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Humane Solutions will “Depressurize” the Border, Not Block Migration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 25, 2023


Washington, DC – The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights is concerned about media reports that the Mexican government has agreed to take actions to deter migrants from reaching the U.S.-Mexico border, including deporting people back to the danger they fled in their home countries. Instead of failed “deterrence” tactics that do not work and violate the legal right to seek asylum, the Campaign urges the U.S. government to adopt solutions that meet the humanitarian needs of the moment, including ensuring adequate staffing and resourcing of ports of entry and the border to process people seeking asylum and migrants; funding local governments, community groups, and nonprofits that provide essential services; and coordinating with non-government organizations to develop policies that ensure that every person who fears being returned to their country has an accessible, transparent, and fair opportunity to apply for asylum and other forms of protection in the United States.

“People are fleeing out of necessity, not choice,” said Melina Roche, #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign Manager. “Policies that prevent or deter people from seeking safety, freedom, and a better life will not work. If the U.S. is serious about preserving lawful pathways, then it must increase the capacity to screen people seeking asylum and fund local government, community groups, and nonprofits that have historically and continue to provide services to migrants. These are all steps that the government can take to uphold the legal right to seek asylum.”

“As an organization that works directly with impacted people on both sides of the border, we know the grave damage that these reported actions will have on those seeking protection,” said Marisa Limon Garza, Executive Director at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez. “While coordination is certainly welcome, a pact of externalized deterrence is not the solution. We cannot move backward and open the door to expulsions at the southern border. We urge both countries to recognize the humanitarian response and due process needed in light of mass migration.”

“The U.S. government’s outsourcing of its protection responsibilities to Mexico goes directly against the commitments made in the Los Angeles Declaration from the Summit of Americas to provide humanitarian approaches to immigration,” said Vicki Gass, Executive Director of LAWG. “The U.S. government must restore the legal right to asylum and address the root causes forcing people to flee, such as poverty, climate change, exclusive economic development, and corruption and impunity. Deterrence policies don’t and won’t work.” “Just last week, President López Obrador recognized that migrants risk their lives to seek safety because they have no other option,” said Kimiko Hirota, policy advisor of the Migrant Rights & Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Agreements that attempt to deter migrants and hinder their ability to seek asylum in the United States will only cause more suffering at the US-Mexico border and along the migratory route. All efforts should prioritize increasing processing and humanitarian capacity on both sides of the border, not deporting people back to the very danger they fled.”

“The deportation of individuals and families from Mexico before they have a chance to petition for safety is not the way to respond to the influx of migrants in the region,” said Giulia McPherson, Vice President of Advocacy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “As an organization present on both sides of the border, we support coordination between the US and Mexico to meet the needs of asylum seekers and migrants, but we are disheartened by agreements that focus on deportation rather than a coordinated humanitarian response.” “This marks yet another attempt by the U.S. government to outsource its protection responsibilities and trample on the rights of people seeking safety at our southern border,” said Felipe Navarro Lux, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. “When the U.S. government has teamed up with Mexico on draconian enforcement in the past, vulnerable families, children, and adults have been returned to conditions where they face violence and persecution. This cruel and counterproductive approach violates the United States’ legal obligations to refugees and does nothing to ‘deter’ people who are fleeing for their lives. We urge the Biden administration to reverse course.”

“This latest agreement between the United States and Mexico not only demonstrates a lack of compassion and empathy for people fleeing unspeakable harm, it also puts people, particularly survivors of gender-based violence, at further risk of harm and danger,” said Casey Carter Swegman, Director of Public Policy at the Tahirih Justice Center. “Immigrant women and girls will bear the heaviest burden of physical and emotional trauma because of decisions like these that erode their legal rights and undermine their safety. The Tahirih Justice Center will continue fighting on behalf of all survivors seeking refuge to ensure they are able to safely seek asylum.”

