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I met with G, an asylum seeker from Honduras, in a large open space at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, last month. As a volunteer attorney working with immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it was my job to help her prepare for her initial asylum interview. First, though, I needed to hear her story.

The setting was not ideal, since anyone in the room could overhear what she said, including her two daughters, ages 10 and 12. She began hesitantly, describing how she had been raped by her father when she was 12. Her mother and six siblings, rather than being supportive, blamed G — whose full name I am not using because of her pending asylum claim — and her mother began beating her regularly. When she was 14, her father committed suicide, and the family held her responsible for his death.

In her neighborhood, everyone knew of her abuse history, G told me, and she was considered damaged goods, available to any man who wanted her at any time. She soon met an older man who said he loved her, and for two years she stuck with him. He was abusive, though, and she learned he was married.

As she sat across from me crying, recalling events she’d rather forget, I learned she was now 25 and had four children. As best as I could tell given the timeline, the two daughters sitting nearby had been fathered by her father. Since the girls had never heard these stories, G was ashamed and tried to minimize what she had been through. It took two hours of patient questioning to pull the full story out of her, and as she spoke, her daughters cried.

In the end, it hadn’t been her own troubles that made G flee Honduras. That decision was made in December of last year, she said, when local gang members told her that if she did not make her daughters sexually available to them, all her children would be killed.

I spent 10 days in February interviewing women like G in Dilley. I realize that many Americans suspect that Central American families come to the United States simply because it’s a better place to live, and that their asylum claims are fraudulent. But I wish they could meet the women I spoke with and hear their stories of fleeing to protect their children from imminent danger back home. I believe it would change even the most skeptical minds.

Nearly all of those I met with were, like G, applying for asylum, a process that begins with an interview to establish whether an applicant has a credible fear of returning home. Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempted last year to disallow asylum claims based on fear of gang violence or domestic abuse, but in December a federal judge in Washington blocked the administration from categorically banning such claims. An appeal by the government is pending.

Whatever the outcome of that case, the process for asylum seekers is long, grueling and often arbitrary, and most Central American applicants will not be granted asylum.

The women I talked to all knew the difficulties they faced, but felt they had no alternative but to try to stay in the United States for their children’s safety.

Two days after our initial meeting, G had her credible fear hearing, in a windowless trailer 50 feet from the detention center. The stakes were high. If she did not persuade the asylum officer she had a justifiable fear her children would be harmed in Honduras, they would all be sent back.

Although I have practiced law for many decades, I’ve never felt as terrified and helpless entering a legal proceeding. I had no idea whether G would be able to tell the hearing officer what she had told me, and I could do nothing to help her. In a regular courtroom, I could ask questions, object and make statements on behalf of my client. Here I was not allowed to speak. I hoped I my presence would provide at least a modicum of emotional support.

The asylum officer explained at the outset that attorneys who urged their clients to tell false stories would be prosecuted, and asked G if I had told her what to say. She said no. Then, hesitantly, she told her story.

G passed her credible fear interview, but there is no knowing what will happen to her or her children when their case is heard in immigration court. What I do know is that they and thousands of other women and children are at high risk of being returned to dangerous situations. Most have little education and don’t understand English, yet they must navigate a complicated legal labyrinth to avoid being sent back to their torturers.

Asylum laws exist to provide refuge to people like G. The United States should not abandon its responsibility to assist them.

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Martin Garbus, a trial attorney, is the author of the forthcoming book “North of Havana.” He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

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(23) comments

Hive

First, I think Kill makes two good points, on subtle and one direct, and agrees with Bo, or the other way round.

America could feed the world. True, but we have to feed us first, which moves to the crux of the matter.

America cannot take in the world. More people dilutes everything, Food, clothing, shelter and makes for a mess.

Like he says, or implies people are like water, slipping to easiest level...that is not how American began, so being wary is being smart...people (men especially) running to America or another "safe" place for safety or to hide are not interested in their own nation (their nation).

