Local Honduran mother continues to fight for asylum as migrant caravan tension continues

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – As the migrant caravan continues to be a heated topic in our country, a local Honduran mother is fighting to have her asylum case re-opened.

Vicky Chavez and her daughter came to the United States in 2014 from Honduras, to escape domestic violence and political unrest. Upon arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, Chavez was detained for five days before her family, who live in the U.S. were able to claim and free her from the detention center.

In January of this year, Chavez sought sanctuary at First Unitarian Church to avoid deportation. Six months later, her asylum case was denied.

“My daughter was crying and I told her, “I’m sorry for taking you to Honduras.” But I couldn’t take her back. I couldn’t take her to a violent place that has a lot of delinquency where we’re being threatened with death,” said Chavez. “I couldn’t take her to a country where I don’t have a family, home, or anyone to protect me in Honduras.”

Chavez said it’s difficult because for safety reasons, she and her daughter cannot leave the church. But she is thankful to have made it this far after seeing border agents tear gas members of the migrant caravan at the border.

“I know the majority of people who come in the caravan are fleeing from the violence in their countries. They’re fleeing from poverty,” said Chavez. “There’s people who have nothing to eat in Honduras and want a better future for their kids. They want to come and find asylum because like myself, you just can’t live in Honduras.”

Aden Batar, Director of Migration and Refugee Services at Catholic Community Services said denying asylum seekers at the border is against what the United States should stand for.

“When people are not being allowed to come to our country through the border, we’re violating international law,” said Batar. “The United States signed the Geneva Convention in 1951 that states anyone escaping prosecution, comes to our border, and applies for political asylum – we have to let them in.”

Chavez said those who label asylum seekers as terrorists or criminals fail to understand what they are going through.

“They’re people who don’t understand what the people in our countries are suffering from. They’re people who have never lacked a mouthful of food or hide from murderers or criminals who assault you and kill you if you don’t give them your belongings without a motive or purpose,” said Chavez. “I ask these people to have a little more sympathy and to be more conscious of what’s occurring and to support us. We don’t come to steal or ask anything from the government, but just to obtain a chance to move forward and feel safe.”

Chavez has appealed her case to the 10th circuit court, hoping to reverse the deportation order. She said everyday is now a waiting game, because it could take as long as five years before she hears from a judge on her case.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson Michael Bars explained through a statement to ABC 4 News that there is an ‘extremely low bar’ for establishing credible fear for asylum seekers, making it ‘ripe for fraud and abuse.’

“This is because once an individual overcomes this low threshold, the vast majority are then referred to an immigration judge and most are released on a promise to appear for a court date weeks, months, or years down the line, regardless of whether they plan to show up. In other words, a credible fear referral doesn’t equal asylum status, but it does earn a free ticket into the U.S., allowing individuals to disappear into the interior to live and work illegally,” said Bars in the statement.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the overall screen-in rate for credible fear for 2018’s fiscal year was 76 percent. Between April and June of this year, the rate was 93 percent with 374 out of 401 claims receiving credible fear referrals.

USCIS reported that referrals for credible fear between 2010 and 2018 has increased 1005 percent (from 8,959 to 99,035).

“This staggering increase has contributed to a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases in our courts,” said Bars in the statement. “The surge is only growing, with reports showing that asylum requests at the Southwest border have recently increased 1,500 per week to approximately 2,000 to 2,500.”

Officials said they surpassed the record set for credible fear asylum requests this year with 99,035. The last record set was in 2016 with 94,048.

“The reality is that our asylum system is being exploited by those simply seeking economic opportunity, not those fleeing persecution, exacerbating crisis after crisis at our Southern border and keeping those who truly need asylum in the back of the line. Congress must act to help fix this persisting abuse of our asylum system by raising the credible fear standard,” said Bars in the statement.

For more data and statistics on credible fear reports, click here.

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