BY ISN STAFF | May 22, 2020
“I don’t want to face again everything I already faced,” Maria exclaimed. Maria is a 30-year-old mother of two young children, who fled from Honduras after her family’s lives had been threatened by gangs. After a long journey, being kidnapped and extorted in Northern Mexico, crossing the Rio Grande River, and being arrested by U.S. Border Patrol, the family of three were told to return to Mexico, threatening their safety and lives. Maria and her family are stranded.
A new report from Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Stranded: The Impact of US Policies on Asylum Seekers, shares testimonies like Maria’s that bring to life the real and often heartbreaking consequences of U.S. asylum policies.
“Children who are legally seeking safety are being told they cannot come to the United States to find it. I have witnessed first-hand the direct impact this has had on people’s lives. Even in the current context, we can both welcome them and protect public health” says Giulia McPherson, report author and director of advocacy for JRS/USA.
In January 2019, the U.S. government announced a policy called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as “Remain in Mexico,” which forces asylum seekers arriving at ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border to return to Mexico to wait while their claim is processed. The outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent closing of the southern border have only further dismantled the U.S. system of asylum and put more people seeking safety in danger. Though no new MPP cases are currently begin accepted, most people, including those legally seeking asylum, are currently being turned away.
The report calls for changes to these policies, asking policy makers to re-instate access to asylum at U.S. borders putting in place measures that manage risks to public health, but that do not deny persons seeking protection; complete the current House Judiciary investigation into the legality of MPP; and oppose the Remain in Mexico policy, should it be reinstated, and allow asylum seekers to wait safely in the U.S. during the adjudication of their asylum claim.
“Now more than ever, policymakers must act to protect asylum,” says Fr. Ted Penton, S.J., Secretary of the Office of Justice and Ecology at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. “The dismantling of the system of asylum in the US runs contrary to our legal system, human rights, and Catholic Social Teaching. We are all called to learn from the stories told in this report and to contact our elected representatives to lift their voices up.”
Kelly Swan is communications director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has done work related to parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and magazine publishing in both West Virginia and northern New Jersey. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her husband and four children.