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Tragedy in Tijuana: Denying Asylum and Repeating History

The U.S. is repeating the mistakes of World War II by sending asylum-seekers to their deaths.

By Rev. Kent Matthies, Unitarian Society of Germantown (Guest Columnist) on January 14, 2019

Kent Matthies is a minister at the Unitarian Society of Germantown in Philadelphia. He recently returned from a service mission to Tijuana, Mexico, on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and the UU College of Social Justice.

Earlier this month, President Trump spoke to the nation from the Oval Office about a situation at our border that is a “growing humanitarian and security crisis.”

President Trump omitted the fact that, in my opinion, he and his administration are complicit in the December murder of two Honduran teenagers who were attempting to seek asylum in Tijuana. According to U.S. law, they should have been admitted into the country for their application to be processed. However, because the Trump administration has created an illegal impasse at the border, these boys (as well as about 5,000 other migrants) have been forced to wait in Mexico for weeks and sometimes months.

A month ago, I visited the shelter in Tijuana where these and other unaccompanied minors are housed. I interviewed and talked with many of the teenagers for hours. Many of them have strong cases to receive asylum. The U.S. government limits the number of asylum-seekers it processes to an average of 60 per day and these forgotten youth are forced to fend for themselves. Because of our government’s cruel and inhumane practices, these minors struggle to survive for weeks in Tijuana neighborhoods wracked with poverty and violence.

U.S. law requires that refugees presenting themselves at a port of entry and seeking asylum must be accepted and processed. This law goes back to when the U.S. government did not process asylum seekers during World War II. Rather, the government immediately sent some asylum-seeking refugees back to Europe to meet their deaths at the hands of the Nazis. As a nation we have looked back at those horrific mistakes and say “never again.”  And here we are, with tragedy in Tijuana, doing it again.

Let the murder of these two teenagers be the clarion call for our nation to stop this illegal and immoral process on our border. Give our immigration officials the resources to do their jobs. The lives of thousands of refugees and the soul of our nation are at stake.

 

Photo Credit: iStock – kevinruss

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