Since 2017 the Kino Border Initiative has worked in partnership with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project to provide legal services to migrants in our migrant aid center in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. A program that started with one attorney has since grown to two attorneys and three legal assistants in just three years.
The Florence Project’s Border Action Team provides legal orientations to migrants who arrive to our migrant aid center in Nogales, Sonora. They also provide pro se assistance and legal representation to some migrants who seek asylum in the U.S. and are later detained. Through this work, the Florence Project ensures that migrants are empowered with the information they need to make decisions about their immigration cases.
Over the past several years, attacks on access to asylum have increased at the U.S.-Mexico border, including policies like metering, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), and Title 42. In partnership with the Florence Project as well as larger regional and national networks, we are advocating for the restoration of asylum on the US-Mexico border.
The Current Situation at the Border
In January 2020, MPP (also known as “Remain in Mexico”) was implemented at the Arizona border. A border wide policy that forced nearly 70,000 people seeking asylum to wait in Mexico for court dates in their asylum cases, it has endangered the lives of every single person subjected to it. While President Biden halted new admissions to the policy when he took office, the rollback of the policy has been unwieldy and slow, and the people we serve in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico have been largely forgotten in the initial phase.
Additionally, since March 2020, the border has been effectively closed to all migrants. Virtually no one has been allowed by Customs and Border Protection to present at ports of entry, and anyone who crosses the border between ports of entry is immediately expelled back to Mexico without seeing an immigration judge or having their safety considered. This policy, known as Title 42, was issued by the Trump administration despite objections by senior CDC medical experts that it lacked a public health justification. Thus far, the Biden administration has elected to keep the policy in place. Like people who have been subjected to MPP, people expelled to Mexico under Title 42 are in grave danger: migrants who arrive to KBI continually report extortion, kidnapping, threats of violence, injury, and illness while in Mexico.
In response to these significant challenges, the Florence Project’s Border Action Team is currently maintaining a seven day a week presence on the ground in Nogales, Sonora, with at least two people present each day to ensure that people who are in MPP, expelled under Title 42, or newly arriving to the border have access to high-quality legal services.