Human Rights Lawyer Jennifer Harbury on How Trump Is Punishing Cartels’ Victims

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue to look at President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the US border, we turn now to Texas-based human rights lawyer Jennifer Harbury, who’s lived in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas for more than 40 years. Her husband, Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, a Mayan comandante, was disappeared after he was captured by the Guatemalan army in the ’80s. After a long protest campaign, Harbury found US involvement in the murder and cover-up of her husband. Now she continues to work with people fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, who have come to the United States seeking asylum, and makes connections between US foreign policy and people seeking political asylum in Central America.

We spoke just a week ago in Brownsville, Texas, when I met with her right there along the border. I started by asking her what happens when people follow the US government’s instructions and attempt to apply for political asylum at a legal port of entry.

JENNIFER HARBURY: We’re part of various treaties on refugees, and we executed those into our own domestic laws. It’s in there. And it says the person, under 8 USC. 1225, goes up to the port of entry, knocks on the door and literally says, “I’m in danger. I need to apply for asylum.” And as I said earlier, they then go to a credible fear interview and then to a detention center, initially, and they’ll be put in proceedings before an immigration judge. The way—the norm that has always been in place for either group of people, whether they went by the river or went across the bridge, is that if they’ve got perfectly good identification, they’ve never committed a crime, they’re not a threat to anyone, they’re just on the run from the cartels, and they have legal status relatives, citizen or LPR, who will take them in and sponsor them and pay all their expenses—

AMY GOODMAN: What does LPR mean?

JENNIFER HARBURY: Legal permanent resident. If they have all of that, then they have…

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