BY ISN STAFF | October 8, 2021

Members of the Jesuit network joined asylum seekers and Catholic leaders from across the U.S. at the U.S.-Mexico border to march in solidarity with migrant families demanding the Biden Administration respect their right to asylum.

Asylum seekers and advocates march in the streets of Nogales.

The nonviolent public action titled Restore Protections for Holy Families: Prophetic Action to Save Asylum is a month-long effort to call on President Biden to restore access to asylum for families seeking refuge from dangers including violence and abuse in their home country. Title 42, a policy initiated by the Trump Administration but sustained by President Biden, has restricted asylum seekers from attempting to legally seek asylum during the COVID-19 pandemic. Asylum-seeking families want Title 42 to be ended immediately. 

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An asylum-seeking family speaks at the border wall in Nogales, Sonora.

“We know President Biden has the power to end Title 42 and resume processing of asylum seekers at ports of entry, but sadly, he has decided to keep the status quo,” said Lucia, a migrant from Mexico. Along with her husband and two children she has been waiting for two months to make a request for asylum at the port of entry in Nogales. She called on President Biden to “open the door to the protections [asylum seekers] seek and the protection they deserve according to the law.”

“I attended because I am keenly aware of the grave danger that asylum seekers face as a result of Title 42, a policy which uses the pandemic as a smokescreen to deny migrants the right to seek asylum protection,” shared Kimberly Redigan, a theology teacher and JustPeace Human Rights Council Moderator at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. “Imagine if Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had not been able to flee the violence of Herod; these holy families are in the same situation.”  Redigan accompanied a mother and her child—displaced as a result of death threats—to the port of entry at the border. “Their courage and steadfastness affected me profoundly,” she shared. “There is a solemn responsibility that comes with bearing witness and accompanying others—I take this responsibility seriously. Whether sharing with my students, my faith community, my neighbors, or the Detroit-area activist community, I am committed to educating, advocating, and agitating in solidarity with those most deeply affected by unjust immigration policies.”

Most Rev. Edward Weisenburger, Bishop of the Diocese of Tucson was one of the numerous religious leaders to bless the asylum-seeking families and accompany them to the port of entry. In his blessing, he acknowledged that the march and action at the border came on the eve of the Catholic Church’s “World Day of Migrants and Refugees, calling on God to “deliver families waiting [in Nogales] and all along the US-Mexico border from insecurity and uncertainty they face as they seek safety.”

Asylum Seekers at U.S.-Mexico Border

Bishop Weisenburger, from the Diocese of Tuscon, speaks to those gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Sonora.

The migrant family accompanied by Bishop Weisenerberger received no acknowledgment from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents when they approached the port of entry. CBP agents proceeded to close the border crossing, lowering a gate as the family pleaded for their request for asylum to be heard. Bishop Weisenberger and the family emerged from the border crossing facility a few moments later disappointed by the lack of acknowledgement, but greeted with applause from the crowd of hundreds of demonstrators. The port of entry was later reopened, enabling other families and their faith leader allies to attempt to make requests for asylum that were generally ignored by CBP officials at the port of entry. 

Catholic, asylum seekers

Catholic sisters walk with asylum seekers through the streets of Nogales.

Migrant families will continue their advocacy from the Mexican side of the border. They called on allies in the U.S. to make phone calls to President Biden and members of Congress on October 1st and to hold “Save Asylum Vigils” in their local communities each Friday in October. 

Christopher Kerr, ISN’s executive director, accompanies an asylum- seeking family to the U.S. port of entry.

“Restore Protections for Holy Families: Prophetic Action to Save Asylum” is an effort led by asylum seekers with support from a number of borderland and national organizations including the #SaveAsylum coalition, consisting of asylum seekers, community members, faith leaders, and immigration advocates from Mexico and the U.S.; Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national organization located in Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, providing humanitarian aid to migrants in Nogales, Sonora, and education and advocacy on both sides of the border with a vision of promoting humane, just, and workable migration; the Ignatian Solidarity Network, a national social justice education and advocacy organization rooted in the spiritual tradition of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; the Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology, which brings the voice of Jesuit leadership to governments, international bodies, non-governmental organizations, and corporations, advocating on behalf of marginalized communities; and the InterCommunity Peace and Justice Center, a collaboration of 24 religious communities working together with Catholic, ecumenical, interfaith, and other organizations for justice in the church and in the world.

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