Migrants fear violence, poverty more than Trump

US President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on undocumented immigrants does not mean much to Central American families crossing Mexico, who say they are more afraid of violence and poverty at home.
In the border city of Tijuana, across from San Diego, California, the Mendez family has been waiting two weeks for US officials to let them request asylum. The family of five trekked all the way from their native El Salvador, only to be told the border post was already saturated with asylum requests.
The long wait to formally request asylum is pushing many migrants to cross the border illegally, according to activists.
Under Trump’s zero tolerance policy, that exposes them to arrest. It also put families at risk of separation in the US, until Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday ending the practice.
The shift came after images and recordings of wailing children detained in cage-like enclosures caused global outrage — but does not resolve the fate of the more than 2,300 children already separated from their parents. None of that has any impact on the Mendez family’s determination to reach the United States.
“We don’t see going back to where we came from as an option. Or staying in Mexico either. It’s dangerous here too. There are Mexicans also fleeing,” said Jose Abel Mendez, 28, who is travelling with his wife and children, aged 10 months, six and 10.
The Trump administration says the zero tolerance policy is meant to deter illegal border crossings, and has portrayed the separation of children from their parents as the inevitable consequence of arresting the parents for a crime.
Brutal crime by street gangs has given Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala some of the highest murder rates in the world.
Many migrants have only a vague idea of US policy and how they will be affected.
In the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Catholic priest Javier Calvillo, who runs a shelter for US-bound migrants, says families have stopped arriving there. “Since things heated up (with news of family separations), families don’t want to go to shelters with their kids,” he said. — AFP