Heinrich slams president’s plan to limit asylum seekers

By:  Patrick Hayes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is criticizing the president’s plan to limit the number of asylum seekers coming into the United States.

Earlier this month, the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement that prevented President Trump from imposing tariffs on goods from Mexico.

Part of that plan includes expanding the Migrant Protection Protocols program which keeps immigrants seeking asylum in Mexico before their court date.

"Right now they have effectively shut down the bridge in El Paso,” said Heinrich, a Democrat representing New Mexico.

“That's the place, under the law, refugees are supposed to show up and present themselves,” he said.

Heinrich said the policy will cause immigrants to cross illegally.

"When you get 50 or 100 people showing up at Antelope Wells – that is a direct result of this administration throttling the legal port of entry that is supposed to be addressing the issue," Heinrich said. 

As KOB 4 previously reported, there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of immigrants coming into the country and an enormous backlog of immigration cases.

According to Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, there are nearly 900,000 cases waiting to get heard.

Trump has tried speeding up the process by imposing quotas and deadline but some say that’s unethical.

"To rush these asylum seekers in looking to expedite these processes because cases are complex, gathering evidence is difficult,” said immigration attorney Xavier Mendez.

“When somebody is fleeing, your mentality is to save your life. Not to build your case from there,” he added.

Mendez also believe the policy will cause asylum seekers to cross the border illegally.

“So after a couple of weeks, they cannot keep up. And they say I’m just going to try and get across illegally. That is what I see being the crack in this policy of having them wait,” said Mendez.

In the meantime, Heinrich told KOB 4 that immigration judges should handle cases on a case-by-case basis.

"I think judges should follow the facts of the cases,” he said.

Tabaddor suggests moving the court out of the Department of Justice.

The problem, according to her, is that the DOJ is run by the attorney general which is appointed by the president.

Therefore, the DOJ is in charge of prosecuting and ruling on each case.

“So the way that the court is being administered is not like a court. It’s like a law enforcement agency," said Tabaddor.

"And that has created in large part a lot of these backlogs that we see and a lot of the challenges we’re facing," she added.