HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Houston immigration attorney Ruby Powers is volunteering with the non-profit Al Otro Lado at the U.S.-Mexico border to offer legal consultations to some of the thousands of asylum seekers.
"I'm here in Tijuana and there's about 5,000 people waiting on this list to be called in to be allowed in the U.S," Powers told FOX 26 in a video call.
She says there are about 30 shelters in and around Tijuana housing migrants while they wait. Some of waited over a month to be called.
"There's been people who have been waiting before [the migrant caravan] came because this list has been here for a while. It just really didn't get a lot of attention until the last couple of months," Powers explained.
She describes the situation there as manufactured chaos. Those in charge of the lists are volunteers trying to work with both governments.
"The U.S. government tells the Mexican government who tells the list monitors how many people they can take in every day," she added.
According to Powers, in the last three days only 40 to 90 people were allowed to enter the U.S. at a time to speak to U.S. immigration officials.
She says most of the migrants she’s met are from countries in Central America plagued by violence.
Powers recalled a story about a migrant she advised on her first day in Tijuana. He fled his country someone tried to kill him with a machete and he had scars all over his body.
"It's very common to have someone murdered in their family. It seems like a dad, an uncle, a brother," she said.
Powers believes this severe bottleneck at the border could have been prevented if more people were processed at a time. She also believes candidates for asylum should not be detained for very long. Instead, she says, they should be released with ankle monitors while they wait to go before an immigration judge. During that time, they would stay with a sponsoring family member.
But she says that’s gotten harder with recent policy changes.
She says some of the migrants will fear their persecutors will come find them while they wait in shelters in Tijuana.