“It should not take a call to a congressperson for a child with blood clots in the brain or [a] tangled spinal cord to be considered urgent humanitarian circumstances,” one attorney said.
A child with a blood clot in her brain. A 7-year-old with a skin condition that threatened her organs. A couple who faced anti-gay threats back home. Every time, US border officials ignored or denied their requests for humanitarian parole without explanation, forcing the immigrants to wait in squalid, dangerous conditions in Mexico.
For months, attorneys in Nogales, Arizona, located along the US–Mexico border, have been waiting to hear back on the fate of their asylum-seeking clients who are particularly vulnerable to violence or need medical care they can’t get in Mexico.
Up until mid-December, the vast majority of the requests for humanitarian relief had yet to get a response. Officially known as humanitarian parole, it allows immigrants who are otherwise ineligible to enter the US to come into the country based on urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons. It’s also one of the few ways asylum-seekers can currently seek protection from within the US instead of abroad. That’s why advocates say timely decisions and specific information about why someone is denied are crucial.
Each day that passes means the asylum-seekers continue to wait in border cities where they’re often targeted for extortion, kidnapping, or assault, said Chelsea Sachau, an attorney with the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, which provides free legal aid to detained immigrants facing deportation in Arizona and asylum-seekers in Nogales, Mexico.
It was only when she told Customs and Border Protection that she was going to ask members of Congress to intervene that the agency granted exemptions to four families, which allowed them to enter the US without humanitarian parole.
“It should not take a call to a congressperson for a child with blood clots in the brain or [a] tangled spinal cord to be considered urgent humanitarian circumstances and therefore allowed into the US,” Sachau said.