Freshman Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas says her office has received death threats against her, her family and staffers following a news report that her aides were improperly aiding asylum seekers in Mexico.
Escobar said her office contacted the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police — which provides security to lawmakers and aides — in response to the threats.
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“I’m leaving it to law enforcement for now,” Escobar told reporters on Tuesday evening. “I think it’s important for people to know that there’s consequences to their words. Being irresponsible and using xenophobia and bigotry to fuel hatred has a consequence.”
The controversy grew out of a July 5 story in the Washington Examiner, which alleged that Escobar “is sending staff to Mexico’s northern border town of Ciudad Juárez to find migrants returned from El Paso, Texas, under the ‘remain in Mexico’ policy, then coaching them to pretend they cannot speak Spanish to exploit a loophole letting them to return to the U.S.”
Anti-immigration groups and other conservative publications have picked up the allegations against Escobar, who was first elected to Congress in November.
The Texas Democrat said there is “zero truth” to the claims, and she blamed “a couple of Border Patrol union guys locally for whom we are an irritant because we are raising examples of violations of their own policy with regard to people in the asylum system.”
According to Escobar, as part of “constituent services,” her office has assisted constituents whose clients are asylum seekers who have been sent back to Mexico under Trump administration rules, “making it much harder for them to provide due process and counsel to their clients.”
“We go into Mexico routinely,” she said. “Being on the border, we go for meetings, we go for events. There seems to be a real lack of understanding by people about bi-national communities. But there’s absolutely zero truth that I am sending staff to coach people into how to game the [asylum] system.”
Under the “Migrant Protection Protocols” crafted by the Homeland Security Department, “certain foreign individuals entering or seeking admission to the U.S. from Mexico — illegally or without proper documentation — may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”
But there are exceptions to these rules for “vulnerable populations,” which will be decided on a case-by-case basis by DHS.
Escobar says Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol “have a list of vulnerable populations who should not be sent back under MPP. The lawyers are bringing to our attention cases where their clients clearly meet the standard, and Border Patrol is sending them back anyway. And they’re having a hard time breaking through the bureaucracy.”