Officials with the Federal government have insisted that the current state of immigration at the United States-Mexico border is a crisis, one which they believe requires a tightening of immigration law. But as the administration moves to change immigration policy, many families and individuals hoping to enter the U.S. legally could be left in harm’s way waiting in Mexico for their chance to lawfully seek asylum. It is lawful both under international and U.S. law to seek asylum. The extreme difficulty of providing adequate counsel to clients from across the border has led some volunteer attorneys, including Patricia Adura-Miranda, to meet with clients outside of the U.S. in order to provide basic legal services.
The current administration’s latest attempt to address illegal immigration, known informally as the “Remain in Mexico” plan, was announced in December and began officially rolling out at the end of January 2019. At that time, the Department of Homeland Security issued the “Migrant Protection Protocols”, a policy memorandum that includes significant changes to screening procedures at ports of entry along the southern border which will predominantly affect Central and South American immigrants.
According to a press release from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), under the new procedures, immigrants arriving at a port of entry without proper documentation who may have a legitimate claim for asylum will be subject to an “assessment” to determine whether they can pursue their claims from within the United States or whether they will be forced to do so from Mexico. Previously, most asylum seekers were permitted to remain in the country while pursuing their claim.
The statement goes on to specify that access to legal counsel is not permitted during these assessments, a fact that many immigration advocates find particularly troubling. The assessment is often conducted in a matter of minutes, and immigrants who speak little or no English are required to answer complex legal questions on concepts such as persecution and torture on legally protected grounds.
AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson responded, “By blocking access to counsel, USCIS will prevent many families and individuals with legitimate claims for asylum from having a fair shot at protection by curtailing their rights and forcing them to pursue their claims from outside the U.S. where access to legal advice and resources is sparse.” Johnson also stated that under the new procedure “access to counsel at ports of entry has become even more critical.”
Most individuals seeking asylum at the U.S. border will not have the ability to contact a lawyer for assistance. This is one of the many humanitarian reasons why some immigration attorneys are traveling to Mexico to work with clients seeking legal entry who are not able to do so from within the U.S. Contrary to some claims, these attorneys do not “coach” clients on how to enter illegally or how to by-pass rules; rather, they explain the process for legal entry to individuals who are already pursuing entry to the United States.
Attorney Patricia Adura-Miranda has been assisting immigration clients from both inside and outside the U.S. for many years, and she is no stranger to the hardships immigrants and refugees face while fleeing from unsafe situations. Adura-Miranda is set to travel to the border once again in mid-February 2019 to provide assistance to refugees there seeking legal entry to the United States.
Through her work, Patricia not only provides critical guidance to at-risk individuals, but she also gains invaluable knowledge of our immigration system. This combination of experience and dedication is one of the many reasons why the attorneys at Miranda, Magden & Miranda, LLP have been trusted by so many families in California and beyond to handle their immigration, bankruptcy, and family law matters. To learn more about how our attorneys may be able to assist you, please call our office or use the online contact form on our website to request a consultation today.
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