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688: The Out Crowd

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Prologue: Prologue

Ira Glass

A quick warning-- there are curse words that are unbeeped in today's episode of the show. If you prefer a beeped version, you can find that at our website-- thisamericanlife.org. Darwin's nine. And he's a kid who-- I don't know-- people just give him stuff. When he met my co-worker, Aviva, he was playing with a soccer ball somebody gave him, eating a taco somebody else gave him. And Darwin's mom was explaining all this.

Elizabeth

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Aviva Dekornfeld

Can you just describe what just happened?

Elizabeth

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

I have no idea, she says.

Aviva Dekornfeld

A man, as you were talking about people just giving him things, walked by and gave you-- how much did he give you? Diez?

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Aviva Dekornfeld

Wow.

Elizabeth

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

10 pesos.

Aviva Dekornfeld

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Why'd he give you that? Aviva asks him. Darwin gives a little shrug like, eh, what can I say?

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Because he thought I was asking for a coin. His mom says, he was just sitting there eating.

Aviva Dekornfeld

You're like king of the camp.

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Yes, I am the king of the camp, he says. As Aviva sits there with Darwin's mom, Elizabeth, he runs off for 15, 20 minutes at a time. And then returns with cash.

Elizabeth

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

$5. She hugs him.

Elizabeth

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Darwin runs to their tent to pull out all the money he's saved and show Aviva-- $279, a huge wad of cash, which for context, they're living in a makeshift tent camp in Matamoros, Mexico, right over the border from Brownsville, Texas. And, I mean, immediately on the other side-- nestled against the US, and the Rio Grande, and the customs office. You can see the big red arches of the border station it's so close.

Over 2,500 people living here, hoping to get asylum in the US. Darwin and his mom came here from Honduras. 279 bucks here is huge.

Most people, even the migrants who came with a little money saved, have been here so long, they've spent it all. Our family sends us money, his mom says. Lots of families do that. But he brings in so much more than they send.

Elizabeth

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Aviva then follows Darwin as he walks from the tents to the long line of cars that's waiting at the border to cross into the United States. He's a happy-looking kid with neatly cut hair and a big smile. Really cute.

Darwin gives a fist bump to the fruit stand guy. Claps the man selling corn on the back to say hello. Nods to the half-dozen other vendors working the line. Remember, he's nine.

When we asked one woman in the camp about him, she was like, oh, El Terremoto-- The Earthquake. He holds a finger in the air, asking for one coin.

He says that's his move-- ask for a coin, and then hopefully they'll give you more than a coin. And, in fact, a car with three women waves him over. And the woman in the passenger seat rolls down her window and hands him a dollar.

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Thanks. Bless you. Are you Cuban? He asks her.

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

He says, I knew it-- from your accent. And she's like, right. You thought I was from Cuba. And they laugh. The woman asks his name, and he tells her.

She says she likes his hair. I like your hair, he says. He reaches out to stroke her hair. It's straight and blond. I like your hair because it's pretty, he says. And she laughs and claps her hands. Look at what a flirt he ended up being.

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Oh, my god. You have a girlfriend?

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

You, you.

Woman

Bye, Darwin!

Darwin

Bye. Bye.

Ira Glass

Darwin runs to his mom, who's watching all this, and gives her the dollar. Both of them, and the thousands of other people camped here at the border-- to be clear, they're trying to follow the rules and enter the United States through a border station and formally apply for asylum. It used to be, you'd show up. If you passed a basic interview-- which most people did-- you'd wait in the US for your day in court.

But now it's all different. Under the Trump administration's Remain in Mexico policy, you get turned back to wait in Mexico. This policy is still pretty new. It really kicked in full force this summer, but it's a profound change with massive consequences.

One of them? The size of this camp, which didn't exist before President Trump, and which grows in size every day. And all across Mexico, in cities just on the other side of the border, there are now tens of thousands of people-- according to the Department of Homeland Security-- stranded under this policy, in shelters, on the streets, and in encampments like this one, sent by our government without much of a plan for where or how they'd live once they got to Mexico.

This camp, for instance, is totally improvised-- long rows of scruffy blue and white and gray tents, over 700 of them, donated by do-gooder groups and churches in America. These are Coleman tents meant for weekend camping, not designed for rain and direct sun and cold for months at a time.

There's no regular water supply here. Volunteer groups from over the border in Brownsville haul in over 3,000 bottles of water each day, and these are just the little 16-ounce bottles like you would buy with your lunch at a fast food place. There's no proper sanitation, just five toilets for 2,500 people-- yellow Porta Potties which get precisely as gross as you would imagine.

One of the fathers here, Elwin David Baquis told me that when his eight-year-old daughter needs the bathroom--

Elwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

Well, you know, if I have some money, then I'll look and see if I can find her another bathroom to use, but if there isn't any, then I'll take her out into the woods-- into the mountain, so that she can, you know, use the bathroom, do her business, and then we'll go down to the river to wash up.

Elwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

And honestly, with the amount of people using them, in five hours, they'll be totally full. And people still keep on going to use them, especially women, because as you can imagine, you know, like, there's a bunch of men out there in the woods that are using the bathroom, and they don't want to be surrounded by that.

Ira Glass

There's a nurse at the camp named Helen Perry who runs a very small relief group with a very grand-sounding name-- Global Response Management. With some volunteers, she started a medical tent in the camp, modeled after the battalion aid stations that she learned to set up back when she was in the army. Anyway, I mentioned all of this to Helen-- that this father and daughter were going up in the woods. And she was like, oh yeah, knew that.

Helen Perry

Yeah. And then when it rains, all that rainwater washes down there, or it washes into the hard spaces in the camp and they get, you know, infectious diarrhea.

Ira Glass

Are you seeing a lot of infectious diarrhea?

Helen Perry

Yes. Most everyone here has some form of GI something or other-- you know, different types of tapeworms and ringworms. And the problem is is that you treat it, and then they come right back out and they get it again.

Ira Glass

I actually met Elwin because he was Helen's first patient of the day. He and his daughter both had pinkeye from bathing in the Rio Grande, which is not clean. Helen's trying to organize a fix for that.

