As Biden’s asylum ban comes into effect, migrants will face a new reality at the U.S./Mexico border.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Reuters) – Jessica Leon, a woman seeking asylum from Ecuador, and her 3-year old daughter scaled a wall at the border on Tuesday, hours before a ban on asylum took effect.

She and a dozen others migrants from Guatemala and Colombia who had climbed the wall turned themselves into U.S. border officials. They were told to walk towards Whiskey 8, a dusty patch of U.S. land between two border fences, the first separating the U.S. and Mexico; the second being a larger obstacle a few yards to the north.

Open-air detention sites have become a symbol for the chaotic asylum process in the United States, which U.S. president Joe Biden claims is desperately in need of reform. Biden announced a new executive order on Tuesday that implemented an asylum ban. This allows U.S. Immigration officials to deport illegal migrants back to Mexico or their home country.

Immigrant activists criticized Biden’s move. They said it was a mirror image of the hardline policies of his Republican predecessor, former President Donald Trump. The two will be facing off again in the November 5 elections.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced that it would sue Biden over his measures.

Leon and her daughter arrived only hours before the policy went into effect on Wednesday at 12:01 am EDT, or 9:01 pm Tuesday in San Diego.

Whiskey 8 is a destination that some asylum seekers choose on their own. Other detainees who were held by Border Patrol agents elsewhere between the walls are directed to Whiskey 8 for further processing.

On Wednesday, it was unclear how long the Whiskey 8 would continue. Aid workers reported that a group consisting of 85 migrants had gathered again on Wednesday morning despite the ban being in effect.

Migrants who use a government-run app to find a port of entry will be allowed in, just like those waiting in Tijuana on Tuesday to cross.


Leon, a housekeeper of 28 years old, spent her last $3,000 to travel overland for a month from Ecuador. She said that she hoped her daughter would have a better future.

She said “I’m by myself with her” as she looked down on her daughter, breaking into tears in the brief interview between the bollards a 30 foot (9 meter) border fence.

Whiskey 8 is a place where Border Patrol officers can meet with immigration lawyers, journalists, and aid workers who are gathering on the other side. The bollards on the border wall are far enough apart for people to be able to communicate, receive food and water or charge their phones, but they are too close to allow a person to pass.

Leon, when asked why she left her home in Cuenca (an Andean city), cited the criminal climate: “They kill, they steal, they extort.”

U.S. asylum laws require proof of persecution based on race, religion or nationality. Cases are usually decided by immigration judges.

Biden’s policy could result in more asylum claims being rejected earlier or even some people being denied outright, if they do not express a fear of returning.

In his proclamation, Biden stated that during the recent five-year period, 83% of asylum seekers passed the initial screening but less than 25 % were granted asylum or another protection. This was often done after waiting for years due to backlogs in immigration courts.

According to the new rule the time that asylum seekers have to find an attorney is reduced from 24 to 4 hours, according to two U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials who spoke under condition of anonymity in order to discuss government activities.

One DHS official said that the goal is to screen all migrants more quickly – perhaps in less than a week. Families of migrants could be held in tents near the border as their deportation cases were evaluated. DHS did respond immediately to a comment request.

San Diego is a major entry point for migrants all over the globe in recent months. This has put pressure on border agents as well as immigration service providers.

In recent months, migrants who crossed illegally in other parts of the San Diego region have gathered in several makeshift locations to await Border Patrol agents.

Jairon Lopez was a 26-year-old moto taxi driver from Guatemala. He too said that he fled extortion by gangs from the town of Chiquimulilla.

It’s the same as that saying ‘Plata o plomo’. Lopez said that they say this in Guatemala, a phrase which roughly translates as “Your money or your own life.”

He hitchhiked across Mexico and arrived at Whiskey 8, just hours before Biden’s deadline.

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