Survival entails profiling, and avoidance behaviors...NOT PC-ness.

jdinfinity

"Isn’t that like extortion? Send more money or we will send more people. Lol"

Interesting, but not how it is intended. Especially for each suffering individual and family wanting a better life. Such an attitude lacks empathy imo. It doesn't consider that plight of said suffering individual, just the unintended result of them wanting to leave.

---

"....Again I never said anything about Blacks or Mexicans steeling anything."

Not it was totally implied, both as a literal element and metaphorically for our welfare systems...

And btw again, learn how to spell...

----

" We already have over 500,000 homeless unemployed people in America. Perhaps we should focus on them first." "According to the Center for Immigration studies.... “ "etc...etc...etc..."

Seriously? So what? Is their labor necessary? Is it hurting our economy? Are they bad people because of it?

You seem to have this engrained notion in your head that because someone is having a rough time and/or on welfare they are immediately loafers? And although this is an argument shift/subject change.....how many large corporations get government welfare and pocket the money in tax benefits that go into corporate wallets? How much money is wasted on defense and military spending?

Wasteful government and greedy corporations do far more damage to the economy, people and the environment than people on welfare, and/or immigrants from other nations.

Much much bigger threat. By far.

I really believe your party is being deceived by trying to demonize immigrants and the poor, when in fact how you and your party treats them that is the problem Bo...

----

"I always felt that the wall was more civil and was a reasonable deterrent. But I conceded your point that we need a more modern Hi-Tech solution. "

I wasn't making a point, I was being facetious! ESPECIALLY about arming them! I'm all for the 21st century surveillance to help limit terrorism and criminal elements, and even immigration border control. But you just thought and assumed the drones could easily pick people off and starting drooling all over it...

----

"Calling me a “xenophobic, racist, idiot” does not validate your comments." - Bo

No, but it does describe you to a tee...

bolake

Forgot to say Kill is correct except for the Trump comment. IMO

bolake

JD – You didn’t say “World food waste” you said “We throw enough food away”. We don’t even throw away enough food to feed 2 Billion. You only ½ corrected yourself because I showed how ridicules your statement was.
“xenophobic racist.” Over used phrase is meaningless.
“Yes! For sure!!!! Give them more aid!!” Isn’t that like extortion? Send more money or we will send more people. Lol
“Any country we decrease aid to fosters corruption, allows more tyrannical systems to come into power, and causes more people to be oppressed. Therefore more people end up leaving such nations and come here. By giving them aid we limit this.” This contradicts your statement to give them more money so they are encouraged to stay. So lame, you can’t have it both ways.
“We're not so great ourselves at times. But life here is still better than elsewhere.” Kind of contradicts what you said about how terrible bad we are.
I know in the past I have spoken about the criminal element with illegals. However, this time around I’m just talking about the sheer numbers. We are talking about 100,000 a month not a 100,000 a year.
Again I never said anything about Blacks or Mexicans steeling anything.
“Very obviously these people would get jobs, pay for things themselves, and contribute to their own livelihood.” Easier said than done. Not that they wouldn’t want to do that but the logistics just don’t support it. We already have over 500,000 homeless unemployed people in America. Perhaps we should focus on them first.
According to the Center for Immigration studies. “63% of Non-Citizen Households Access Welfare Programs” “Compared to 35% of native households” we need to create opportunities for less people to be on Welfare not more people.
Most of the asylum seekers are only going to qualify for minimum wage jobs. We all know that you can’t support a family on a minimum wage job. For those people that are in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15/Hour (which still isn’t enough to raise a family) bringing in 100,000 asylum seekers in every month is not going to help the cause. It will create an overabundance of workers willing to work for less.
You put the drone idea into my head when you convinced me months ago that the wall was medieval. I then looked into how we protect the borders in other areas of the world were we have a military presence and discovered that we use armed drones. I always felt that the wall was more civil and was a reasonable deterrent. But I conceded your point that we need a more modern Hi-Tech solution.
Calling me a “xenophobic, racist, idiot” does not validate your comments.

jdinfinity

I concede, world food waste would only feed an additional 2billion people according to the stats.