Helen Perry

So this is actually one of areas that we're talking about bringing in a water purification system. So the Rio Grande is, like, right down there. Hola.

Man

Hola.

Helen Perry

And so what we want to do is put in a water purification system right over here, run a hose out into the water. It'll suck up the water, purify it, and they'll have their own water source.

Ira Glass

And you're the one organizing this?

Helen Perry

Yeah.

Ira Glass

Not a government?

Helen Perry

No, no.

Ira Glass

Not the UN?

Helen Perry

Nope.

Ira Glass

Just you, a person.

Helen Perry

I've never-- people are like, have you done water? And I'm like, no, but like, I'll Google it.

Ira Glass

I have to say, this is the thing that hit me hardest in Matamoros. You have thousands of people stuck there, right on our border, two big governments-- the United States and Mexico-- one of them, of course, a lot richer than the other, and nobody's looking after these people with food and water and shelter, except a bunch volunteers who raised their hands and said, we cannot ignore this.

Woman

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Crowd

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Woman

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Good afternoon. Today we have volunteers from Indiana.

Woman

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

From Indianapolis.

Woman

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Really far.

Woman

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

To cook for you.

Woman

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Because we're all brothers, right?

Woman

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

[APPLAUSE]

Ira Glass

So let's say thanks with a round of applause. Eight very nice ladies from Indiana in fluorescent green t-shirts start serving food out of aluminum foil trays, food for 1,000 people. It cost $1,900, which they raised back home in 20 dollar donations. They also paid for their own flights and everything.

An impressively competent group that calls itself Team Brownsville, started by a bunch of teachers, all volunteer, has organized it so a different bunch of people shows up five nights a week with food. They also pay for a Matamoros restaurant to deliver hundreds of breakfasts each day. The food today is fresh, but very north of the border, and very plain-- slices of ham and cheese on white bread, tangerines, grapes, baby carrots. Everybody we ask about the food, though, is polite enough to say how great it is.

Man

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Aviva Dekornfeld

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Man

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

It's tasty, this guy tells Aviva.

Aviva Dekornfeld

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Man

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Woman

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

It's tasty, right? He says to the woman next to him. Oh sure, very tasty, she says. As soon as Aviva walks away, the interpreter who was with us for the day, Gabby Muñoz, overhears what happens next.

Gabriela Mu

Oh yeah, then afterwards, like, her friend, or like, the guy or the person's friend was like, what did she ask you? And he's like, well, she asked me how good the food was and I said it was good, but what the fuck else was I supposed to say? [LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

Generally, they try to get the volunteers out of the camp by nightfall, because Matamoros isn't safe. The cartels are here. The city has one of the highest kidnapping rates in Mexico, according to the US State Department. Its web page about Matamoros says, murder, carjacking, and sexual assault are common. Gang gun battles are widespread. Anybody here is at high risk.

Not far from where they serve the food, like, just 20 feet or so from the actual border station, a woman named Jenny and her husband and her daughter set up their tent. I asked her if she chose that spot because it seemed like the safest, closes into the border like that.

Jenny

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

She said yes, and explained that she and her husband and daughter had been kidnapped in the last city they were in.

Jenny

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

So it was in Reynosa, and we were kidnapped for 15 days.

Jenny

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

She starts to tell the story of her family and the cartel, and the house they were held in, but as she does, a man quietly approaches and just kind of hovers nearby, listening. And she says, atras, atras, atras-- look behind you-- and covers her face.

Jenny

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

You can't talk about this. He's behind.

Jenny

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

We switch the subject. He goes away. A journalist who's in this camp a lot confirmed that he was a cartel guy. How much violence there is against people in the camp is not clear.

The nurse, Helen Perry, has heard about people being kidnapped from the camp, but that's hard to confirm. And she told me this story.

Helen Perry

When I first showed up in the camp, a woman came up to me and asked me if we would be bringing in condoms, because when she got sexually assaulted again she wanted to be able to ask her attacker to wear a condom so she wouldn't get pregnant.

Ira Glass

In her relief work, Helen's been to lots of places where migrants and refugees are stranded like this. But the security issues here-- the lack a predictable food and water and sanitation, five toilets where there should be 125, no proper tents for people--

Helen Perry

When I first saw it, I was literally just dumbfounded, because I've seen refugee situations like this. I've been to Bangladesh. I've seen Cox's Bazar. I've been to Iraq. I've seen the IDP camps. I've seen the refugee camps from Syria.

I'd say this was the worst. Yeah, I would definitely say that this is the worst, if at a bare minimum for a lack of humanitarian accountability for what's happening to these people.

Ira Glass

You mean that nobody's keeping account of who's here and who isn't, who goes in and who goes out?

Helen Perry

Who goes in, who goes out, who goes missing.

Ira Glass

At a proper refugee camp, she says, like a United Nations camp, they'd have that-- a big, tall fence, somebody keeping track of who comes in and out. When we asked Mexican officials about conditions in this camp, they said they aren't helping the 2,500 people here because they don't want a permanent tent city in the spot. They want people to move to government shelters.

And the United Nations said they won't step in unless the Mexican government invites them to step in. The United States, whose policies landed people here in the first place, has also donated $5 million to house them in Mexico. The money doesn't go to tent camps like this one, but to the official Mexican government shelters.

It's enough money to shelter 8,000 people, but we sent way more people than that back across the border-- over 57,000 under the Remain in Mexico policy, plus another 21,000 who immigration officials haven't even begun to process. We've told them, the system's backed up. You should sit on a waiting list, stay in Mexico, and we'll get to your cases in a few months.

And these were mostly people who, in the past, before President Trump, would have been allowed into the United States to wait for their asylum court dates here. It's so many people we're pushing back across the border, resulting in refugee camps that we don't call refugee camps right on our country's doorstep.

Today we try to understand what this new policy means for the people we send across the border. And we also hear from US officials who sent them there who are not feeling so great about it, themselves. From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Stay with us.

Act One: Goodbye, Stranger

Ira Glass

Act one, "Goodbye, Stranger." So let's start today with the US officials on the front lines whose job under Remain in Mexico is to send people back. Lots of them have been resigning, saying no, that's actually not my job. Los Angeles Times reporter Molly O'Toole talked to a bunch of them.

