“For three days we have been sleeping on the floor and they have been telling us the same thing,” one of them, a man named Mbella, told TIME. “But every day, someone else goes and we remain here.”
At a press conference the next day, Aug. 20, President Trump once again touted the border wall he has promised supporters. “The wall is getting longer and taller and stronger each and every day,” he said, even though construction has not begun. The President’s characterization of the physical wall was false, but his Administration has effectively erected an invisible one.
It is built, in part, from situations like the one at the bridge, which illustrates the problem, both logistical and theoretical, with this kind of barrier. The practices that Trump praises for keeping out criminals also punish those who are trying to follow the rules.
Case in point: for months, Administration officials have said that those who wish to enter the U.S. to seek asylum should do so at an official port of entry, a place like the Gateway International Bridge between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas. There, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is equipped to screen visitors and process such claims. When the Administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy prompted outcry, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that families who arrived through the ports wouldn’t be separated. But to those who follow instructions, the process can seem slow at best and arbitrary at worst. Advocates say the wait exposes migrants to danger, but CBP says in fact safety is the reason it is limiting entry into crowded border facilities. “No one is being denied the opportunity to make a claim of credible fear or seek asylum,” a spokesperson told TIME in an email.