Minnesota immigration attorneys return after helping asylum seekers at the border

Two immigration attorneys from Minnesota have returned from the U.S.-Mexico border after spending several days there helping asylum seekers.

Ana Pottratz Acosta left for Tijuana, Mexico late last week and returned on Monday.

“The kids in particular, I'm a mother, I have two young kids, seeing the children was probably the most difficult part,” Pottratz Acosta said.

Pottratz Acosta is an immigration attorney and professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She joined her friend and fellow immigration attorney Kara Lynum for the trip. Lynum, who returned to Minnesota on Wednesday, shared several video updates on Twitter.

“We're here and we're just going to be here,” Lynum said in one video on Twitter.

The two Minnesota attorneys were in Tijuana as volunteers with a legal services organization called Al Otro Lado.

Overnight Monday, members of the organization were joined by two lawmakers for an 18-hour standoff with Customs and Border Protection. In the end, they were able to get 20 people, mostly from Honduras, into the U.S. for asylum processing at the border.

“There is a set of turnstiles and about 3 feet ahead is the actual land border with the United States. So they were able to cross over and sit down on the U.S. side at the port of entry,” Pottratz Acosta said.

“Under the law, it's pretty crystal clear. If you're physically present on U.S. soil, and you're presenting at a point of entry, you have the right to apply for asylum. So we were facilitating them to exercise their lawful right to apply for asylum,” Pottratz Acosta said.

The group included the mother and children seen in a now-viral photo taken by Reuters journalist Kim Kyung-Hoon. It shows Maria Meza and her daughters running from tear gas at the border last month.

“And now there's all these people that are going to be safe in the United States. Well, I don't know if they'll be safe, but they'll at least be here. And that's safer than where they were before,” Lynum explained in a video on Twitter.

Part of the attorneys’ role was to prepare migrants for their “credible fear interviews” meant to prove to authorities that the asylum seekers were out of options.

“Everyone I met was very, very nice, very grateful for my help and they were genuinely afraid to be in their home country,” Pottratz Acosta said. “They were coming here, not seeking economic opportunity, not because of some bad motivation. They were coming because they were afraid and it's not safe for them to stay in their home country.”

Authorities at the border deny that they are turning away people seeking asylum. However, a system called "metering" limits the amount of asylum seekers who can enter each entry point per day.