Wednesday, July 17, 2019

America Ferrera leads Tijuana migrant shelter visit, calls for changes to U.S. asylum policy


By Nicole Acevedo

Actress America Ferrera and a group of actors and activists have spoken out against the Trump administration policy requiring migrants seeking asylum in the United States to have to wait in Mexico instead.

The actress led a group including Gina Rodríguez, Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, Kendrick Sampson and Roselyn Sánchez to a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, across the border from San Diego. The group met with immigration lawyers and shelter managers, spent time with children and listened to families detail their journeys from Central America through Mexico seeking asylum.

Eva Longoria holds a baby while speaking to the mother at a migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico.Arlene Mejorado

“It is easy for me to look at these human beings and see myself,” Ferrera told the Associated Press about the visit on Sunday. “This could very easily have been my reality in this lifetime,” said the actress, whose family is originally from Honduras.

Under the policy enacted by the Trump administration, U.S. border agents process only a handful of asylum requests per day. And even those who file for asylum are not allowed to wait in the U.S. while their immigration case is pending; they have remain in Mexico until the process is fully over, which could take months or years.

A group of actors and actresses, including America Ferrera, Kerry Washington, and Eva Longoria, traveled to the Mexican border to visit with migrants in a shelter in Tijuana.Arlene Mejorado

The slow process has clogged the U.S. immigration system by creating case backlogs and overcrowding shelters in Mexican border towns. Most shelters can only accommodate a few dozen migrants at a time, even though thousands of Central American families, mainly women and children, have recently made the journey north, citing violence and poverty as their main reasons for leaving.

“We were able to bear witness to how the current administration is treating refugee families. We MUST demand better,” Washington, who is known for her starring role in the ABC TV show “Scandal,” said in an Instagram post. “Let me be clear: it is legal to seek asylum. When people cross our borders, their human rights come with them. We must protect those human rights.”

The group went with the nonprofit advocacy groups Families Belong Together and Harness — an organization started by Ferrera, Wilmer Valderrama and Ryans Piers, who also attended the trip.

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