See Bo, I actually try to correct myself and hold myself accountable when I make mistakes or post false things here.

Something you NEVER do...

Next. Let us pick apart your drivel, statement by statement....

"Yup it is idiotically ironic that they would not stay in their beloved country and build structures, shelters and work the farm land at home." -Bo

Yes, and it's not idiotically ironic that you're a xenophobic racist.

Next.

"Are you suggesting that we increase foreign aid as a deterrent to immigrants coming here?" -Bo

See Bo, this is where you are so friggin' off-base, so stupid, it is mind boggling. Yes! For sure!!!! Give them more aid!!

Any country we decrease aid to fosters corruption, allows more tyrannical systems to come into power, and causes more people to be oppressed. Therefore more people end up leaving such nations and come here. By giving them aid we limit this.

Next.

"At what point do we make our country as bad as the country all these people are fleeing from. " -Bo

Is this before or after we incarcerate the most people as a modern nation? Have the most gun deaths per capita as one? Abort the most babies? Have the most school shootings? Promote human rights while supporting regimes that abuse them?

We're not so great ourselves at times. But life here is still better than elsewhere. But what I despise the most Bo, is you just assume that because refugees come here, that said refugees are just outright criminals. Most of them are civilians, and criminal records they have are marginal at best.

Criminal foreign invaders instead of legit families and people that need our help.

But you just choose the hate and fear card first rather than help...

Next.

"One word Drones. What would you do if I just showed up at your house uninvited and raided you wallet, fridge and took all you beer? You wouldn’t have much choice. Right? You would just let me waltz in and waltz out without saying a word. Right?" -Bo

In your pea sized, racist, xenophobic mind, you must be one of those people that think black people are going to come and steal everything, only this time they're Mexican.

Very obviously these people would get jobs, pay for things themselves, and contribute to their own livelihood. Yes new laws and policies will have to be created to adjust for these new immigrants. Including paying into Uncle Sam. But turning our backs on them doesn't seem like much of an option anymore.

Unlike some idiots that'd rather shoot them with drones to solve our problems.

Hive

I must have goofed. Thought topic entertained density demographic, not thinning-means etc.

bolake

Hive - 100,000 asylum seekers a month is not a crisis at the border? I have asked and asked and have never gotten an answer. How many asylum seekers are we to take in? When is enough enough? At what point do we make our country as bad as the country all these people are fleeing from. We fought a revolutionary war to get freedom from a government we did not care for. Perhaps it is time these people from 3 world countries do the same.

bolake

Hive - JD brought it up. "And then some say we should keep them out or shoot them down at the border with drones..."

Hive

Bo, you're "droning!" Missed the point, again.

bolake

JD – Closing the border is a stupid idea. Drones on the other hand, as you mentioned is very good idea. Besides my Drone stock could use a boost. If we cut foreign aid we could buy more Drones. Are you suggesting that we increase foreign aid as a deterrent to immigrants coming here? 100,000 asylum seekers a month is not a crisis at the border? Get Real. “We throw enough food away to feed the world 5 times over or more.” Very doubtful someone needs to fact check JD on that. The US population is about 350 Million. The World population is about 8 Billion. Even if we waste 50% of our food that would only feed another 350 Million. Not 40 Billion as JD claimed. Seriously JD I thought you told me your strong suite was math or economics or something other than stupidity. Then there is the logistics of getting it to the people that need it around the world before it spoils. Which is why we throw it out in the first place.
“The immigrants we're trying to turn away at the southern border are really really good at making structures, shelters, and/or working on farms.” “Hmmm? How idiotically ironic is that?” Yup it is idiotically ironic that they would not stay in their beloved country and build structures, shelters and work the farm land at home.
“Whether we like it or not, they're coming. Don't think we have much choice.” One word Drones. What would you do if I just showed up at your house uninvited and raided you wallet, fridge and took all you beer? You wouldn’t have much choice. Right? You would just let me waltz in and waltz out without saying a word. Right?
Glad to see you came to your senses in regards to the Muller Report.

