On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro walked from Mexico to Texas over a bridge with a group of 12 asylum seekers in defiance of Trump’s zero-tolerance policies punishing refugees escaping violence in Central and South America.
Eight of the refugees were gay men and lesbians from Cuba, Guatemala and Honduras, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The L.A. Times says all the refugees had previously been sent back to the U.S. by customs officers and told to wait in Mexico for their court dates — some had waited for four months already and knew they risked arrest and detainment by returning to the U.S. with Castro.
Castro’s return to the U.S. with them ended the same way, with them being told to return to Mexico to await their asylum hearing court dates.
Living in refugee camps near the border, the LGBTQ asylum seekers say they’ve faced physical threats and verbal harassment from fellow refugees. Thousands of refugees live in these camps under cramped conditions with sporadic food and water provided by overworked volunteers.
Castro said, “This president has helped create a humanitarian crisis … People are living in squalor. This ‘Remain in Mexico’ program is a complete disaster. People should not be living like this.”
The 12 immigrants accompanied by Castro represent just a small handful of the 50,000 refugees who’ve been told to wait in Mexico for their court hearings as part of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (aka. “Remain in Mexico”), a policy which took effect in January of this year.
At least 340 of these immigrants have faced incidents of rape, kidnapping and torture in Mexico while awaiting court hearings. Some have abandoned their hopes of asylum and returned to their homelands on free flights and buses paid for by the Mexican government and the U.N.-affiliated International Organization for Migration, The L.A. Times reports.
In the polls, Castro is currently tied at ninth place among the Democratic presidential candidates. Last month, he sat down to discuss trans issues with Mara Keisling, founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Though he may not get the presidency, his Latinx heritage and work as both San Antonio’s mayor and Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary make him a strong possible vice presidential pick.