US border clampdown forces Venezuelan teen into Mexico alone

In this Monday, Feb. 17, 2020 photo provided by attorney Jodi Goodwin, a Venezuelan teenager named Branyerly stands on an international bridge connecting Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, before she requested parole from U.S. border officers. Branyerly was forced back to Mexico by U.S. government authorities who denied her claims that she was fleeing political repression and violence, even after they accepted the same claims from her father. The teenager is living alone in Matamoros, Mexico, across from Brownsville. (Jodi Goodwin via AP) (Jodi Goodwin)

HOUSTON, Texas – A Venezuelan teenager has been forced back to Mexico by U.S. government authorities who denied her claims that she was fleeing political repression and violence, even after they accepted the same claims from her father.

The teenager, who is being identified by only her first name, Branyerly, is living alone in Matamoros, Mexico, across from Brownsville.According to her attorney,U.S. border agentson Monday and Tuesday denied her requestsnot to be sent back under the Trump administration's so-called “Remain in Mexico” program for migrants.

Branyerly and her father could not request asylum under another Trump policy, a ban on most asylum claims at the southern border for people who came through a “third country.” But in January, an immigration judge allowed her father, Branly, into the U.S. by granting what's called withholding of removal, which requires meeting a higher legal standard.

That same judge denied withholding for Branyerly, who was 17 when she originally arrived at the borderand is now 18. Both she and her fathersay the immigration judge, Monica Thompson Guidry, asked him most questions during the hearing and asked her relatively few. The final result came as a shock to both of them.

She tried to request parole Monday at one of the bridges connecting Brownsville and Matamoros. She was taken into an office on the U.S. side briefly, then told to return to Mexico.

“I already lived one nightmare in Venezuela and another here,” Branyerly said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has overseen an economic collapse and political turmoil that's led to hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge in the United States and elsewhere.

President Donald Trump in his State of the Union address this month called Maduro a “socialist dictator” and said “all Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom.” But many Venezuelans seeking refuge in the U.S. have been barred by a series of Trump administration policies clamping down on asylum.