Last Updated Jul 18, 2019 3:00 PM EDT
Brownsville, Texas — Many migrants come to America illegally because entering as a legal asylum-seeker is. The wait is getting worse, partially because the government is ramping up their "metering" efforts. Metering is a practice customs agents use at ports of entry to slow the flow of migrants by having them put their names on a list and wait to be called in Mexico.
In Matamoros, Mexico, just across the bridge from Brownsville, Texas, the wait to request asylum seems endless. Afraid she'll lose her place in line if she's not close by, Yolayle Gonzalez is sleeping on the sidewalk that lines the gates of the bridge. She said it's been two weeks and nobody has passed through.
One family, who is living in a tent, said they are out of money and have nowhere else to go. Two mothers and two kids sleep there every night waiting to get into the U.S. A woman said things are getting desperate and a lot of people are talking about crossing illegally.
It's a desperation which is leading people to risk their lives to cross the border. Nearly 300 migrants died while attempting to cross in 2018. Last month, an image of Oscar Ramirez and his 2-year-old daughter Valeria, who both drowned, caught the attention of the nation.
U.S. volunteers from a group called Team Brownsville, cross from Brownsville, Texas to feed families. Volunteer Melba Salazar-Lucio had to raffle off books and toys because there weren't enough.
"You cannot remove the humanness. You saw those kids' eyes, you saw them! Some kids were like grabbing two numbers, two papers, so that maybe in the raffle they would get a doll," she said.
There are more than 19,000 people waiting in Mexico to request asylum. In addition, there are more than 325,000 pending asylum applications.