BY ISN STAFF | July 8, 2019
At a time when each day brings news of another example of inhumane and shameful treatment of asylum-seekers at the Mexican border, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. will launch a project to provide legal guidance to people waiting in Juárez, Mexico, to pursue asylum claims.
“For the last two years, in the face of the steady disruption of the U.S. asylum system, our network has stepped up time and again to assist immigrants who are subjected to attacks on their rights, relentless demonization and the rising threat of deportation and family separation,” said CLINIC executive director Anna Gallagher.
“We are now taking our knowledge and expertise at building a legal representation network to the Mexican border at Ciudad Juárez,” Gallagher said. Like elsewhere along the border, some of the most heartbreaking tragedies have played out in and around Juárez and its sister city, El Paso, Texas. Currently, Juárez is temporary home to an estimated 11,000 asylum seekers from Central America and around the world, while they wait for their chance to seek the protection of asylum in the United States.
This new effort, called Estamos Unidos: Proyecto de Asilo/Asylum Project, will follow the model being used in Tijuana, south of San Diego. There, volunteers from across the country provide legal guidance, along with an assortment of other services, coordinated by the nonprofit Al Otro Lado. CLINIC strategic capacity officer Luis Guerra, who worked with Al Otro Lado to build the Tijuana program, and CLINIC staff attorney Tania Guerrero will set up the Juárez project, which Guerrero will lead.
“At its most basic, this project will save lives,” said Gallagher, “by helping protect vulnerable people whose best hope for escaping violence and other threats at home lies in a new life in the United States, through the asylum process.”
CLINIC’s network has for 30 years fought for the rights of immigrants. CLINIC’s recent work on behalf of vulnerable immigrants has included reuniting formerly separated families, increasing representation for people facing deportation, challenging egregious policies in court, helping those affected by the Muslim travel ban and providing educational resources for the public, as well as the nonprofit legal community.
Through Estamos Unidos, CLINIC will work in partnership or consultation with allies and other Catholic agencies, including the dioceses of El Paso and Juárez, the Hope Border Institute, and the Center for Migration Studies of New York.
CLINIC and the Ignatian Solidarity Network are co-members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign.
Guerrero, an immigration attorney with broad experience in both the U.S. and Mexican legal systems, said: “CLINIC’s work in serving migrants and refugees has always involved several layers – from public education on immigration laws and policies and informing impact litigation to leading advocacy efforts on immigration. Being at the southern border is just another layer of our work on these issues.”