Members of Congress, asylum seekers, and immigration activists caged at the border

Two members of Congress, along with 15 asylum seekers and leaders from immigrant activist group Families Belong Together, were caged together overnight at the Otay Mesa port of entry near San Diego. The group intended to observe how detained migrants are treated when attempting to claim asylum.

In a statement to ThinkProgress, Families Belong Together said the incident amounted to the Trump administration making a “mockery of our long-held democratic values and our legal process.”

Democratic Reps. Nanette Barragan and Jimmy Gomez, who both represent the greater Los Angeles area, live-tweeted their frustrating experiences with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) throughout the night.

CBP agents told the representatives repeatedly that their group could not be processed that day due to “capacity issues.” When asked for proof, agents refused to show the extent to which the Otay Mesa facility was full.

According to Barragan and Gomez, CBP agents routinely gave them a hard time, making snide comments and jokes at the expense of the asylum seekers.

“And then we wonder why asylum seekers are not treated with dignity and respect,” Barragan tweeted. “It makes me sick.”

Eventually CBP caged the group together on the U.S. side of the border.

By late Monday evening, most of the 15 asylum seekers in their group had been taken in for processing, including the Honduran mother and her five children who were photographed fleeing tear gas fired by Border Patrol in Tijuana last month.

The remaining asylum seekers who were part of the group had all been processed by early Tuesday.

In a statement to ThinkProgress,

“We are so glad these refugees were eventually able to legally request asylum, but it shouldn’t take congressional escorts and subjection to intimidation tactics and imprisonment to do it,” a Families Belong Together spokesperson said in a statement to ThinkProgress. “The real threat to us is not refugee families and children looking for safety at a legal port of entry; it’s this attack on core American values of family and fairness in service of a shameful political agenda.”

Barragan and Gomez’s real-time tweets about the experience help illustrate the cruelty of what an asylum ban along the U.S.-Mexico border could look like.

Last month, President Trump proposed a policy that would effectively prohibit people who cross between ports of entry from applying for asylum. The asylum ban is currently being challenged in court by the ACLU. As of Monday, a federal judge in California has postponed any further action on the policy.

Applying for asylum is not illegal, yet the administration has done everything it can to criminalize the process. Under U.S. law, individuals can apply for asylum at any port of entry — but in practice, migrants are routinely being turned away, told to come back a different time, or travel to a separate port of entry. This is because the Trump administration has implemented a process of “metering” asylum applications at the border, letting in only a small number of migrants in each day.

Denying individuals the right to apply for asylum is major violation of international human rights.

Source: thinkprogress