MATAMOROS, MEXICO (Border Report) — A deaf woman who speaks an indigenous language and is able to sign only with the help of her mother, was among 12 migrants whom U.S. authorities returned to Matamoros, Mexico, despite efforts by Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro to get federal authorities to allow them to remain in the United States until their asylum hearings.

On Monday morning, Castro physically walked the 12 migrants across the Gateway International Bridge, alongside officials with the Texas Civil Rights Project and immigration lawyer Jodi Goodwin. The migrants are among about 1,000 people who have been living in a tent encampment on the other side of the bridge, in Matamoros, Mexico, after being sent to Mexico to await their asylum hearings under a Trump administration policy called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

Read more about Castro’s visit to the Matamoros tent encampment here.

MPP was started in South Texas on July 17 and now the majority of migrants who are apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley are being driven by U.S. authorities to Gateway International Bridge and then walked to the international boundary line at the bridge’s halfway point where they are told they must walk over to Mexico and remain there. The policy also is familiarly called Remain in Mexico.

Read more about MPP and when it started in South Texas in this Border Report story.

Immigration lawyer Jodi Goodwin, right, helps to escort a group of 12 migrants across the Gateway International Bridge on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, including a woman who is deaf and LGBTQ migrants. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez).

Efren Olivares, racial and economic justice director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, told Border Report that these 12 migrants were selected because they have a disability, such as the deaf woman, or are persecuted for their practices and beliefs, such as the LGBTQ migrants. Olivares said the woman signs only an indigenous language, which is not Spanish, and only her mother and son understand her and can help her communicate.

“This is exactly the type of people who are supposed to be exempt from MPP” under the rules set by the Trump Administration, Olivares said.

Julian Castro prepares to enter the Gateway International Bridge port of entry from Matamoros, Mexico, on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, with 12 migrants that he presented to port officials and asked for them to be able to remain in the United States as they await asylum hearings. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez).

“They’re suffering from trauma. We believe that qualifies as a mental health issue. In addition there was a family and one has a disability and under the MPP exemption, someone with a physical disability should be exempted,” Castro said on Monday afternoon after he met with a CBP supervisor at the port of entry on the migrants’ behalf.

The migrants were allowed to be in the United States for only about three hours, however, the Texas Civil Rights Project said in a news release. “As soon as the reporters left to file their stories, CBP released the asylum seekers back into Mexico, where they face persecution in an open-air encampment where thousands from countries the U.S. has destabilized are forced to survive indefinitely,” The Texas Civil Rights Project said in a statement released on Twitter. “If these people — LGBTQ migrants who have been assaulted for who they are in the camps, disabled people, children — do not meet the criteria for ‘vulnerable populations,’ then the “vulnerable” exemptions in “Remain in Mexico” are lip service.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at

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