/ Modified may 18, 2018 3:31 p.m.

Asylum Seekers; Dividing Dollars for Teacher Pay; ADOT in Mexico

Plus, an immigration attorney in Tucson explains how asylum cases are currently processed.

This week dozens of immigrants from Central America walked up to the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales and requested asylum. The men, women and children said they did not travel with an organized caravan.

Kendal Blust, a reporter for the Nogales International, was among the first to report their stories. She told Lorraine Rivera what she learned about their reasons for seeking asylum and their plans after arriving at the border.

In a statement to Arizona 360, Customs and Border Protection said the Department of Homeland Security does not "currently have a policy of separating families at the border for deterrence purposes."

Among those arriving at the border to request asylum are those facing violence in their home countries because of their LGBTQ status. Nancy Montoya is tracking one transgender woman's journey from Honduras, a country considered one of the most violent in the world by the United Nations. Montoya spoke to the woman, Nicol, in Mexico and followed her as she approached federal agents to ask for asylum at the port of entry in Nogales, Sonora.

Read Montoya's full report here.

To get a deeper understanding of how the system currently processes asylum cases, Arizona 360 turned to immigration attorney Rachel Wilson.

As Wilson explained, a person may qualify for asylum if their fear of returning to their home countries falls into five categories: persecution based on race, national origin, political opinion, religion or membership in a particular social group — a category Wilson described as "mushy."

"People who present themselves at the border are subject to mandatory detention," Wilson said. "And they can be detained for years, now, because there isn't any law that limits the indefinite detention they're subject to."

As schools prepare to let out for summer break, districts are now tasked with deciding how to allocate new dollars from the state into teachers' salaries. Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations for the Arizona School Boards Association, discussed how decisions can vary across districts, and why not all educators will receive the 9 percent raise touted by the governor's office.

"If you narrowly define it, then there's pretty close to enough money for 9 percent for every teacher. But if you broaden that definition, as most districts want to do, … then you start to dilute that money a little bit," Kotterman said.

Each day, hundreds of commercial trucks travel across the border between Arizona and Mexico. An initiative from the Arizona Department of Transportation aims to cut down on wait times at the ports of entry.

Instructors travel into Mexico to teach a two-day course about vehicle safety requirements. Since its inception less than a year ago, more than 350 drivers and mechanics have enrolled. Speeding up inspection times at the ports also has the added benefit of boosting cross-border trade, by allowing truckers to increase the number of trips they can make per day.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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