Molly O'toole

Before the Remain in Mexico policy began and upended the asylum system and completely changed what it is to be an asylum officer, here's how the job used to work. When a Central American showed up at the US-Mexico border and said, "let me in, I'm afraid of going back to my country," that's where the asylum officer came in.

The officer did something called a credible fear screening to check if the person was likely to face harm or death if the US sent them back home. If there's even a chance that they would, the asylum officer would let them into the United States to wait for a court date, where an immigration judge would make the final call.

Doug Stephens says people don't understand how hard the job is. At the time all this started, he was an asylum officer in San Francisco.

Doug Stephens

And so I'd have people come into my office, and my job, essentially, is, tell me the worst things that have happened to you. You have an hour. Go. And then I'll decide if you're telling me the truth, and I'll decide if you get to stay.

You are expected to be-- or, really, to do the job well, need to be-- an expert in the political, cultural, social, and economic situations in innumerable countries around the world, and you're expected to be a human lie detector, all at once.

Molly O'toole

President Trump talks about asylum itself as if it's fraud. He says it's a hoax, a big fat con job, that people come in with fake asylum claims, that asylum officers just let everyone through, and then asylum seekers never show up for their day in court-- that it's a border-wide, 2,000-mile loophole. And it's true that most people do pass that first stop with an asylum officer and enter the United States, but there's a good reason for that.

It's built into US asylum law-- a commonsense humanitarian idea. We don't want to send people back to situations where they'd get tortured or killed. The legal term is non-refoulment. And so US law set the bar low. If there's basically any chance an asylum seeker could get killed or harmed, the officer is supposed to let them into the US, and doesn't need a lot of proof or evidence at that point.

Later, when they get before an immigration judge-- and by the way, the majority do show up-- there they need proof, and most of them get rejected. Even before President Trump took office, less than 15% per year got asylum, and that's because most people don't meet the specific criteria in the law, or don't have enough evidence, or it doesn't check out. All of the asylum officers I've ever spoken with see it as their job to weed out the fakers, the people who don't really need protection, the ones who are just trying to game the system.

Ursula

Oh my god. Like, here's where I'm going to be real with you.

Molly O'toole

This is an asylum officer we're calling Ursula. This isn't her voice. She's afraid of getting fired, so we had an actor copy what she said as closely as possible.

Ursula

The fraud is, like, happening on a scale that's huge. We're talking, like, hundreds of people a month.

Molly O'toole

I interviewed three asylum officers for this story, and all three said the groups that have been the primary target of President Trump's immigration policies, they actually aren't the main ones committing fraud.

Ursula

It's not the Central Americans. It's not the Middle Eastern people. It is the Indian people and the Chinese people. They all have the same bullshit story about getting beaten with hockey sticks three times, because they're part of a Sikh party, and the police told them they're going to jail them if they ever bad-mouth the ruling party ever again. Bullshit.

They all just happened to do the same thing and suffer the same fate, even though there's absolutely no confirmation in any media that any of this persecution is happening, and studies done by our Department of State counterparts in the country are straight up like, this is not a real thing. The Chinese are running a similar scam with Christian claims.

Molly O'toole

In the fall of 2018, asylum officers started hearing about these big changes coming. The policy that was first called Remain in Mexico, and then later, Migrant Protection Protocols, MPP. But the asylum officers who were going to have to implement this thing, they didn't know any of the details of how they were supposed to do it.

Anne

It was all shrouded in so much secrecy.

Molly O'toole

This is another asylum officer. We're calling her Anne. We used an actor here, too, to protect her identity. Over the next few weeks, Anne starts picking up around the office that some of her colleagues were being called in quietly and asked to go to the border in San Diego.

And instead of the credible fear screenings they'd always done, they seemed to be doing something entirely different under MPP-- a whole new kind of interview with different rules. She knew she was going to have to start doing them too, so she pulled aside a coworker who'd already been sent to the border.

Anne

I was asking her, hey, like, what's the training? Like, what is this? And she was like, I am not allowed to talk to you about it.

Molly O'toole

Another asylum officer?

Anne

Yeah. Yeah.

Molly O'toole

Is this someone who you'd, like, consider a friend, or just sort of, like, professional colleague?

Anne

Good colleague-- a good colleague, someone that we had mutual trust, for sure, and then was told-- was brought in by a supervisor for, like, a special brief about it before I was going to start doing these interviews, and was told, here's the skinny on it and don't tell anyone.

Molly O'toole

Why?

Anne

Because I think they knew that it was legally dubious and suspect, and they wanted to keep the leak to a minimum.

Molly O'toole

The leak being a major policy rollout that was going to change asylum?

Anne

Yeah.

Molly O'toole

That's the leak?

Anne

That's the leak. Yeah.

Molly O'toole

Two months go by before they do a formal training session with the full asylum corps, and it's just a PowerPoint. Here's Ursula again.

Ursula

Hands we're going up and being like, wait, how is this legal, or how are we going to be doing this, and how do we know how this works?

Molly O'toole

All three of the asylum officers I talked to said that the presentation left them with lots of questions, including the biggest one, how is this legal? These officers knew better than almost anyone how dangerous Mexico is, and this policy seemed designed to send tons of people back to Mexico.

It seemed to be in direct contradiction with US asylum law, which says that, at the very least, we can't send people back to a situation where they'd get harmed or killed. We can't violate the principle of non-refoulment.

Ursula

And the the response was like, I'm just the messenger bringing this down from HQ, and this is the PowerPoint they gave us. I was like, well, if you don't even care about double checking that this is legal, and you're just the messenger as you say, you're a fucking asshole, you know?

Molly O'toole

All three officers say they raised concerns and got roughly the same response-- just get out there and do your job. What they found out soon enough was just how radical a change the new MPP interviews were from the old credible fear screenings.

For starters, not everyone would get an interview. Only the people who volunteered that they were scared to go back to Mexico would. If they got an interview, under MPP, asylum seekers would have to prove that they'd be harmed in Mexico, not their home country. And not just any harm-- they can't just be threatened by gangs or the police, they have to be threatened by gangs or police or whoever because of some very specific reasons laid out in the US law-- because of their nationality, race, religion, politics, or being part of a particular social group, like LGBTQ.

