Updates from the Franciscan Network on Migration Shelters

The Quixote Center serves as the fiscal sponsor for the Franciscan Network on Migration’s fundraising activities in the United States. We participate in the Network’s discussions on advocacy and work closely with Network coordinator Lori Winther to craft strategies concerning communications about network activities. Below are updates directly from the shelters in Mexico. If you are able to support this work you can make a secure, tax- deductible donation to the Franciscan Network on Migration here.

La 72, House for Migrants
Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico

During the first months of the pandemic, La 72 had institutionalized various health and protection measures for migrants, staff and volunteers. Since mid-October, the shelter has coordinated a re-opening with certain precautionary measures to ensure the protection of the people inside.

With the collaborating organization Medicos Sin Fronteras, they have determined that they can have up to 150 people in the shelter at a time. They monitor the count of people entering (20-30 a day) and those leaving the shelter. In special cases, they receive more than the 150 limit but try to keep the number consistent. 

Everyone has to wear masks, and there are new guidelines for grooming, hand washing, and the use of antibacterial gel. People who want to go out can only do so twice a week to go shopping, to eat, to the doctor, etc. Those who go to work can do it daily with permission. They check every person who passes through the gate for temperature. Any suspected cases are transferred to what is normally the juvenile module for quarantine and COVID testing. To date, they have had one verified COVID case and 3 suspected cases.

There are also 200-250 people living on the court next to the house. They do not want to enter the shelter due to movement restrictions. La 72 offers them support for their migration cases as refugees or for suffering human rights violations, etc. and 100-150 can enter to sleep in the chapel between 8:30 pm until 6:30 am. 

One of the changes that has affected migration the most is that the train, sometimes called “La Bestia,” stopped operating since the end of August due to the conversion of the routes for the new tourist “Mayan Train.” People now come walking or hitchhike in cars. They have established new routes from Petén, through Salto de Agua and Palenque (there is more information in the Casa Betania report on this below). UNICEF is carrying out a study on the impact of the construction of the routes for the Mayan Train, and has interviewed local and indigenous communities, and the different houses and shelters. They are seeing a lack of respect for indigenous people as well as environmental and social impacts.

Other impediments: At the moment it is also impossible to go through Veracruz or Monterrey on foot. There are many INM (National Institute of Migration) checkpoints there and people are deported. They are not seeing many people traveling south either, because Mexico is deporting them. What you see is the perseverance and tenacity of the people. They need to migrate and the obstacles don’t matter. However, more people every day are seeing that Mexico will be their destination. They end up staying as refugees in the big cities of northern Mexico.

Casa Betania
Santa Martha, Salto de Agua, Chiapas, Mexico

The parish of San Fernando de Guadalupe has been cared for by the Missionaries of the Divine Word (SVD) for 33 years. Currently, in the Casa Betania-Santa Martha Project, five SVDs of five different nationalities work alongside four Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary (FMM) currently from Congo, the Philippines, and Mexico. The house is in the middle of Palenque and Villahermosa; the municipal seat is Salto de Agua. Normally, the border closest to the house is called “La Técnica.” About 70% of the migrants crossed this border nearby. 

Right now the train, “La Bestia”, has stopped circulating on this route, people are entering more through El Ceibo and El Naranjo. Before, people came and got on the train between these borders and Tenosique, now they have to walk the long distance between these points, and Casa Betania is on the route. As a result the shelter has experienced a huge increase in numbers. Since August it has been increasing again, and now they are receiving around 100 people a day. The majority of the population are Hondurans (85%), Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, a few Cubans and Venezuelans. Some Africans have arrived.

The pandemic caused them many challenges; they heard that many houses were closing due to the pandemic. But seeing the migrants, the faces, hearing the stories, the team decided to keep the house open. 10 or 15 people arrived a day during the first phase of the epidemic. Most are male, but a variety of groups are arriving – women, children, unaccompanied minors, whole families, single girls, etc. 

People can stay for 3 days. But they always try to personalize the situation of each one, for example if they have a disease or need a procedure, they can stay longer. Right now they have a family that was robbed asking for shelter and they are also being given additional time.

