UT Immigration Clinic director hosts forum addressing border complicity

Aria Jones

The restrictive nature of asylum policies in the U.S. is “on steroids,” under the current government administration, said Denise Gilman, director for the Immigration Clinic and clinical professor at the University of Texas School of Law, during an immigration talk Monday.

More than 40 people attended Cross-Border Complicity: How Mexico and the U.S. Block Asylum Seekers in the Benson Latin American Collection conference room Monday afternoon. Gilman spoke about U.S. immigration policies while Elba Yanett Coria Marquez, the director of the Alaíde Foppa Legal Clinic for Refugees at the Ibero-American University in Mexico, spoke about Mexican immigration policies.

“The best way to think about what’s been happening for years, but particularly in the last year and a half or so under this administration, is a blockade of access to asylum,” Gilman said.

In her presentation, Gilman listed new limits on due process for asylum seekers and discussed policies like family separation and the Migrant Protection Protocols. Gilman said the two avenues for seeking asylum — being moved to the U.S. or arriving at a border or an airport — are both being blocked. She said the U.S. systematically violates due process, creates physical blockades which do not allow asylum seekers to reach U.S. territory and physically endangers asylum seekers.

Marquez explained that when Tonatiuh Guillén López, an immigration academic, began to oversee immigration under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2018, many changes were made to immigration policy.

Marquez said Mexico started basing its immigration strategy on human rights in 2018, with the goal of helping people and ending corruption. When large groups of Central American migrants began arriving in Mexico, however, it became a difficult situation for the new approach, Marquez said.

“We started to experience this kind of psychosis,” Marquez said. “On one side, we were persecuting all migrants, and on the other side, we tried to continue … cooperation with Central American countries.”

Gilman said advocates are working to create an effective system for asylum seekers who want to stay in Mexico. 

Education graduate student Sascha Fischel-Freeman said he attended the event because people should be concerned about the actions of their government.

“I don’t think that whether you’re a citizen or not speaks to our rights as human beings,” Fischel said. “If you look at history, this is not the first example where a group of people are scapegoated and persecuted and detained at massive levels.”