And they'd have to show that the Mexican government, like a cop or an official, was unable or unwilling to protect them. And the asylum seeker couldn't just say all this happened like they could under credible fear screenings. Now, they'd need to prove it.

It's like, as asylum seekers were traveling through Mexico fleeing for their lives, they should have been gathering evidence of all the screwed-up things happening to them there, making a paper trail. And they should have had all of this evidence on them right then, right after crossing the border, which, of course, is next to impossible, especially because they had no idea any of this was required.

Doug saw all of this happening and wanted nothing to do with it, so he tried to keep his head down to try and avoid having to do these interviews, hoping the courts would kill MPP, but they didn't. By June, MPP returns had skyrocketed, and it was all hands on deck for the asylum corps. Doug couldn't dodge it anymore.

Doug Stephens

And I got the email.

Molly O'toole

It said, you're doing MPP interviews today.

Doug Stephens

So I had a father and son. The son, I think, was preteens, 11 or 12. They're fleeing from Honduras because of violence and other problems. We didn't talk about that much, because it doesn't matter for the purpose of MPP, right? I'm focused only on why they're afraid to go back to Mexico.

Molly O'toole

Of course, the guy and his son don't understand why they're even talking about Mexico. They don't understand any of this at all. The interview continued.

Doug Stephens

So he had tried to find a place to live there, had tried to get a work permit in Mexico, and was essentially denied. And as they're transiting, he's talking about, you know, encountering cartels and witnessing other migrants being murdered and tortured in front of his son, and fleeing, and barely getting away, you know, while death threats are being shouted at him, and, you know, talking about his son having nightmares for weeks because of this.

And then, they get stopped by the police, and the police take all of their money, their cell phones, and because I can't get them to say these magic words of, like, yeah, they threatened me because I'm Honduran, but that's all they had to say. But they don't know that, right?

Molly O'toole

Because I'm Honduran. Those would be the magic words that would put them in a protected category. They were targeted because of their nationality. Though even if the father had said because I'm Honduran, they probably still would have been sent back to Mexico, because odds are he didn't have any evidence proving that any of this happened. Doug, he did what the policy told him to do. He sent them back to Mexico.

The old credible fear screenings usually took an hour or less. These MPP interviews can last four, five, six hours. When I asked these asylum officers to describe what these interviews are like for them, for the migrants in front of them, Ursula gave the most vivid picture.

She told me about the very first MPP interview she did-- a family from El Salvador, two parents and two kids. She had a script she had to stick to. The family was exhausted and traumatized and totally unprepared.

Ursula

You're put into a cell. You're separated from your kids and your wife. You have no idea what's going on, because you thought today you were going to be interviewed about El Salvador and you were going to get to enter the United States.

A couple hours later, they lead you into this freezing cold cell where they chain your hands to a table in handcuffs, and someone is sitting across from you who doesn't speak your language, and starts talking to someone in the phone who starts translating to you that you're going to talk about Mexico. You smell like shit, because you've been living in a shelter, you know, without any running water for a month and half, plus you've traveled all the way across Central America to get there, and you don't understand why someone is talking to you about Mexico.

This interview goes on for an hour and a half, and the person keeps pausing it so they can talk to someone on the computer, which they say is their supervisor, and another guard leads your wife in that you haven't seen in the last 12 hours into the interview room, and you can, you know, brush her hand as she passes by. You're so happy to see her because you've been separated, and you have no idea what's going on.

So, where are my children? I don't know, sir, I'm sure they'll be fine. Your wife goes through a similar interview, but she keeps being confronted about the answers she's giving because they're different from yours, and the officer can't understand why this story varies so differently between two people who experienced it.

Half an hour passes before her children are brought into the room, and then the officer has to talk to a 10-year-old boy about whatever his parents said, and then confront the 10-year-old boy on inconsistencies between his story and his parents' story. And then, the wife is like, when am I going to see my husband again? And the officer's like, I have no idea, let them know if you need to use the bathroom.

Molly O'toole

Ursula made the case that the family shouldn't get sent back to Mexico, and, to her shock, her supervisor agreed. In fact, she happened to walk outside the moment the family got released. They've got their backpacks on. They're holding hands. She thought, maybe this won't be so bad. But that was the last time. The very next interview, a woman told her over and over she was afraid of being raped and killed in Mexico. Ursula believed she was going back to a place where that was very possible, but because the woman couldn't name a specific person who'd assault her, Ursula had to send her back. Since then, it's essentially been no after no after no.

Asylum officers told me that even when they find one of those unicorn cases where they check off all the boxes and recommend not returning to Mexico, their supervisors overrule them. Anne told me and my producer, Nadia Reiman, about one asylum seekers case where their attacker even spelled out their motive, and it still didn't fly.

Anne

It was basically a situation where there was a really clear connection to the nationality. Like, the persecutor had, like, really said, like, I am harming you because of this nationality-- your nationality. And the harm was really, really severe. It was, like, definitely torture.

And it was really clear that the police, like, weren't going to do a thing about it-- didn't care at all. And the supervisor rejected it.

Nadia Reiman

Why? Like, did they say why?

Anne

They said, we can't show that if this individual went back to Mexico, the persecutor would be able to locate them.

Molly O'toole

So the standard today is upside down from what it used to be under credible fear. Instead of, let's err on the side of letting people in because we don't want anyone to be tortured or die, under MPP the standard is almost impossibly high, so almost nobody gets in. The Department of Homeland Security says only about 960 people interviewed have not been sent back to Mexico.

Ultimately, of a little more than 47,000 MPP cases registered as of October, with about 37,000 of those still pending, of those, only 11 people have been granted asylum or some other kind of relief, according to Syracuse University, which tracks all of this using government statistics. 11.

And that's what the policy was meant to do. The administration credits MPP for a sharp drop in the numbers coming to the border. Mark Morgan, the acting head of Customs and Border Protection, calls it a game changer, and absolutely successful.

It only took Doug two days and five interviews to go home after work and pull out the law books. He's a lawyer. He actually owned a beat-up copy of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the law hundreds of pages long that makes it the foundation of the US immigration system.