Hive

JD, maybe not so dim, the man is obsessed with himself, meaning attention and winning. The phucker cheats at golf, only to win. And every one knows it, so no shame...as the SS service runs around with pockets full of golf balls,

We get what we deserve, until we puke it up.

jdinfinity

His closing the border thing, yet another stupid idea from a stupid man.

Auto manufacturing would come to a standstill. After that, recession.

Add to that cutting foreign aid to the countries that the most immigrants are flooding here from?

Will exacerbate the situation and make it ten-fold worse for too many people coming in..

Who needs the Mueller report when the idiocy keeps piling up all on its own without it..?

Hive

Nope, forget it...wrong thread...duh on me twice, better do leaves.

Hive

Typed DT meant JD...duh!

Hive

DT re Border Closings...he has stepped in it, even if he was attention-getting and now faces some push-back from republicans who have suffered from extreme tunnel vision for too long.

Hive

JD, also good comments for later consideration...if "they" are coming, why? Will "they"dilute? If too many people will Ma take here usual course and decrease what is surely overpopulation? And how does overpopulation differ from excessive immigrations?

Hive

Bo, you make a point good enough for me to say I agree...and save for later item
While our situ sucks lazy people tend to be like water...too many dingers here.

Hive

POTUS wants to close the border, and I hope he does...all geared to pooh on Mexicans and make DT look smart...he closes it, he's is done!

jdinfinity

It doesn't matter if it's here, there or anywhere else Bo. Human overpopulation is only going to get worse.

But, if more and more people come here to the US?

Is there enough food and shelter to accommodate them? Absolutely. We throw enough food away to feed the world 5 times over or more. Need more apartments, houses? And guess what? The immigrants we're trying to turn away at the southern border are really really good at making structures, shelters, and/or working on farms. Hmmm? How idiotically ironic is that?

So as for taking people in? By all means yes, friggin' yes. There are huge shortages of labor in this country, skilled especially.. By not taking people in we short change ourselves on bringing new minds, innovation and said skills to our country. And as will probably be shown by Trump's border shutdown idiocy policy crapola, xenophobia only leads to less economic benefits as opposed to more for everyone. What a stupid idea that is. Wow.

Room for plenty more, and whether we like it or not, they're coming. Don't think we have much choice.

But as for human overpopulation as a general notion? Totally different line of thought considering the parasitic and polluting despicable beings we are, and how we treat the planet. Fortunately that planet will be around after we're long gone, just to heal the damage we've done..

bolake

JD - You say we should “Take in those who are abused, and/or come from unsafe, terrible living conditions in whatever part of the world.” Ok, I get it you have compassion for others. That is very noble. My question to you is how many people do you want to accommodate? I read some where that 175 Million adults want to come to the US and live the American Dream. Assuming they bring their families that would be 700 Million immigrants. Twice the current population of the US. Do you honestly think we could support that many immigrants?

jdinfinity

Interesting. We support regimes and countries that commit human rights abuses all the time, otherwise we'd have no allies.

Ironic that we open arms to refuges fleeing some of these places when we might be the facilitator and incubator of such abuses, through either policy or apathy.

Regardless, this article, and attitudes like it are noble. As are American attitudes that embrace such ideals. Take in those who are abused, and/or come from unsafe, terrible living conditions in whatever part of the world.

And then some say we should keep them out or shoot them down at the border with drones...

Effective? No, because then it will further make new generations of people to hate us. Regardless, it's not very noble, not very American...

Hive

K, you may be correct. Gave me idea for later item. Thanks.

killallthelawyersfirst

I think perhaps Mr. Grabus is not quite right. If America did not exist, one wonders what this person would do? Not sure having a safe haven makes the world safer. Maybe a safe place to emigrate too makes it easier to run, instead of demanding basic human rights and quashing people like Trump and Latin tyrannies that terrify poor people, while we support them.

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