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The making of Trump trauma

Dr. Belinda Hernández Arriaga  |  Issue: October 2020

Refugee camp in Tamaulipas, Mexico

Migrant mothers children in Matamoros
Migrant mothers and their children in Matamoros, Mexico.
PHOTO: MANUEL TORRES

The humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border has demanded immediate action to stop the suffering that asylum seekers are enduring under the cruel policies enacted over the past year by the U.S. government. Specifically, the Migration Protection Policy (MPP) forces asylum seekers to wait indefinitely on the Mexican side of the border, while their court dates continue to get pushed further and further into the future. Families awaiting their day in court have reported that due to COVID-19 their September appointment dates have now been pushed into January of 2021. As of this month, many have lived a full year in what has come to be known as “El Campamento” or “The Camp.”

To fully understand the challenges and suffering of asylum seekers you must understand the conditions of The Camp. Children and their families are living in tents in an open field in one of Mexico’s most dangerous regions, known for aggressive cartel violence and kidnappings.

Conditions are deplorable. There are rats, snakes and mosquitoes.

In August, flooding from hurricanes threatened the well-being of the camp, many losing their homemade kitchens and their few belongings. Parents have reported that their children are losing their appetites and illnesses are escalating, while mental health among asylum seekers is declining. Hope is turning into despair daily. Recently, several drownings have been reported at the border. One mother shared her fears saying, “El Rio Bravo es el ladrón de mis sueños” (the Rio Grande is stealing my dreams).

COVID has added another layer to the already-limited resources. The border has been shut to volunteers and the number of U.S. organizations that asylum seekers have come to depend on for safety and support.

Migrants camp in Tijuana
Migrants try to keep their camp clean. Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico 2018
PHOTO: MARGARITO DIAZ

The separation of families has continued. Families are now being forced to decide whether to send their children to live with their family members, so to spare them from the grueling conditions, or to have their children suffer alongside them.

As night falls, hunger sets in and fear takes over. Families ask why the United States would put us through this. They are fleeing danger, violence, and cannot turn back. They are in a dangerous limbo, fearful of returning home and terrified of their current life in Matamoros as they endure the wait imposed by the U.S. legal asylum request process. Most lack access to legal representation, or to the resources needed to understand their court process. MPP was set up to deter and destroy the decades-old U.S. asylum process.

One thing about MPP on the Mexican side of the border is that there are few media reports about what families are experiencing. Our Bay Area Border Relief team has been working hard to be present at the camp, to provide asylum seekers with supplies and resources as well as mental health support every three months. Now our team receives daily calls from the camps, during which people speak of stress, helplessness, and fear and ask about their court dates, wondering how they will endure the long wait.

Our call to action is NOW! We must vote, we must write letters to our representatives demanding change, we must demand an end to MPP. We must stand UNIDOS in this struggle for every asylum seeker at our borders. This humanitarian crisis demands that we call for an end to the inhumanity and destructiveness of asylum, and that the United States recognizes the irreparable harm of what I call
“Trump Trauma” that is in every child and family waiting for asylum under MPP.

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