He grabbed that off his bedroom shelf, along with a few of his other books from law school. He printed out a bunch of court cases and Supreme Court decisions with more cases pulled up on his computer screen. In the middle of all of this was his pen and white legal pad.

As an attorney, he wanted to get his feelings about MPP-- how much worse it felt compared to everything else they did-- down in writing. He worked for hours, and he wrote down seven bullet points, the main ways he thought MPP was illegal. Once he saw the list laid out there on the lined white paper, Doug knew what to do. The next day, he went to tell his supervisor he wasn't going to do any more MPP interviews.

Doug Stephens

His response was, I know these interviews are hard. We're all required to do them. That's why we're trying to spread it out, that it's, you know, on a rolling basis, et cetera, et cetera. And, you know, at that point, there was, like, this moment where I could have just said, you're right, I know, this sucks, and gone back.

And I paused, and I told him, you don't understand. I'm not doing these interviews. And he looked at me and he's like, what do you-- you're not doing these interviews? And I was like, no. I was like, I think they're illegal. They're definitely immoral, and I'm not doing them.

Molly O'toole

His boss was stunned. He didn't really seem to know what to say. Eventually, he told him he was probably going to have to write him up somehow to start disciplinary proceedings. Doug went home that night and decided to escalate. He went back to his legal pad.

Doug Stephens

I essentially wrote a legal memo explaining all of the reasons that I thought it was illegal, and why I was refusing to do it. And then, on that Monday, I emailed that to all of the administration in San Francisco, and the two supervisors that were involved in the disciplinary proceedings.

Molly O'toole

And then, nothing. Nothing happened. Instead of sparking some kind of rebellion, or at least forcing a confrontation, it's crickets. So he took it a step further.

He sent his memo to a senator's office, then he drafted his goodbye email, attached his memo, and sent it out office-wide to all of San Francisco Asylum, about 80 people, and to a representative of the union for asylum officers across the country. And with that, Doug shut down his work computer and walked out. He quit.

Doug Stephens

They make one change, and everyone at the office is like, oh, this is terrible, but we'll figure it out. And then they make another change. And they're like, oh, this is terrible, but I need my job. I'm going to do it even if I don't want to, and I'll complain about it, and I'll complain about the work, and I'll complain about the hours.

At the end of the day, I'm going to do it, and the more I do it, the easier it is to do. And that is terrifying. I mean, that's how all of the awful things in the world have happened. That's how you get so many good people doing really bad things.

And that's what's happening, and it's terrifying. You're, like, literally sending people back to be raped and killed. That's what this is.

Molly O'toole

The three officers I spoke with are not alone. A union representing the asylum officers and USCIS employees filed a brief and a lawsuit against the administration arguing that MPP was illegal, and a ton of officers are quitting. I've heard this from a bunch of people in the asylum corps, and at Citizenship and Immigration Services, the parent agency.

Several used the word, exodus. And if officers can't quit, they're calling in sick-- anything they can do to avoid MPP interviews. We tried to get some numbers from the government.

They wouldn't tell us how many people had left. They did say that, by the end of the year, they hoped to have 771 asylum officers, but as of a month ago, they had something like 550, meaning they're roughly 200 people short. I tried to get an interview with the acting head of USCIS, Ken Cuccinelli, to talk about all this. He's since been named Deputy Homeland Security Secretary.

He didn't give us one, but I did get one question in. It was at a press breakfast, so this audio was recorded on my phone.

Woman

All right, Molly O'Toole from the Los Angeles Times.

Molly O'toole

How do you answer the concerns from some of your asylum officers-- their concerns that many of these policies being handed down by the Trump administration, particularly targeting asylum, are in fact, illegal-- that they're being ordered to implement policies that are in direct contradiction with immigration laws that are passed by Congress?

Ken Cuccinelli

Well, they're not in direct contradiction, or we wouldn't be utilizing them. We have 19,000 people that work with USCIS. I don't expect any two of us to completely agree on all of this, but I do expect that the professional employees at USCIS will implement the policies in place. They're part of the--

Molly O'toole

They're part of the executive branch, he said, and so long as we're in the position of putting in place what we believe to be legal policies that haven't been found to be otherwise, we fully expect them to implement those faithfully and sincerely and vigorously.

Now, we're just shy of MPP's first birthday. After a chaotic start, it's thousands returned each week, it's expanded all the way east across the US border from California to Texas' Gulf Coast. And it's not just Central Americans being pushed back. Now, it's Cubans, Venezuelans, pregnant women, LGBTQ.

Asylum, at least at the southern border, has essentially ground to a halt. Here's Anne.

Anne

I'll say this. Like, the administration's been successful.

Molly O'toole

What do you mean?

Anne

They want negative decisions. They don't want asylum seekers in this country. They don't want people to get positive decisions or determinations for asylum. They have felt that the standards for screening interviews were too low, and they wanted those standards changed and those standards raised, and they've succeeded.

Molly O'toole

What do you think the administration's end goal is?

Anne

No more people from shithole countries.

Molly O'toole

Anne throws up in the shower almost every day. She has recurring nightmares. She says she can't focus, can't sleep. She thinks about the people she's returned to Mexico all the time. It's nearly 100. But there's one family in particular that she can't stop thinking about, a father and son.

Molly O'toole

Why do you think their case sticks with you?

Anne

The kid was really young. What happened to him? Did this kid get kidnapped? Did he get murdered? It's happening. It's happening a lot.

Molly O'toole

What was that?

Anne

And the-- what's my moral culpability in that? I interviewed that case, and my signature is on that paperwork, and that's something now that I live with. So yeah, I feel-- I feel in some ways that this administration's made me a human rights abuser.

Molly O'toole

The irony of this policy is that, under our asylum law, to qualify for asylum, you have to have been harmed because you're part of a particular group, a certain class of people. And the way that the asylum officers have implemented MPP, they've created exactly that-- a huge group of people in need of protection, about 60,000 migrants forced by the US back to Mexico to be preyed upon there as they wait on their request for safety in the US.

It's exactly the sort of situation that our law was supposed to prevent. One asylum officer told me, it's the first time that we've been asked to affirmatively do harm to people. You're not just saying, I don't think you're eligible. You're literally saying, I believe what you're saying. I think you're in danger. Go back to that danger.

