The Battle at the Border: A Fight for a Future

Last Updated: May 2, 2024By

The Battle at the Border: A Fight for a Future

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Searching for a Way Through

Angel Ramos Girón was desperately looking for an opening in the coils of razor wire blocking his way to the massive US fence near gate 36. He was at the port of entry, dividing the US from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, gazing towards El Paso, Texas.

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A Moment’s Relief

On that scorching Tuesday afternoon, Ramos Girón, a 27-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, found himself under a small bush south of the Rio Grande. He was trying to catch a break from the sweltering heatwave, with temperatures soaring to a blistering 107F.

Dreaming of Asylum

For a week, he had been pondering how to cross into the US without permission and ask for asylum. That day, he aimed to cut through the ever-present razor wire but discovered that everything had changed.

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Biden’s Shocking Announcement

Ramos Girón and other hopeful migrants near gate 36 were stunned when a reporter informed them about President Joe Biden’s new executive order. The order would close the border to asylum seekers entering illegally if the numbers got too high, effective immediately. “I’m screwed,” he muttered in Spanish, his face etched with despair. “I don’t know what to do and I don’t have any money left.”

New Rules, New Struggles

The new order would temporarily halt all asylum requests if the daily encounters of people crossing outside lawful ports of entry reached 2,500. The border would reopen only once that number dropped to 1,500. But how would federal agents across the nearly 2,000-mile border know when the limit was hit? How could they refuse asylum requests from those seeking protection under international law?

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The CBP One App

According to the White House, migrants could use the US Customs and Border Protection’s CBP One mobile app to schedule an appointment for legal asylum. But with fewer than 1,500 appointments available daily and thousands of people vying for them, it was a slim chance. Many waited months south of the border, often sleeping rough or in overcrowded shelters, trying daily without success. Plus, the app had technical glitches.

“Honestly, we didn’t consider using it. Besides, it would take forever to get an appointment,” said Salomé Hernández, standing near Ramos Girón with her little sister, mother, cousin, and grandfather. They had fled Medellín, Colombia, after her grandfather received death threats for his environmental activism.

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A Dangerous Decision

Eduardo, Hernández’s cousin, was considering persuading his family to cross illegally into the US through the New Mexico desert. But the desert was dangerous. Just last weekend, four migrants died from heat and dehydration in that very stretch.

Eduardo hoped to reach family in New York or Denver, wondering if Denver was walkable. It’s about 650 miles away.

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Desperation and Determination

On the US side, near the huge fence and razor wire, about 20 people, including children and a baby, were stuck in the blazing sun, unable to request asylum without an appointment. Ramos Girón saw the desert as his last option. “I’ve gone through a lot to get here. The sun doesn’t scare me,” he said.

He had been doing odd jobs in Mexico to support his family in Honduras, earning about $6 a day as a farmer. “I prefer to die trying than for my family to die of hunger,” he said.

The Calm on the Other Side

In stark contrast to the desperation on the Mexican side, the US side seemed calm. At the San Ysidro port of entry between Tijuana and California, it was business as usual. This corridor is one of the busiest land crossings in the world, but on Tuesday, it was calm.

Everyday Life Amid Crisis

People were going about their business, walking across the bridge that connects the two countries. Red trolleys at the San Ysidro transit center took passengers to other cities in southern California. Groups of people filtered in and out of small shops near the border, changing cash and ordering food.

Mixed Reactions

Abel Walser, a 26-year-old from Oceanside, crossing into the US with a friend, remarked, “This country was built to be a melting pot.” Gustavo Rodríguez, who lives in Tijuana but was born in San Diego, felt the president’s order was necessary. “I feel that it’s getting out of hand,” he said. Erika Palomo, passing through the transit center on her way back to Mexico, empathized with the asylum seekers, especially mothers and children.

A Glimpse of Hope

On the Tijuana side, cars waiting to enter the US lined up as far as the eye could see. People sold churros, candy, and trinkets to the drivers. The passport checkpoint was brisk, but another line, of undocumented people with suitcases, waited for a scrap of shade. Their fate was far more uncertain than it had been 24 hours earlier.

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