“The United States has a deadly habit of leaning on its southern neighbors to act as proxy border patrol, halting or deporting people before they have a chance to seek asylum in the United States,” said Azadeh Erfani, Senior Policy Analyst with the National Immigrant Justice Center. “The latest agreement between the U.S. and Mexico will mean more death and suffering for countless adults, families, and children in dire need of protection. We call once again for both nations to end these deadly and broken deterrence policies and abide by their domestic and international obligations not to return people to harm.”

“This new agreement is simply outrageous, and it runs counter to the Administration’s stated aim of disempowering smugglers and promoting ‘lawful entry,’” said Cindy Woods, National Policy Counsel at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “Through its unlawful asylum ban, the Biden Administration seeks to limit the right to seek asylum. Notably, the Administration has prioritized use of the CBP One app, which only works within a certain proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border. Those seeking to approach the port of entry without the app are being turned away and forced to wait in Mexico until there is capacity to process them. In effect, this Administration’s flawed policies are exacerbating the situation along the U.S.–Mexico border. Asking Mexico to forcibly return asylum seekers, many of whom will undertake the dangerous journey again, results only in putting them once again in harm’s way and shows this Administration’s desire to manage optics at the border over providing safety to vulnerable migrants seeking protection.”

“It is unfortunate that in a country that has been built by immigrants, we are now turning our backs on them,” said Laura Sanchez, Legal Director of The Central American Resource Center of Northern CA – CARECEN SF. “As a nation, we should continue to work with our immigrant community by welcoming and incorporating them into our society. The U.S. and Mexican governments should work together to implement measures that will support and help migrants exert their right to seek asylum, instead of agreeing in ways to return individuals to the same danger they were escaping."

“This arrangement will endanger the lives of refugees fleeing political, religious, and other persecution by working in tandem with the Biden administration’s asylum ban to deliver them back to the very countries from which they have fled,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “The United States and Mexico should be working together to protect the safety of migrants and people seeking asylum, improve their access to safe shelter and uphold refugee law. The Biden administration should immediately end its temporary asylum ban before more damage is inflicted.” “The announcement of today’s agreement is nothing new in US and México relations, it is merely an instance in which the governments are finally saying the quiet part out loud. For years, the United States government has spent billions of dollars forcing México to do its dirty work in preventing asylum seekers, who are fleeing for their lives, from ever stepping foot on US soil, including Mexican families fleeing persecution from which the Mexican government refuses to protect them,” said Nicole Elizabeth Ramos, Al Otro Lado’s Border Rights Project Director. “There is not a single border externalization policy at the southern border that can operate successfully without the collaboration and complicity of the Mexican government, which clearly places more value on receiving US dollars over protecting human lives, including the lives of their compatriots. Such illegal cooperation agreements would not be needed if the US government directed CBP officers to follow US federal law, and process asylum seekers upon arrival at US ports of entry, in compliance with Title 8, Section 1225, and our obligations under the international Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol.”

“Coordination between the United States and Mexico should focus on humanitarian response, not deterrence. We should provide shelter and safety with dignity and uphold the legal right to seek asylum. The difficulties at our southern border once again highlight the urgent need for resources, to process, house, and provide legal and medical support to arriving migrants. And they once again raise the need for comprehensive reform of our immigration laws,” said Pablo DeJesús, Executive Director of Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice. “The migrants arriving at our borders are escaping danger both natural and human-made. They are fleeing crushing threats that are systemic and global. This deal between the United States and Mexico perpetuates the deterrence approaches of the past, doubling down on strategies that violate the legal right to asylum. We should side with welcoming, in love. We should side with care, in compassion. Deterrence policies imperil the most vulnerable, among an already endangered community.” “The latest agreement between Mexico and the United States to deport asylum seekers arriving in Mexico will have devastating consequences for families seeking protection. The United States is outsourcing its deterrence policies instead of providing meaningful access to our nation's asylum system. ImmDef calls for measures between Mexico and the United States that tackle the root causes of migration, protect asylum seekers, and ensure that families are kept together. We also call on the Biden Administration to immediately end its asylum ban once and for all.”– Alvaro M. Huerta, ImmDef Litigation & Advocacy Director.

### Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity. The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights is composed of more than 100 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: welcomewithdignity.org

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