FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
- Tuesday, August 24, 2021
- Contact: Gia Del Pino, Director of Communications
- Phone: (520)-208-7716
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Migrants Seeking Asylum meet with Senator Sinema Delegation in Nogales to discuss the urgent need to restore asylum
Six asylum seekers urge Senator Kyrsten Sinema to consider CBP oversight, immediately restoring access to asylum at the US-Mexico border
(NOGALES, SONORA, MEXICO). A group of six asylum seekers from the #SaveAsylum Coalition sat down with Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s staff last Wednesday, August 18, to share their stories and call for the repeal of Title 42, the reinstatement of asylum access, and oversight and accountability for CBP abuse. The meeting comes on the heels of several significant shifts in US asylum policy, including the indefinite extension of Title 42 and the potential reinstatement of Migrant Protection Protocols. Migrants and advocates say that more needs to be done.
The migrants shared that they experienced death threats, corruption, organized crime, and gender-based violence in their hometowns. These experiences drove them to quickly flee with their families to the US to seek protection. Jesenia [not real name] challenged Sinema’s staffers to empathize, “I’m not the only one, many of us are fleeing for the same reasons, to save our lives. I want you to put yourselves in our shoes. If you’re parents, imagine what you would do to keep your kids safe.” Jesenia has been waiting in limbo for one month in Nogales, Mexico after fleeing her town in southern Mexico, where the local mafia assaulted her and tried to recruit her teenage son. She told the Sinema delegation while choking back tears, “When I tried to report an assault to the local authorities in my town, they told me never to mention what happened again unless I wanted to be brought home to my family in black plastic bags. A month later, my husband disappeared.” Jesenia’s experience is one of many that sheds light on the critical levels of impunity that exist in many regions in Mexico and Central America where local authorities often collude with organized crime.
The asylum seekers impressed upon Sinema’s team the imminent peril and precariousness of being forced to survive in Nogales, Mexico as the border continues to remain indefinitely closed to migrants under Title 42. These families escaped grave danger only to face additional insecurity, death threats, extortion from Mexican authorities, and disproportionate cost of living simply for being foreigners. For many of them, the daily meals served at KBI’s Migrant Outreach Center is the only way to feed their family. Yet, the expensive cost of travel and the fear of walking to the shelter alone with their children forces parents to negotiate between safety or sustenance.
Lamentably, the layers of abuse and injustice only compound as asylum seekers continue actively pursuing their fundamental human right to seek safety and protection in another country. Several of the migrants shared that they had experienced crossing the border through the desert, being detained and rapidly expelled. They told the Sinema team about various instances of abuse at the hands of Customs and Border Patrol agents who subject migrants to violence, medical neglect, inhumane conditions in their custody, and deny migrants the opportunity to seek asylum. During the meeting, KBI representatives shared a joint report recently released by the Kino Border Initiative and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice entitled, “Due Process Denied- CBP Abuses at the Border (October 2020-July 2021)”. The report documents the pattern of CBP abuses against migrants in southern Arizona, particularly under Title 42.
Rita [not real name], a single mother of a two-year-old girl, fled Honduras after surviving a violent sexual assault by two men that left her pregnant. She fled the country after they made death threats upon her life if she were to report them. She came to the US seeking refuge and instead was further traumatized. She crossed the Texas border with her daughter where she turned herself in to Border Patrol to ask for asylum. Weeping, she recounted her experience in a detention center to Sinema’s staff; “It’s one thing to force adults to suffer from the cold, but taking warm clothes away from children and making them suffer in the cold when they’re sick is another thing.” Many of the migrants identified with Rita’s testimony as they also experienced nights waiting in what is colloquially referred to as the “hielera” or “cold rooms” CBP uses as holding cells.
Sonia [not real name] a woman from Honduras spoke up after Rita and described a similarly egregious example of CBP abuse. Sonia arrived at the meeting a few minutes late because she currently dons a knee brace and uses crutches after an injury sustained while being apprehended by Border Patrol in the Sonoran desert. She fell down the mountainside after they closed ranks around the group she was traveling with. Sonia recalls, “I was screaming in pain on the ground for forty minutes while Border Patrol rounded up the others. They didn’t pay attention to me. I thought they were going to just leave me there, so I kept yelling.” They eventually threw her in the back of their uncovered truck, where she felt the Arizona sun bear down on her open wound. She thought she was going to faint from the combination of the pain and heat. In Border Patrol custody, the doctor who treated her urgently recommended surgery for her broken tibia. The agents refused. Instead they escorted her to a freezing holding cell with only her oversized disposable paper-like patient gown and crutches. Sonia described, “(In CBP custody) I was tossed on a cot with a broken leg, and literally could not get up to use the bathroom, so I was forced to soil myself multiple times.” She is currently still recovering from her injury.
Although Senator Sinema could not attend the meeting in-person, her team assured the migrants present that one of Senator’s top priorities is to ensure that migrants seeking asylum are treated humanely. We at the Kino Border Initiative are convinced that direct contact with migrants and the conditions they face at the border, favor empathy and awareness with the migrant cause. We thank Senator Sinema’s team for their visit to our center, hoping that it will add to the much needed changes to the immigration policies, for a more just and humane system- namely the end of Title 42 and increased oversight for Customs and Border Patrol.
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 #SaveAsylum coalition has organized nine events since August 2020.