“The [narcos] threatened to kill every last person in our house—even the dog,” says Wayner Berduo, a young Guatemalan asylum seeker at the U.S.-Mexican border, in a new documentary from The Atlantic. Berduo says he lost his left eye and the use of his right arm in a violent attack late last year. Like thousands of Central American families, the Berduos say they’re seeking legal protection in the U.S. because of gang violence at home.
But now, the Trump administration is taking steps to prevent them from finding safety in the U.S. On June 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that the U.S. would no longer accept gang violence or domestic abuse as valid reasons for asylum. Meanwhile, citing lack of space, U.S. agents have started to turn back asylum seekers at ports of entry in recent weeks, leaving throngs of hopefuls at bridges all along the border. Critics say “slow-walking” asylum applicants is just one more measure meant to discourage Central Americans from entering the country.
Repeatedly turned away by U.S. border guards, the Berduo family spent days sleeping on the ground next to the international bridge—trapped in a kind of purgatory that spans the Rio Grande.