A Honduran youth pastor just became only the second reported person to be granted asylum in the eight months since the Trump administration started forcing some migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases play out.
Douglas Ovideo, who fled his country last fall with the migrant “caravan” only to end up in the border city of Tijuana, was one of the first people put into the Remain in Mexico program, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
More than 40,000 asylum seekers have been turned back to Mexico since Trump’s policy was implemented in late January.
Ovideo, who fled his country after being blacklisted by gangs, identified himself as an asylum-seeker at the San Diego-Tijuana border in January. But instead of processing him and admitting him into the U.S., border officers enrolled him into the MPP, which was operating as a pilot program at the time.
He’s one of a tiny number of migrants subjected to the MPP policy who managed to find an attorney: Just 1% of migrants in the program have legal representation, according to a July 2019 study by Syracuse University. Navigating the long, complicated asylum process is nearly impossible for migrants who don’t have attorneys, especially those forced to defend their cases while waiting in Mexico.
But that doesn’t mean Ovideo’s case was particularly easy: The attorney representing the government in the case against him tried to argue that he could have simply relocated to another part of Honduras if he was being persecuted.
Ovideo said gangs began targeting him because he had an outreach program focused on preventing young people from joining gangs — and helping those who were already in the gangs leave them for good. His lawyer argued that he had dedicated his life to caring for others: He joined an arts collective in Tijuana, helped organize a benefit concert to raise money for migrants, and opened a migrant shelter for women and children forced to wait for their cases to be decided in Mexico.
The judge ultimately sided with Ovideo, who now joins an astonishingly small group of migrants who have been granted asylum under the Remain in Mexico policy. Though the majority of Remain in Mexico cases are still pending, there are only two known migrants who have won their asylum cases under the MPP — and the government is currently trying to appeal the other migrant’s case.
Cover: A man stretches near the border wall that separates Mexico from the U.S., at the beach in Tijuana, Mexico, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Emilio Espejel)