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Twice a week,
I drive from my home near Tijuana, Mexico,
over the US border, to my office in San Diego.
The stark contrast between the poverty and desperation on one side of the border
and the conspicuous wealth on the other
always feels jarring.
But what makes this contrast feel even starker
is when I pass by the building that those of us who work on the border
unaffectionately refer to as the black hole.
The black hole is the Customs and Border Protection,
or CBP facility,
at the San Ysidro port of entry,
right next to a luxury outlet mall.
It's also where, at any one time,
there's likely 800 immigrants
locked in freezing, filthy, concrete cells below the building.
Up top: shopping bags and frappuccinos.
Downstairs: the reality of the US immigration system.
And it's where, one day in September of 2018,
I found myself trying to reach Anna,
a woman who CBP had recently separated from her seven-year-old son.
I'm an immigration attorney
and the policy and litigation director of Al Otro Lado,
a binational nonprofit helping immigrants on both sides of the US-Mexico border.
We'd met Anna several weeks earlier at our Tijuana office,
where she explained that she feared she and her son would be killed in Mexico.
So we prepared her for the process of turning herself over to CBP
to ask for asylum.
A few days after she'd gone to the port of entry to ask for help,
we received a frantic phone call
from her family members in the United States,
telling us that CBP officials had taken Anna's son from her.
Now, not that this should matter,
but I knew that Anna's son had special needs.
And once again,
this news filled me with the sense of panic and foreboding
that has unfortunately become a hallmark of my daily work.
I had a signed authorization to act as Anna's attorney,
so I rushed over to the port of entry
to see if I could speak with my client.
Not only would CBP officials not let me speak to Anna,
but they wouldn't even tell me if she was there.
I went from supervisor to supervisor,
begging to submit evidence of Anna's son's special needs,
but no one would even talk to me about the case.
It felt surreal to watch the shoppers strolling idly by
what felt like a life-and-death situation.
After several hours of being stonewalled by CBP,
I left.
Several days later,
I found Anna's son in the foster-care system.
But I didn't know what happened to Anna
until over a week later,
when she turned up at a detention camp a few miles east.
Now, Anna didn't have a criminal record,
and she followed the law when asking for asylum.
Still, immigration officials held her for three more months,
until we could win her release
and help her reunify with her son.
Anna's story is not the only story I could tell you.
There's Mateo, an 18-month-old boy,
who was ripped from his father's arms
and sent to a government shelter thousands of miles away,
where they failed to properly bathe him for months.
There's Amadou,
an unaccompanied African child,
who was held with adults for 28 days in CBP's horrific facilities.
Most disturbingly, there's Maria,
a pregnant refugee who begged for medical attention for eight hours
before she miscarried in CBP custody.
CBP officials held her for three more weeks
before they sent her back to Mexico,
where she is being forced to wait months
for an asylum hearing in the United States.
Seeing these horrors day in and day out has changed me.
I used to be fun at parties,
but now, I inevitably find myself telling people
about how our government tortures refugees at the border
and in the detention camps.
Now, people try to change the subject
and congratulate me for the great work I'm doing in helping people like Anna.
But I don't know how to make them understand
that unless they start fighting, harder than they ever thought possible,
we don't know which of us will be the next to suffer Anna's fate.
Trump's mass separations of refugee families
at the southern border
shocked the conscience of the world
and woke many to the cruelties of the US immigration system.
It seems like today,
more people than ever are involved in the fight for immigrant rights.
But unfortunately, the situation is just not getting better.
Thousands protested to end family separations,
but the government is still separating families.
More than 900 children have been taken from their parents
since June of 2018.
Thousands more refugee children have been taken from their grandparents,
siblings and other family members at the border.
Since 2017,
at least two dozen people have died in immigration custody.
And more will die, including children.
Now, we lawyers can and will keep filing lawsuits
to stop the government from brutalizing our clients,
but we can't keep tinkering around the edges of the law
if we want migrants to be treated humanely.
This administration would have you believe that we have to separate families
and we have to detain children,
because it will stop more refugees from coming to our borders.
But we know that this isn't true.
In fact, in 2019,
the number of apprehensions at our southern border
has actually gone up.
And we tell people every day at the border,
"If you seek asylum in the United States,
you risk family separation,
and you risk being detained indefinitely."
But for many of them, the alternative is even worse.
People seek refuge in the United States for a lot of different reasons.
In Tijuana, we've met refugees from over 50 countries,
speaking 14 different languages.
We meet LGBT migrants from all over the world
who have never been in a country in which they feel safe.
We meet women from all over the world
whose own governments refuse to protect them
from brutal domestic violence or repressive social norms.
Of course, we meet Central American families
who are fleeing gang violence.
But we also meet Russian dissidents,
Venezuelan activists,
Christians from China, Muslims from China,
and thousands and thousands of other refugees
fleeing all types of persecution and torture.
Now, a lot of these people would qualify as refugees
under the international legal definition.
The Refugee Convention was created after World War II
to give protection to people fleeing persecution
based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion
or membership in a particular social group.
But even those who would be refugees under the international definition
are not going to win asylum in the United States.
And that's because since 2017,
the US Attorneys General have made sweeping changes to asylum law,
to make sure that less people qualify for protection in the United States.
Now these laws are mostly aimed at Central Americans
and keeping them out of the country,
but they affect other types of refugees as well.
The result is that the US frequently deports refugees
to their persecution and death.
