CBP closed port of entry after denying access to migrant family seeking asylum, accompanied by Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger
Hundreds of Asylum seekers and allies march at the border and across the U.S. demanding for the end of Title 42 and the full restoration of asylum protections
(NOGALES, SONORA, MEXICO). On Saturday, September 25, twenty-five migrant families arrived at the DeConcini port of entry to request their legal right to access asylum, followed by a march. These families were escorted by faith-based leaders from across the U.S. who traveled to offer pastoral accompaniment and to participate in the “Restore Protections for Holy Families: Prophetic Action to #SaveAsylum” march at the border wall. CBP effectively closed down the port of entry after the first family attempted to request asylum, accompanied by Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson and legal observers from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. ‘
The bi-national march- “Restore Protections for Holy Families: Prophetic Action to #SaveAsylum”-was led by asylum seekers waiting in Nogales, Sonora, who are demanding that the Biden Administration finally respect their right to asylum and end the policies forcing them to wait in danger in Nogales. Other solidarity actions took place in Austin, TX and Chicago, IL. Faith groups from Seattle, WA to New York, NY joined in solidarity and sent messages of support. Catholic school student delegations from Nogales, Tucson and Phoenix joined the ranks of migrants marching, some on the US side and some on the Mexico side. Faith leaders are also gathering Wednesday, September 29 in Washington, DC. These actions coincide with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Migration Week (September 20-26), which culminates with World Day of Migrants and Refugees, celebrated on September 26th. More importantly, the march took place a week before the CDC decides whether to extend Title 42.
The march started from the Plaza Miguel Hidalgo in Nogales, Sonora, MX at 1:30pm and continued towards the DeConcini port of entry to meet the U.S.-side of the march at 2:00 along Calle Internacional. Migrants shared their testimonies to a crowd of close to 400 (estimated) protestors on the Mexican side and over 100 allies on the U.S. side. Carlota [not real name], one of the migrant organizers of the march, told the crowd and viewers watching via livestream, “We really need President Biden to listen to us and to be human. He made campaign promises to always help us. He is the one who can reopen the border for us so that we can have a dignified life for us as single mothers and for our children because that is what we are looking for, a good future for our children. We earnestly request that the asylum be opened for us again since it is a right that we have and they are taking it away from us, arguing Title 42 and that it is because of the pandemic. We are already getting vaccinated so that this is not an impediment. Please we beg you: save asylum. Open asylum again so that we can live in peace.”
In March 2020, when the pandemic escalated globally, the Trump administration used COVID-19 as a pretext to effectively close the US border blocking nearly all asylum seekers searching for safety usingTitle 42. The asylum seekers- in preparation for presenting themselves at the port of entry- took rapid COVID tests donated by the Consulates of Mexico in Tucson and Nogales, AZ to KBI. All asylum seeking families brought their negative test results to show CBP agents.
Maria [not real name], another migrant organizer of the march said, “The same Trump policies are being followed by President Biden. The simple fact that he follows Title 42 shows that Biden is pursuing the same racist policy as Trump. We are seeing that he is not really interested in the welfare of the migrants, because if he were, he would have dropped this policy and would have taken steps to fully restore asylum.We know that President Biden has the power to remove Title 42 and restart the asylum process. Sadly, he has decided to continue to do the same – exclude people of color, meanwhile US citizens and residents cross daily. I want to ask President Biden to come back to see us and pay attention to all the people on the border, to open the door for us to seek protection we deserve under the law.”
Many families that migrate to the border are escaping unimaginable violence and persecution only to be met with a broken asylum system that excludes them from the possibility of seeking necessary protection to live life fully and with dignity. Karla [not real name], another migrant organizer, described her experience being denied asylum three times. She said, “I went to the Tijuana border looking for help and protection asking immigration for asylum. They rejected me, humiliated me, and denied me asylum. I cried together with my children, pleaded with them and asked for their help to be able to request asylum. When they saw me cry, they told me not to because not even with my tears was I going to convince them and that I better step aside because I was in the way. As I cried for help, they laughed at me and my children. I tried to seek asylum in three different ports of entry along the border and I have always been rejected, humiliated. They threatened to call the Mexican authorities on me who also humiliated us. I do not understand the reasons why they are denying us the right to asylum just for not having a paper to enter the United States and because those who have American papers can leave and enter at any time they want without any proof of COVID and even without a mouth cover.”
We again see this scene play out during Saturday’s march with Laura, the first family to present themselves at the DeConcini port of entry. Laura fled southern Mexico with her two kids, her brother and his family- after her husband was shot by the local mafia. Laura and her family, accompanied by the Bishop, went through the turnstile at the DeConcini port of entry only to be turned away in tears.
Chelsea Sachau, attorney with the Florence Project, who accompanied the family recounts the event, “The family reasserted their request to be processed and to seek asylum. They asked to speak to someone else [other than the CBP officials], a supervisor, and then the CBP officers entered the building and locked both doors. They tested to make sure that both doors were locked, and then they slowly started lowering the gate to shut down the entire port of entry because this family, accompanied by faith leaders, and a legal observer, asked him for their right to seek asylum.” Laura and her family were forced to step back as the gate lowered onto where they were standing. Sachau continues, “There was no warning given to anyone, neither ourselves or anyone in line who had papers to enter into the US.” The DeConcini port of entry was shut down for about an hour to anyone trying to cross into the U.S.
Joanna Williams, Executive Director of the Kino Border Initiative, who also accompanied Laura’s family, spoke (min. 2:00:00) to the crowd of protestors over the megaphone after the family was turned away by CBP. Williams said, “She [Laura] spoke with a lot of courage and clarity when asking for her right to asylum. She even showed her negative COVID test to show that this is not an impediment to seek protection in the U.S. Despite their words and insistence from the Bishop, CBP not only denied access to this family, but they closed down the entire port of entry. It is difficult for CBP officials to listen to the families, because it would mean for them to listen to their voices, to open their hearts and realize the injustice that is happening here. Instead of opening their eyes, their ears, and their hearts- they have decided to deny the reality that is here. But we are right. We are witnesses to this reality. We will not be silenced. We will not give up. The struggle will continue.”
CLICK HERE for video footage of the moment CBP closed the gate at the port of entry in front of Laura and her family.
CLICK HERE for video footage of traffic stopped at the DeConcini checkpoint after CBP closed the port of entry due to the protest.
The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) is a bi-national organization located in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. KBI provides humanitarian aid to migrants in Nogales, Sonora and engages in education and advocacy on both sides of the border with a vision of promoting humane, just and workable migration.
The #SaveAsylum Coalition mobilizes migrants, faith-based groups, and over a dozen humanitarian organizations to restore clear and transparent access to asylum. The coalition works to recognize and publicly condemn the US government’s violation of international law as well as the 1980 Refugee Act. A complementary aspect of this public condemnation is lifting up the testimonies of asylum seekers and acknowledging the injustices that they have faced not only in their home country, but as they wait outside the border of a country that had vowed to receive and protect them. The #SaveAsylum Coalition has organized ten events since August 2020.
KINO BORDER INITIATIVE
OUR LOCATION IN USA
P.O. Box 159
Nogales, AZ 85628-0159 (520) 287-2370 OUR LOCATION IN MEXICO
Edificio 3, Dept. 401
Colonia Fovissste II, C.P. 84020
Nogales, Sonora 011-52 (631) 316-2086 (If dialing from the US: 011-52)