Ira Glass

Molly O'Toole covers immigration for the Los Angeles Times. She wrote a print version of this story, also. It's at their website.

Coming up, what's it sound like when the cartels get on the phone and bargain with your family for your life? We have recordings. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, "The Out Crowd," stories about the people-- the tens of thousands of them-- who have been pushed into Mexico by the President's Remain in Mexico policy and other policies. We're talking about what happens to those people as they wait in Mexico for months.

And before we get to the next act, there is another thing that the Trump administration has put in place that makes it a lot harder to get asylum here, something we haven't talked about yet, a new rule that went into effect this summer. It says, if you want asylum in the United States, you first have to apply for asylum in at least one of the countries that you passed through on your way here, and you have to get rejected by that country before we'll give you asylum here in the United States.

Many asylum seekers, of course, have no idea that they're required to do this. When I was in Matamoros at that tent camp, this come up with that woman, Jenny from Honduras, the one who got worried about the cartel guy listening in on her interview, the one who'd been kidnapped. She was saying that her court date in the United States to get asylum was coming up on November 26th, and she'd been waiting since mid-August. She thought she had a good case, and was hopeful.

Ira Glass

Have you applied for asylum in Mexico?

Aviva Dekornfeld

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Jenny

No. No. [SPEAKING SPANISH]

Aviva Dekornfeld

No, no, not here, because it's too dangerous here.

Ira Glass

My co-worker Aviva and I looked at each other, like, does she know about the new rule? So we asked, and she did know that she was supposed to apply for asylum in Mexico or in Guatemala, which she'd passed through, but she wasn't going to do it, she said. She didn't want to live there.

Ira Glass

Are you worried that that'll keep you from getting asylum in the United States?

Jenny

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Aviva Dekornfeld

Yeah, I think so, because from what I've heard, we needed to have asked for asylum in the neighboring countries.

Ira Glass

At that point, we all just kind of look down at the ground and avoid eye contact. Nobody knows what to say. It sounds so bad for her.

In fact, for everybody in the camp, all 2,500 of them who are waiting for months for the court dates hoping for asylum, it's easy to imagine that this one rule would kill all their applications. Jenny's attitude was, I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best, because I don't want to go back home. Things seem too dangerous there, and too dangerous in Mexico, too. Lots of people feel that way.

Act Two: Take the Long Way Home

Ira Glass

And the danger in Mexico is the subject of act two, which we have arrived at now. Act two, "Take the Long Way Home." If you had to pick which border city in Mexico is the most dangerous, Nuevo Laredo, right across the border from Laredo, Texas, would be a good contender.

The State Department classifies it as level four threat. That is the same threat level as Iraq and Syria. And a lot of the danger there is kidnapping.

Kidnapping is so prevalent there that one of our producers met men in a migrant shelter who were terrified to go outside. A young Cuban guy told her, just putting one foot outside the shelter makes him worried. A trip of just two minutes, he's looking all around, and he's scared.

We're interested in these kidnappings because they're so common. Reporter Emily Green went to Nuevo Laredo in August, and she has this story about one kidnapping and what happened to one family, including recordings and details you really never get to hear. This family ended up in Nuevo Laredo because of MPP. Here's Emily.

Emily Green

This guy who got kidnapped, I met him by chance, actually, before he got kidnapped, and he told me how scared he was that he would get kidnapped. I was on a bridge in Nuevo Laredo that connects Mexico to the US. Every day around 1:00 PM that month, the US was sending back migrants from the US side to Mexico under MPP.

That day, there were a hundred of them. They were easy to spot. They all carried clear plastic bags with a couple of documents in them, and none of them had shoelaces. US Immigration takes shoelaces from anyone they detain.

Most of them were men, many of them with their heads down, and one pair stands out to me-- a father and son in matching polo shirts, both of them sweating in the heat. They're chubby, soft faces, dad has his arm around son. They seem like they'll talk to me. The man, I'll call him David, quickly tells me a story.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

He says he's not a criminal. He's a person who's always made a living, but he can't live in his country anymore. They're from Honduras. David was a businessman. He ran a little clothing store.

The gangs there demand money. They call it a war tax. The tax kept hitting higher and higher until David's family couldn't pay it anymore. One night, the cartel broke into his house, threatened to rape his daughter, and so they fled.

David

[SOBBING]

Emily Green

I've done lots of interviews with people like David, migrants in really difficult situations. This one felt especially hard. I think just seeing a father fall apart in front of his 11-year-old son.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

David says he wanted to ask for asylum in the US, but the agents didn't listen to him. They just gave him documents to come back to a court date in December. He can't go back to Honduras, he says.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

I don't have anywhere to go. I don't have anything. I don't have money, he says. They say that here, where we're being sent, a lot of people get kidnapped, and I don't know what to do.

We only talked for 10 minutes. I ended up lending him my phone. He called his sister in New Jersey and explained what happened-- that he made it to the United States only to be sent back to Mexico.

It was getting dark out, and I'd been told not to stay in Nuevo Laredo past dusk. I crossed back into the US to go to dinner, probably not a mile away from where I'd last seen David, and my phone rang. It was David's sister. I'll call her Laura.

She had my number because it was my phone he called her from earlier today. She was crying so hard I struggled to understand what she was saying. She tells me David and his son had been kidnapped just hours after I'd left them. She'd gotten a call from a cartel demanding ransom.

Laura

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

Laura says of the cartel told her the ransom was $9,000 for David, and another $9,000 for his son, so $18,000 total. They put David on the phone briefly so she knew he was alive, and then the kidnappers got on.

Laura

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

OK.

Laura

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

And I told them, where in the world are we going to get this money? The man on the other end told her she had to get the money. He said he'd call back tomorrow. I asked Laura to record the phone calls.

Man

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Laura

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

And she did. When they called the next day, she put them on speaker and used a relative's phone to shoot video of it.

Laura

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

They tell her, I need you to deposit the money as soon as possible, viejita. Viejita means, old lady. Laura is 38. She tells them again that she has no money, that she's sick from anxiety.

