The Kino Border Initiative strongly opposes the expansion of Remain in Mexico to the Tucson sector. Beginning on Friday, November 22, CBP will transfer many asylum-seeking families and individuals from the Tucson area to El Paso before forcing them to remain in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico for the duration of their asylum proceedings.
At KBI, our Catholic values are rooted in a commitment to the well-being, dignity, and rights of all people. At taxpayer expense, this decision will transport people seeking asylum in Arizona over 300 miles to a dangerous Mexican city, where it is difficult to access legal services and where few people have the support of their family and communities. Even now, Ciudad Juárez is well beyond its capacity to meet the basic needs of asylum seekers. This is because of the high numbers of people who are already stranded there due to metering and Remain in Mexico’s March implementation in El Paso, which has, at this date, forced nearly 15,000 people back to Juárez. The shelters there are overstretched, and many of the asylum-seekers currently in the city are living in precarious and substandard conditions. As winter arrives, this will force people—including infants, children, and the elderly—to live in particularly hostile and unsafe environments. In addition, an October Human Rights First study reported that there have been over 340 public instances of rape, kidnapping, torture, and other violent attacks against asylum seekers returned to Mexico. An expansion of Remain in Mexico will only cause these numbers to increase.
Placing people in such precariousness and danger is unacceptable under any circumstance, but it is particularly egregious when services exist in the region to provide hospitality and welcome to asylum-seekers and migrants. Faith communities, an expansive base of committed volunteers from throughout the state and beyond, and legal service providers—among countless others—exist in southern Arizona. KBI has a partnership with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project to offer legal assistance to asylum-seekers in the region; in contrast, only 1% of people subject to Remain in Mexico have access to an attorney.
We are ready and willing to continue to offer hospitality and assistance to migrants and asylum-seekers. Arizona communities have been doing this work for years, and we have the capacity and desire to do so going forward. CBP is intentionally transferring people away from places where services exist and placing thousands of asylum-seekers in harm’s way, exposing them to suffering and danger, and blocking them from seeking safety. This expansion of Remain in Mexico is another of the Trump administration’s many systematic attempts to block an individual’s right to seek asylum. The violations against asylum must be ended decisively and immediately.