FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 21, 2021
Joanna Williams, Kino Border Initiative Executive Director
Migrants, Faith and Community Leaders in Tucson, Arizona host interfaith event to express welcome and blessing to migrants, demand the restoration of asylum access.
Organizers highlight the many people in Arizona who support increased access to protection.
(TUCSON, ARIZONA). The #SaveAsylum coalition held its eighth event since August 2020 to demand expanded access to asylum. The gathering featured a wide swath of faith leaders, migrants, community members, and humanitarian organizations. Attendees expressed that the event was a proclamation of welcome for migrants, emphasizing the many communities across Arizona who support migrants and stand ready to accept them.
“There are so many voices spreading fear right now, but the truth is that these voices do not represent the majority of people in border communities. This event is lifting our voices to tell migrants and policy-makers that we view migrants as a blessing. We want to welcome them,” explained Sister Tracey Horan, Associate Director of Education and Advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative.
Among the scores of people at the event were a mix of faith leaders and government officials. Adelita Grijalva of the Pima County Board of Supervisors and Lane Santa Cruz of Tucson City Council traded warm greetings with Rabbi Thomas A. Louchheim of Congregation Or Chadash and Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. of the Tohono O’odham Nation. During the indoor portion of the program in St. Augustine’s Cathedral, some of these faith leaders extended blessings to migrants in the crowd and waiting to cross.
“The people of Tucson for years have been living out Pope Francis’ call to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants,” said Catholic Bishop Weisenberger of the Tucson Diocese. “As we gather to commemorate World Refugee Day, we celebrate both the resolve of these families seeking safety and the generous hearts of Arizonans who have chosen and continue to choose welcome and encounter over fear and hate.”
The event comes on the heels of several significant shifts in US asylum policy, including the removal of the Migrant Protection Protocol and restoration of asylum protection for people fleeing intimate partner violence. Despite these gains, advocates and migrants present said there was far more that needed to be done. Advocates and asylum seekers said it would take a lot of work changing the hearts and minds of people who have only heard messages of fear when it comes to migration.
Manuel, an asylum seeker from southern Mexico, has been waiting for asylum with his wife and three children in Nogales, Sonora for over a month. “We fled extortion by an organized criminal group after my brother was shot and hospitalized. I’ve had many sleepless nights with nightmares just thinking about what the future might bring for my family. Here at the border, we live with a great deal of insecurity. I appreciate each person who is part of the work to save asylum so that the light might open up our path. I pray that God softens the hearts of authorities so that migrants no longer have to wait days, months or years simply to have their asylum petitions received.”
Migrants like Manuel were heartened to see the large turnout at the event, seeing throngs of people saying that they not only welcomed migrants but also viewed them as a blessing. The gathering only served to underscore the key role border communities have played in offering migrants the humanitarian aid that the US government often fails to provide.
About Kino Border Initiative and #SaveAsylum
The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) is a binational 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 June 21st event will be the eighth event that #SaveAsylum has organized since August 2020.