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'Operation Secure Line': US prepares to receive the migrant caravan: lane closures, barriers, at border crossings

US Customs and Border Patrol is warning that military-style security measures will increase border waiting times. Meanwhile, now that the election is over President Trump seems to have turned his attention elsewhere.
13 Nov 2018 – 05:21 PM EST
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In order to prepare for the arrival of the migrant caravan U.S. officials have announced lane closures and barriers at the border entry ports in southern California, starting Tuesday.

"At least three northbound vehicle lanes at San Ysidro and one lane at Otay Mesa will be closed to install "port hardening infrastructure equipment" in preparation for the migrant caravan," the US Customs and Border Patrol agency announced.

The military has already begun installing concertina wire, and pre-positioning barriers, barricades, and fencing as requested by CBP under what has been dubbed 'Operation Secure Line'.

The announcement comes several days after President Donald Trump signed a proclamation to change asylum rules and deny benefits to all immigrants entering the country illegally.

Trump declared war on the caravan of migrants from the outset and has said that it is mostly composed of criminals and "very bad thugs". But, one week after Election Day, Trump has cut back on his once daily attacks painting the migrants as potential terrorists intent on invading the U.S. from Mexico. He suggested sending up to 15,000 troops to the border, though there are currently only about 1,000 at the border itself and another 4,800 in staging areas nearby.

The migrant caravan is still about 1,000 miles from the southern border, on the outskirts of Guadalajara, but, judging by his social media accounts, Trump seems to have largely forgotten about them in the wake of the midterms, and is now more focused on the Florida recount.

On the event of the November 6 elections, Trump alleged repeatedly, without any evidence, that Democrats were supporting, and maybe funding — the caravan.

Where is the caravan?

The bulk of the migrant caravan, which left San Pedro Sula, Honduras on October 12, arrived Monday night in Guadalajara, Mexico. It is estimated that at least 4,500 migrants are still part of the caravan which has shrunk from its peak of 7,000 marchers. Most are seeking asylum in the United States after fleeing violence and poverty, despite warnings from the Trump administration that they are not welcome.

The carvaners say they hope to demonstrate a credible fear of persecution if they return to their countries, largely due to the threat of gangs, organized crime and official corruption.

The Trump government has assured that anyone who arrives at the border without legal documents will be detained while their asylum requests are processed.

Legal obstacles

The president has warned that he will deport the migrants once they reach the border, despite lwas and treaty agreements that prevent summary expulsion, especially in the case of minors whose cases must be adjudicated by a judge. Under the Flores agreement of 1997, minors cannot be held in federal detention centers.

The government also has limitations on the daily quota of detained immigrants. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency only has a maximum daily capacity of 44,400. If the number of daily detentions exceeds that number, those who do not pose a threat to national security are released on bail or with ankle bracelets on the understanding that they will attend a future immigration hearing.

'Credible fear'

Once the caravan reaches the border between Tijuana and San Diego, each member must request a number and wait until called. Currently, waiting times can take a couple of months.

Migrant who ask for asylum will have to pass a 'credible fear' interview to evaluate if they have a reasonable risk of persecution if they return to their country of origin,

"Prior to the 'credible fear' interview at the border, a preliminary interview is conducted with a CBP agent "to determine that the immigrant can move to the next level," said Ezequiel Hernández, an immigrant attorney who practices in Phoenix, Arizona.

The next step is the 'credible fear interview' that is performed by an asylum agent from the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said Rebeca Sánchez-Roig, an immigration attorney who previosuly worked at the Department of Justice. "It consists of a kind of interrogation of what has happened to the person in his country and if he has been persecuted, tortured, etc."

"If the asylum agent determines that the person has a credible fear, then he receives a hearing before an immigration judge, where he can apply for asylum in the United States," she added.

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