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Democratic Presidential Candidate and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro said this in last night’s debate:

If I were president today, I would sign an executive order that would get rid of Trump’s zero tolerance policy, the Remain in Mexico policy, and the metering policy. This metering policy is basically what prompted Oscar and Valeria to make that risky swim across the river. They have been playing games with people who are coming and trying to seek asylum at our ports of entry. Oscar and Valeria went to a port of entry, and then they were denied the ability to make an asylum claim, so they got frustrated, and they tried to cross the river, and they died because of that.

I’m interested in the part in bold. This is referring to Oscar and Valeria Martinez, a father and daughter from El Salvador who were seeking asylum, and drowned in the Rio Grande river trying to cross into the United States. And the metering policy is a policy instituted by the Trump administration where the Border Patrol only allows a certain number of people per day to make asylum claims.

My question is, is Secretary Castro right that Oscar and Valeria Martinez went to a port of entry and were denied the ability to make an asylum claim?

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    The claim does not say they were "turned away." The claim says they were denied the ability to make an asylum claim. The reason is that there are far more migrants at the border wanting to apply for asylum than CBP is willing to process (the "metering" policy), CBP is not attempting to increase capacity, and so people like the Martinez family are forced to either wait for months at the border where they have limited resources, or to attempt an illegal crossing. – Bryan Krause Jun 27 at 22:35
  • @BryanKrause Yeah, I stated my question more precisely in the body of my post. I tried to keep my title relatively short. Still it captures the gist of things - if you go to up to a border agent and you ask to make an asylum claim and they don’t let you make one, that is called being turned away. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 27 at 23:38
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    But the claim isnt that they walked up to a border agents. From the news descriptions the migrants are in camps where they've formed an unofficial queue system; reports are they were waiting months before they gave up and tried to swim. It's not clear they approached border patrol but it's not really relevant to the claim. – Bryan Krause Jun 28 at 0:28
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    The phrase "denied the ability" does not necessarily mean some individual says "no you cannot" to their faces. It can also mean that someone made a systemic decision that prevented them from entering legally, in this case by the metering policy. – Bryan Krause Jun 28 at 0:37
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    @KeshavSrinivasan: Right, but the wording of the claim is vague, and we seem to be arguing definitions here. If the facts, say, they approached within a few km of a border post, learned that the process would take months, and they realised they couldn't afford that, would you consider that a confirmation or refutation of the claim? – Oddthinking Jun 28 at 2:38
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Broadly, yes

The Trump administration has been restricting the number of people who can claim asylum at the Mexican border. The queue for asylum seekers is now reportedly measured in months, and this is probably causing some people to try to enter illegally.

From the first link:

While the stated intentions behind metering may be reasonable, the practice may have unintended consequences. For instance, OIG saw evidence that limiting the volume of asylum-seekers entering at ports of entry leads some aliens who would otherwise seek legal entry into the United States to cross the border illegally. According to one Border Patrol supervisor, the Border Patrol sees an increase in illegal entries when aliens are metered at ports of entry. Two aliens recently apprehended by the Border Patrol corroborated this observation, reporting to the OIG team that they crossed the border illegally after initially being turned away at ports of entry. One woman said she had been turned away three times by an officer on the bridge before deciding to take her chances on illegal entry.

According to Oscar's wife Tania, they had previously spent 2 months in a camp waiting for an appointment. From Google Translate of the link:

Tania Vanessa Ávalos described how for two months she and her family were staying in a migrant camp located on the Puerta México bridge, waiting to get an appointment to ask for political asylum from the Donald Trump government. He explained that they had a humanitarian visa from the Mexican government.

He added that the stay began to continue, the days passed without any news and withstanding temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius. Her husband began to go into despair and on Sunday afternoon made the decision that they would cross the Rio Grande.

So they were certainly denied the ability to make an asylum claim, at least within a reasonable time. According to the wife they did present themselves at the border and ask for asylum. It would seem that Oscar Martinez made the decision that trying to cross the Rio Grande was less dangerous than staying in the queue for an unknown number of further months.

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