The US is also using detention to try to deter refugees
and make it harder for them to win their cases.
Today, there are over 55,000 immigrants detained in the United States,
many in remote detention facilities,
far from any type of legal help.
And this is very important.
Because it's civil and not criminal detention,
there is no public defender system,
so most detained immigrants are not going to have an attorney
to help them with their cases.
An immigrant who has an attorney
is up to 10 times more likely to win their case
than one who doesn't.
And as you've seen, I hate to be the bearer of bad news,
but the situation is even worse for refugee families today
than it was during family separation.
Since January of 2019,
the US has implemented a policy
that's forced over 40,000 refugees to wait in Mexico
for asylum hearings in the United States.
These refugees, many of whom are families,
are trapped in some of the most dangerous cities in the world,
where they're being raped, kidnapped
and extorted by criminal groups.
And if they survive for long enough to make it to their asylum hearing,
less than one percent of them are able to find an attorney
to help them with their cases.
The US government will point to the lowest asylum approval rates
to argue that these people are not really refugees,
when in fact, US asylum law is an obstacle course
designed to make them fail.
Now not every migrant at the border is a refugee.
I meet plenty of economic migrants.
For example, people who want to go to the United States to work,
to pay medical bills for a parent
or school fees for a child back home.
Increasingly, I'm also meeting climate refugees.
In particular, I'm meeting a lot of indigenous Central Americans
who can no longer sustain themselves by farming,
due to catastrophic drought in the region.
We know that today,
people are migrating because of climate change,
and that more will do so in the future,
but we simply don't have a legal system to deal with this type of migration.
So, it would make sense, as a start,
to expand the refugee definition
to include climate refugees, for example.
But those of us in a position to advocate for those changes
are too busy suing our government
to keep the meager legal protections that refugees enjoy under the current law.
And we are exhausted,
and it's almost too late to help.
And we know now
that this isn't America's problem alone.
From Australia's brutal offshore detention camps
to Italy's criminalization of aid to migrants drowning in the Mediterranean,
first-world countries have gone to deadly lengths
to keep refugees from reaching our shores.
But they've done more than restrict the refugee definition.
They've created parallel, fascist-style legal systems
in which migrants have none of the rights that form the basis of a democracy,
the alleged foundation of the countries in which they're seeking refuge.
History shows us that the first group
to be vilified and stripped of their rights is rarely the last,
and many Americans and Europeans
seem to accept an opaque and unjust legal system for noncitizens,
because they think they are immune.
But eventually,
these authoritarian ideals bleed over and affect citizens as well.
I learned this firsthand
when the US government placed me on an illegal watch list
for my work helping immigrants at the border.
One day, in January of 2019,
I was leaving my office in San Diego
and crossing the border to go back to my home in Mexico.
Mexican officials, although they had given me a valid visa,
stopped me and told me that I couldn't enter the country
because a foreign government had placed a travel alert on my passport,
designating me as a national security risk.
I was detained and interrogated in a filthy room for hours.
I begged the Mexican officials
to let me go back to Mexico and pick up my son,
who was only 10 months old at the time.
But they refused,
and instead, they turned me over to CBP officials,
where I was forced back into the United States.
It took me weeks to get another visa so that I could go back to Mexico,
and I went to the border, visa in hand.
But again, I was detained and interrogated
because there was still a travel alert on my passport.
Shortly after,
leaked internal CBP documents
confirmed that my own government
had been complicit in issuing this travel alert against me.
And since then, I haven't traveled to any other countries,
because I'm afraid I'll be detained
and deported from those countries as well.
These travel restrictions, detentions
and separation from my infant son
are things I never thought I would experience as a US citizen,
but I'm far from the only person being criminalized for helping immigrants.
The US and other countries have made it a crime to save lives,
and those of us who are simply trying to do our jobs
are being forced to choose between our humanity and our freedom.
And the thing that makes me so desperate
is that all of you are facing the same choice,
but you don't understand it yet.
And I know there are good people out there.
I saw thousands of you in the streets,
protesting family separation.
And that largely helped bring about an end to the official policy.
But we know that the government is still separating children.
And things are actually getting worse.
Today, the US government is fighting for the right
to detain refugee children indefinitely in prison camps.
This isn't over.
We cannot allow ourselves to become numb or look away.
Those of us who are citizens of countries
whose policies cause detention, separation and death,
need to very quickly decide which side we're on.
We need to demand that our laws respect the inherent dignity of all human beings,
especially refugees seeking help at our borders,
but including economic migrants and climate refugees.
We need to demand that refugees get a fair shot
at seeking protection in our countries
by ensuring that they have access to council
and by creating independent courts
that are not subject to the political whims of the president.
I know it's overwhelming,
and I know this sounds cliché, but ...
we need to call our elected representatives
and demand these changes.
I know you've heard this before,
but have you made the call?
We know these calls make a difference.
The dystopian immigration systems being built up in first-world countries
are a test of citizens
to see how far you're willing to let the government go
in taking away other people's rights when you think it won't happen to you.
But when you let the government take people's children
without due process
and detain people indefinitely without access to council,
you are failing the test.
What's happening to immigrants now
is a preview of where we're all headed if we fail to act.
Thank you.


【TED】What's really happening at the US-Mexico border -- and how we can do better | Erika Pinheiro

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林宜悉 2019 年 12 月 17 日 に公開
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