This spring, after former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, people watched in horror as children were ripped from the arms of their parents.
As public furor grew, the policy’s defenders threw around three words that muddied the reality of the situation: “Just come legally.” To avoid separation, they said, all families seeking entry simply need to report to a border crossing and declare they’re seeking asylum.
Under international law, it’s legal for immigrants to seek asylum in the United States, but starting that process at ports of entry isn’t as simple as the Trump administration makes it sound. The administration’s tactics have made it extremely difficult for asylum seekers to cross over legally.
I traveled to Brownsville on a cold, rainy morning to witness what’s happening as asylum seekers approach the bridges to South Texas from Matamoros, Mexico.
Elisa Filippone, a member of the refugee-aid group Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV (Rio Grande Valley), met me in front of the Gateway Bridge. Filippone, one of 11 core members of the Angry Tias, provides food, clothing and even temporary shelter to asylum seekers arriving at bus stations and bridges in Brownsville-Matamoros.