A Year of Persecution
Our fight against the Migrant "Protection" Protocols
(ImmDef and partners made waves last Wednesday. Our cause was featured on the front page of the San Diego Union Tribune and mentioned in various major newspapers.)
"They took us to Tijuana, and well, we cried... I cried there, with my children because it's a place that we didn't know. We had heard about so many kidnappings and murders, we didn't know any one, we don't have family there. I asked myself, what am I going to do with my kids here? If I took them out of where I was, it was so I could protect them, and now I was taking them to a place where I wouldn't be able to protect them." Carolina, one of ImmDef's MPP clients who's name was changed to protect her identity, shared with us an emotional anecdote that is common amongst families affected by the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). After a tiring and dangerous journey across thousands of miles, people seeking asylum are stopped and made to wait in some of the world's most dangerous cities. As of January 2020, there were at least 816 public reports of rape, kidnapping, torture, and other violent attacks against individuals returned to Mexico under MPP. But these numbers show just the tip of the iceberg. The overwhelming majority of MPP victims have not yet spoken to human rights investigators or journalist. The number of victims is without a doubt, tremendously higher.
(ImmDef Executive Director, Lindsay Toczylowski before walking into MPP court this past Wednesday.)
Words cannot describe the immense pain and destruction that our government is inflicting on innocent human lives through this policy. People are dying, and if we sit idly by, we are complicit. From day one of MPP, the Immigrant Defenders Law Center has taken a stand against this racist policy. Through our Cross Border Initiative (CBP), we have been providing resources to ensure that victims of MPP have the best possible chances of winning their asylum case.
(ImmDef Supervising Attorney Troy Elder working with MPP victims in Mexico.)
Wednesday, January 29 marked the one year anniversary of MPP. In an effort to highlight the atrocities of this policy, ImmDef collaborated with various other organizations on a nationwide campaign demanding an end to the policy and disseminating information about the injustices being committed. Early on Wednesday morning, ImmDeff staff and fellow volunteers made their way to a busy freeway overpass in Los Angeles. At the peak of morning rush hour traffic, they unrolled a massive banner that read, "135 miles south of here refugees are dying at our border." The intention was to shock as many people as possible and inspire them to research this issue, to take action. Our banners received many honks of solidarity, lots of engagement on social media, and a few hateful remarks, but we were resilient. Meanwhile, in San Diego another group of ImmDef staff and volunteers was holding a similar banner over a freeway overpass, and preparing to speak at a press conference.
((From left) ImmDef's Anna Barie, and fellow volunteers Howee (behind sign) and Rev. Tom Carey hold a banner at busy Los Angeles overpass.)
During the press conference, remarks were heard from various leaders in the fight against MPP. ImmDef's Legal Services Director, Joyce Noche, shared a story about one of her clients, an 18-year-old named Yolanda who had been separated from her pregnant sister when the pair arrived at the border to ask for asylum. "She was immediately targeted upon return [to Mexico], stalked and harassed by people who saw her for what she was - a vulnerable girl with no one to protect her who had been thrown into the streets... I have never worried as much about my client's safety every single night as I do about Yolanda." This was just one of the many anecdotes that were shared by ImmDef staff and our partners. In a court room nearby, emotional scenes were unfolding as MPP cases were under way. Among them was a detained father sneaking waves and smiles at his daughter who cried softly in the back. At the end of the hearing, a boy reached up to his father to be held before being separated and sent back to Mexico. Our Executive Director, Lindsay Toczylowski was at the hearing and live tweeted various similar instances.
(ImmDef's Legal Services Director Joyce Noche speaking at the MPP press conference in San Diego, 1/29. 'Max Rivlin Nadler | KPBS')
If these horrifying scenes of inhumanity are not able to convince the people behind MPP to retract their hateful policy, it's hard to imagine what could. But after a year of tirelessly working alongside our partners to defend the people affected, it seems our efforts have contributed to a few small victories. Congress has recently announced that they will be investigating the legality of MPP. Whether this will have any sway over the Trump administration is debatable, but the main takeaway here is that more people are beginning to see the pain that this policy is causing, and they are demanding that the government do something about it. We cannot continue to stand with our clients without the support of our donors. We have a lot of work left to do, and we are going to need your help. TAKE ACTION: Donate to ImmDef. You can also support us by using your social media platforms to share our posts about MPP and other issues. By sharing our posts, you will help to inform others in your network about these pressing problems. Please also consider attending ImmDef's events. Throughout the year, we will host our own events or collaborate with partners to continue the conversation on immigration and representation. Join us at Aloud Rights Night on February 15th where our Executive Director, Linsday Toczylowski will be discussing these issues. We are so glad to have you in our movement.