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U.S. Shelters for Asylum Seekers Declare: There is Room at the Inn

BY ISN STAFF | December 14, 2019

“There is room in our inns,” was the message from representatives of 31 migrant humanitarian shelters on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico that have collectively served over 320,000 asylum seekers over the course of 2019. The shelters, who have said they are “are ready and eager to welcome asylum-seeking families,” are demanding an end to the “Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP)” policy (also referred to as “Remain in Mexico”). Instituted by the Trump Administration in January 2019, MPP returns migrants who have legally sought asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to Mexico while they wait for adjudication of their asylum claim. 


McAllen, Texas – April 16, 2019: Central American migrants seeking asylum from poverty and gang violence line up at the bus station to get tickets to go stay with sponsors until their hearings. [Vic Hinterlang]

In Mexico, the asylum seekers, many of them parents and children, face severe economic conditions and grave security threats from drug cartels. According to Human Rights First, there are 636 publicly reported cases of violent attacks against asylum seekers returned under MPP, and the vast majority of such attacks are not reported. We know from our firsthand experience that we can avoid feeding such violence by allowing families to seek asylum from within the US, instead of returning them to Mexico.

According to a statement released by Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, a lead organizer for the coalition of humanitarian shelters, shelter leaders gathered for a two-day meeting earlier this week in Laredo, Texas. During the meeting, representatives shared testimonies of the difficult decisions asylum-seeking families made to leave their homes and seek safety for themselves and their children at the border. Also discussed were the extraordinary efforts of people of goodwill along the border who have volunteered their time and donated resources for asylum-seeking families because they are motivated by an understanding of “common humanity.” A resounding theme of their discussions during the meeting revolved around the rejection of the message that their capacity to help is overwhelmed.

“As border shelters, we are ready to provide places of safety and welcome to asylum seekers. We know that when the US government returns families to Mexico to await court dates, the very process of return identifies them as targets for organized crime and heightens their risk of trafficking. U.S. officials remove asylum seekers’ shoelaces purportedly so that they don’t harm themselves while in detention. But when they are sent back to Mexico, the cartels identify families with missing shoelaces as easy prey for kidnapping and trafficking. These unintended ties between U.S. border policy and cartel violence harm families and strengthen organized crime.”

-Representatives of 31 Humanitarian Shelters on the U.S.-Mexico border 

While not part of the coalition that spoke out this week, humanitarian shelters on the Mexican side of the U.S. border are sharing similar concerns and calls to action. “In recent days we have begun to receive families who sought asylum in Nogales, Arizona, were delivered to danger in Juarez, Mexico, and after suffering attacks there have fled back [hundreds of miles] to our comedor in Nogales, Mexico,” said Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative.  “As we grapple with this reality on the Mexican side of the border, we appreciate the solidarity of U.S.-based shelters who have faithfully provided humanitarian aid and who through their statement join us in opposition to MPP,” noted Williams. 

Earlier this year, the Ignatian Solidarity Network and Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology invited advocates to call on their U.S. Congresspersons to end the MPP policy. Advocates can continue to take action here

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