In her conversations with me, Laura is scared, crying, but when she talked to the kidnappers, she holds it together. She asks if David and his son are OK. The kidnappers tell her they have food, that they can bathe, for now. Each call only last a few minutes.

Man

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

By the third day, the cartel has lowered the price to $5,000 each for David and his son. Laura works the night shift at a printing factory in New Jersey, hardly makes $20,000 in a year, plus she's a single mom.

Man

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

In all of these calls, the kidnappers talk super fast, I'm guessing because they have other ransom calls to make. Kidnapping is a big business, a volume business, with a whole infrastructure. Kidnapping migrants has been common in Mexico for a long time.

What's different now is that the US is making it especially easy for the cartels to identify and snatch victims. They're sending asylum seekers back in big groups, all at once, at the same time each day, and they're easy to identify with their plastic bags and missing shoelaces. Homeland Security didn't respond to my request for comment on the kidnapping situation, but this week the acting head of Customs and Border Protection said the US is, quote, "sending a message to the criminal organizations to stop exploiting these migrants."

In Nuevo Laredo, the most dangerous part of these asylum seekers' journey is probably the hours right after they've been sent back to Mexico. After walking across the bridge, they're transported to the Mexican Immigration Office by van. Outside the office, men in four-door trucks monitor who's coming and going.

Locals call them, Los Malos, the bad guys. One migrant told me about getting chased as he walked to a shelter from there. But by far, the most dangerous place is a bus station.

It's a place they go to escape Nuevo Laredo, but it's a place they end up getting caught. Kidnapping is so routine the cartels refer to it as, passing through the office. On the extortion calls, you can tell it's a well-oiled machine. It's methodical. They sound like they're negotiating the price of a car. They do this all the time.

Man

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

Laura turns to everyone she can think of. She goes to her local police department and to her mayor's office to ask for help. They reach out to the Office of Senator Cory Booker, but by the time they get back to her about a week later, it's too late. Laura eventually scrapes together money from her mom and sister, but just a fraction of what the cartel is asking for.

Laura

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

She tells them, look, I've already pulled together $1,200. Tell me what we're going to do and give me time to get the rest. The man says he'll confer with his boss.

In the meantime, he says, she should wire the money. Laura asks to talk to her brother and they put him on.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Laura

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Laura

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

She asks David, how are you, brother? Worried, he says. She tells him, don't worry, that she's pulled together some money. The next day, the cartel's released David and his son. I talk to David on the phone three days after his release. He's so distressed, it's hard for him to finish a sentence.

David

[SOBBING]

Emily Green

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Breathe, I tell him. I wanted to help him. That's not something a reporter is supposed to say, but back when they were kidnapped, their lives were in immediate danger, and I helped in small ways.

I connected Laura with an NGO in Mexico City that advocates for migrants. Since David and his son were released, I've suggested safe bus options. The family, they always knew that I was a reporter doing a story on them, but they came to see me as one of the few people they could trust-- that they could rely on. Laura called me almost every day with updates. She still does.

A few weeks ago, I went to meet David and his family in Monterrey in northern Mexico, where they were holed up. They were staying with an acquaintance of Laura's in exchange for grocery money and help with construction. David didn't want us interviewing him there. He feels his welcome has run out, so we do the interview at our hotel.

It's David, his 11-year-old son, and his 19-year-old daughter, who's also been sent back to Mexico under MPP. I'm here with my producer, Lina. We figure we'll talk to David in one room while the kids watch TV in the other, but the kids sit by their dad on the bed. They won't leave one another's side.

I wanted to know what happened when I left him that day on the bridge, and what he described were all these details of how the cartel's kidnapping business actually works once you're a victim on the inside-- details that were routine, and also terrifying. So here's what happened.

He said, he and the other 100 people who were sent back to Mexico that day were taken from the bridge to the local immigration office for processing. After that, he says a man wearing a Mexican immigration officer uniform agreed to take him and his son to the bus station so they could go to a safer city. But as soon as they got to the station, he got a bad feeling.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

When I went in with my son, this guy grabbed me. He was a tall guy, strong, full of tattoos. So he grabbed me and he said, I want to talk to you. And I said, I have nothing to talk to you about.

And he said, you're going to get into that car, and we're going to ask you some questions. And I said, no. And he said, you can get into the car the easy way or the hard way.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

He says at least a dozen migrants also arrived at the bus station that night, and the cartel hustled them into different trucks. All the trucks were brand new, he says. He remembers that the one he got into was a gray Nissan, and there were four or five other migrants in there with him.

He says, the immigration officer who drove him to the bus station sat in his car and watched them all being carted off. We can't confirm this, but there is a long history of law enforcement and the cartels working hand-in-hand. For example, in 2011, seven top officials at Mexico's immigration agency were fired amid allegations that the agency was involved in the kidnapping of migrants.

And it squares with what his sister in New Jersey told me. She wired money to that immigration officer for David's bus ticket, and when she got the ransom call, the kidnappers told her to wire the money to that same account, the one the immigration officer used. She said something like, isn't that the immigration officer's account? And they hung up.

I asked the Mexican immigration agency to respond. They told me they have no knowledge of recent complaints of immigration officers turning migrants over to the cartels.

In the truck, David held onto his son. The kidnappers didn't speak.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

The guy just told us to keep our heads down, to stop looking at the sights. And the guy who was driving us was keeping an eye on us, and he was making sure we were not chatting. They had the windows all rolled up.

Emily Green

The truck drove around for a while, but David suspects they were just going in circles, but they didn't actually travel very far. They pulled up to a normal-looking house with a big gate.

Inside, the kidnappers used their cell phones to take pictures of David, his son, and the rest. They interrogated David about where he's from, his line of work, how he got to the US, and most importantly, what family members he has there. It was like patient intake at a health clinic, except for by a cartel.

We talk about the cartels as organized crime, but I never imagined the bookkeeping. They keep records and photos of the migrants they kidnap, and also who they release.

David says there were more than 20 migrants at the house. The men and women slept in separate rooms. During the day, the kidnappers hit any of the men who tried to look at the women.

The room David and his son slept in had one mattress. Everyone else slept on the floor. At night, David would lay on the ground, holding his son.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

I would lay down with him in a corner, and I would hug my son. They couldn't see you crying, but my tears were almost, like, falling out.

