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Asylum seekers continue to cross into U.S. despite Biden's restrictions

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We turn now to the U.S.-Mexico border. President Biden recently issued executive actions that severely restrict asylum for immigrants who crossed the border with no authorization. Today, our correspondent, Jasmine Garsd, was in a remote area in California where asylum-seekers continue to come in. Here's Jasmine with the story.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: The heat out here in Jacumba Valley in San Diego County is oppressive. As I drove along the border wall, I spotted a woman walking on the side of the road.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: This is America?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: This is America.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, God. Thank you, God.

GARSD: She walks off before giving her name. She's one of many that keep arriving at this camp where about 150 people are waiting in an open field for Border Patrol. They want asylum. Some say they've been sleeping out here for days. Frank, from Colombia, is dehydrated. He's been throwing up.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERSON VOMITING)

GARSD: A local resident who regularly comes here to help migrants brings him a Gatorade.

FRANK: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: Frank tells me an armed group back home demanded extortion and threatened his family. For their safety, he's asked that NPR withhold his last name.

FRANK: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: He and his wife couldn't pay. They fled. They heard that the first 2,500 people to cross the border every day will be allowed to apply. This is incorrect. Currently, as per the executive actions, the entire Southern border is closed to migrants crossing without authorization. These people here are in a sort of temporary limbo. They're uncommunicated. They don't have a court date, not yet. They're stranded in a remote scalding valley waiting.

(CROSSTALK)

GARSD: When Border Patrol agents show up, they line up men and women separately.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: An officer asks each woman if she's pregnant or sick. He announces that only single ones will be taken in for processing. Frank looks at his wife. Tell them you're single, he urges. They're going to give you asylum.

FRANK: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Crying).

GARSD: "Be strong." They kiss. She goes into the Border Patrol van. The thing is, the new rule says she'll be subject to expedited removal. So will everyone out here unless they have exceptional circumstances like being victims of human trafficking. The van takes off, leaving the 80 or so remaining migrants in a cloud of dust. One young man starts to have a panic attack. He says he hasn't eaten in three days. Karen Parker, a local volunteer, rushes to assist him.

DAVID: (Speaking Spanish).

KAREN PARKER: Breathe. Just breathe, baby. Just breathe.

GARSD: His name is David.

DAVID: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: "I can't go back to Colombia," David says. When a gang in his neighborhood found out he was gay, he was beaten badly...

DAVID: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: ...And left partially blind. He asked that we not use his last name because his mother back home has also been threatened by the gang. President Biden's rule has been criticized from all sides. Republicans say the border needs to be shut down completely. The ACLU and several other organizations are suing. They say people like David have a right to request asylum, no matter how they come in. Out here in the dust, David exhales in relief as volunteer Karen Parker pours water over the back of his head.

PARKER: There you go. You're close.

DAVID: (Speaking Spanish).

PARKER: Yeah. You're close. You're so close.

GARSD: But for now, this might be the closest he gets. Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, San Diego. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.
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