immigration law” he continued. Lawyers are fearful that if they represent their clients without the appropriate visa paperwork, then there could be repercussions and are therefore turning them away – it’s a catch 22”.
In addition to this, as these migrants are staying in accommodations like shelters, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to communicate with them – many migrants are even homeless and there is no official address to put on paperwork for them, meaning they may never even receive their summons for court hearings.
Alongside the above issues, the tent courts are bordering extremely dangerous towns that are subject to gang wars between rival cartel groups. The government has recently opened up a second tent court at the Brownsville border by the Rio Grande, which is known to be one of the busiest areas when it comes to illegal border crossings. On the other side of the Rio Grande (where the tent court is situated) sits Matamoros, which currently has a level 4 security risk associated with it. This is also deterring attorneys from representing migrants out if safety and security concerns. In an interview with CNN, attorney Jodi Goodwin said that kind of threat is on par with places such as “Aleppo, Syria, Kabul and Afghanistan”