In our presentations, we did not hide the harsh realities of the current asylum process. We cautioned that asylum-seekers might be separated from their families, forced to wait for months in crime-ridden border towns in Mexico, placed in “perreras” (literally, “dog pounds”) and detained with no opportunity for bail. Even if they are released inside the United States as they wait for their case to be heard, we explained, life outside of detention can be exceedingly difficult.
If Mr. Trump’s proposal were effective, our audiences would have been discouraged. They would have accepted that the costs of fleeing outweigh the benefits, and “all problems solved!” But this wasn’t the case.
Instead, at the end of our presentations, dozens of participants discussed the sense of hopelessness that pervades their country. A firefighter told us he was considering fleeing because of threats against his daughter’s life after declining a local gang’s offer to sell drugs. A businessman from a rural town explained his plan to flee the death threats he expected for failing to pay an extortion fee. An administrator for a school described the huge drop in enrollment after rival gangs recently battled over the surrounding territory.