What hurt me the most, Emily, was that when this guy arrived, the boss, he would always tell me that my son's organs were good for selling, that he was in a good age, that he was only 11 years old.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH] [CRYING]

Interpreter

And my son once heard the guy saying that his kidneys-- that his organs-- were good for selling, and he was almost crying. And I told him, don't cry, but I was desperate.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Emily Green

As David tells me this story, his two kids are still sitting on the bed beside him. Neither of them is looking at anything in particular. They're just sitting there blankly.

David also seems devoid of emotion. He doesn't at all resemble the David from a few weeks ago, the one I talked to right after his release. Now, his affect is completely flat.

On the fourth day of his kidnapping, one of the bosses woke David up and told him they'd reached a deal with his sister.

David

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

And he said to me, get up with your son, fat guy, because today I'm going to release you guys because your sister already paid, made a deposit.

Emily Green

The man told David if he talked to anyone-- police, reporters-- the cartel would come for him, take his son, and kill David. The same man who kidnapped them in the first place drove them back to the bus station and bought them each a ticket.

David doesn't know what happened to the dozens of other people in the house. Most migrants who are kidnapped and released, the cartel gives them a key word. It's like a passcode that indicates the migrant has paid off the cartel so they aren't kidnapped again, but David isn't given one, maybe because he hasn't paid a high enough ransom.

When we met David in Monterrey, he didn't know what he was going to do. On day one of the kidnapping, the cartel had taken David and his son's immigration paperwork, and they didn't give it back. Without that paperwork, he doesn't even know which day he's supposed to show up in court.

But even if he could figure it out, he told us, he's too scared to return to Nuevo Laredo. Under MPP, he'd have to pass through the same port of entry to get to his hearing. What if we get kidnapped again? He asks.

Last week, I got a phone call from David. The family they've been staying with in Monterrey wants them gone, and he's lost hope in the asylum process. He thinks they won't be listened to, that the hearing process is a lie.

And in fact, he's right about how his case is likely to come out. Under this administration, it's virtually impossible to gain asylum based on gang violence. So David's decided to take his family back to Honduras, the country they tried escaping in the first place. According to Homeland Security's own statistics, thousands of other families are making the same choice.

Ira Glass

Emily Green. She also reported on David for Vice.com. One last thing before we end today's program. When we were in the tent camp in Matamoros, I learned that the way the Remain in Mexico policy works.

It applies to adults. But if a kid shows up without an adult, the border agents have to let them into the United States. They don't send them back.

And life in the tent camp is hard and boring, and there are kids who are like, I want to go. Send me alone. We met a dad whose 15-year-old did that. In this case, he and his son both agreed it will probably be better.

The whole reason they were trying to get into the US was for his son's future, anyway. He has an aunt in Houston. He'd be put into a shelter on the other side, but hopefully he'd get to her.

It's was a gamble, but a calculated one. So at 5:30 in the afternoon a couple weeks ago, his father walked his teenager to the border station, gave him a hug, asked God to bless him, and sent him off.

Dad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

He just, the only thing he said to me is, I'll see you later, dad.

Ira Glass

In the two weeks since then, his son has called his mother three times. She's back in their home country with their other children. The dad asked me not to specify what country or say their names.

His son said he's in custody with other kids, and says it's way better than the tent camp. In other words, so far so good.

Dad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Interpreter

He's doing well there, that they treat him well, that he gets everything he needs there, that he gets a place to sleep, food, clothing, and he also is getting classes.

Ira Glass

The only bad part of it, now, is that the dad's here alone. He misses his son. He thinks about him all the time, first thing in the morning, he said, and last thing at night.

Darwin, that 9-year-old who's the king of the camp-- remember him? He and his mom told Aviva that they've talked about whether she should send him over alone to fend for himself.

Mom

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

She asked him, look, as a mom it's not that she doesn't love him, but if there's no way for them to go together, she'll send him alone. But he doesn't want that.

Darwin

No. [SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

No, because of the fear that I have.

Mom

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Honestly, you won't lose me, she says.

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Mom

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

My fear is that I'll lose my mom. The kids there don't see their moms.

Darwin

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Mom

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

I've never been separated from her, he says. And she jumps in, our love is inseparable. He's sitting at her feet and hugs her legs. She puts her arm around him.

Aviva Dekornfeld

So if your mom tells you you should cross into the US by yourself, what would you tell her?

Mom

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

I tried it, she says, and he doesn't want to go. He refuses and starts to cry. And she doesn't want him to go, but given how things might play out, she's not sure what else to do.

Well, our program was produced today by Nadia Reiman with help from Aviva Dekornfeld. The people who put together today's show includes Elna Baker, Emanuele Berry, Susan Burton, Ben Calhoun, Zoe Chace, Dana Chivvis, Sean Cole, Whitney Dangerfield, Damien Graef, Michelle Harris, Jessica Lussenhop, Miki Meek, Lina Misitzis, Stowe Nelson, Katherine Rae Mondo, Ben Phelan, Alissa Shipp, Lilly Sullivan, Christopher Swetala, Matt Tierney, and Nancy Updike.

Our managing editor is Diane Wu. Our executive editor is David Kestenbaum. Interpreters for today's show where Gabriela Muñoz, Catalina Maria Johnson, Daniel Sherr, and Mario Michelena. Our fixer in Matamoros was journalist Vero Cardenas. The voices of the asylum officers in the first story of the show were performed by Maggie Siff and Betty Gilpin.

By the way, you can see Maggie Siff on Billions and Betty Gilpin on the Netflix show Glow. Special thanks today to Harrison Nesbit and Amy Kaufman, Kimbrell Kelly, Reynaldo Leanos Jr., Kennji Kizuka, Christopher Turpin, William Dobson, Didrik Schanche, Russell Dion. Lewis, Clay Boggs, Maureen Meyer, Nick Miriello, and Woodson Martin.

Our website, ThisAmericanLife.org. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founder Mr. Torey Malatia. You know, he recently cooked dinner for some friends who hate onions and anything in the onion family.

Woman

And they wanted to keep the leak to a minimum.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.