The relationship between the people has been, above all, positive. At first there were comments on social networks questioning the authorities about why they kept letting the migrants stay, always blaming the migrants for any bad that happens. But there were more people supporting them. Right now there is no formal opposition blocking their passage. The health authorities set rules for them, for example, once the migrants enter the shelter, that they do not leave, that they are not entering and leaving the shelter. Migrants, above all, do not believe in COVID, or it is a denial above all the complex situation they live, their dreams, their struggles to migrate. Well, it makes them live this denial. And so there is a bit of resistance facing the requirements, the use of the mask, the hand washing, the gel. They try to disinfect cutlery, tables, surfaces very well, and there are people who do not accept the value of these measures. But it is explained to people, raising awareness, and little by little they accept that this is the new normal. 

About contagion, each person who arrives takes their temperature. If they suspect a contagion, there is an area reserved for quarantine. Currently there is a person who is positive. A couple arrived, and the young man had a fever. They were immediately taken to the hospital for an exam, and the boy tested positive. The two are isolated.

One of the sisters speaks to the women about violence on the road and hospital care for migrants who have been raped on the road.

A great challenge is that in this municipality, the authorities are not very competent to help migrants. When they need paperwork, they have to move to Palenque. It implies a day of work for the transfer. 

Casa Betania Needs: They critically need volunteers. With only 4 or 5 people they are serving 100+ per day. Volunteers are available to live within the limitations they have there. There is a room in the house of a woman from the town, and the women volunteers stay in this house. The men are in a space in the shelter. They have to be of legal age, willing to work with migrants, who can follow the general rules of no drugs, no alcohol, no violence. 

Materially, they especially need flip-flops for the bathroom. 

Comedor San Francisco de Asís
Mazatlán, Mexico

In the dining room that they operated in the parish before the pandemic, they still offer showers, distribute food (water, whey, fruit, tuna, etc.) in bags, and in special cases migrants can sleep there or they can serve lunches, as before, according to the health code.

The flow of migrants is increasing again to 9 to 10 migrants per day, some to the north, others deported. Most of the migrants continue north. They are a mix of Venezuelans and Central Americans, but very few Haitians and others at this time. They still cannot fully open with volunteers, for the safety of the volunteers.

The migrants stay under a bridge near the train tracks. Or they just eat, bathe, and leave. The INM sometimes asks for support from the parish or the DIF (National System for Integral Family Development), for people with physical disabilities, etc.

Pre-pandemic, a woman in the community offered to donate a house to better host the migrants. However, the house is not suitable for the men who make up the majority of the migrants who pass this route. The house is far from the parish and would be without an administrator on-site. There is not much space and everyone would be too crowded. There is no patio, it is completely enclosed. Sometimes there are arguments or problems. There is a lot of drug trafficking in the area, too, and they don’t have room for movement. People cannot be easily separated when tensions arise.

For these reasons, the friars plan to use the house to serve families or perhaps women, perhaps for two or three families at a time. Maybe use the house for medical care. In terms of legal paperwork, they already have right of use, but are awaiting deeds.

In other space, they plan to separate a section of the patio of their church, mainly to provide shade with a canopy (tin) roof and a large tree. There they could place cots, hammocks or mats for the men to sleep. There are two gates to the street. With a wall they will divide the areas between the parishioners and the migrants. This would give them more space for the migrants to relax and as Franciscans already live here, they would also be better supervised and supported. 

They are presenting this plan for approval to their provincial government of the Franciscans at a meeting in Tijuana this month. If the plan is approved, a plan that involves blocking part of the entrance to the sanctuary from their worship space, they would need money to make these more basic plans. It would be better than what they have had, but not as good as what was originally proposed. The opportunity to buy the land where they hoped to build is no longer available. 

The funds they obtained from the Central Mission of the Franciscans in Germany have been spent to cover food costs in recent months and they are running out of supplies. They are thinking of initiating a local campaign to collect more supplies.

Frontera Digna
Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

The Frontera Digna shelter is an institution that welcomes vulnerable migrants, refugees, and deportees. Due to the insecure situations that migrants experience, they arrive with an immense burden of incidents and cruelty that they have had to experience on the road and this shelter offers them relief: water so they can bathe, food, clothing, medicine. They receive spiritual support and care, nutritional assistance, and other accompaniment when required. We respond to the situations that each of them have, maintaining hope and strengthening.

In early 2020, staff at Frontera Digna were preparing a new “Compartiendo Esperanza” shelter exclusively for up to 80 women and children. In April, immigration authorities requested the use of the new shelter for 160 people in deportation proceedings from Mexico. You can read more about what happened here.

As we are very close to the border, people sometimes try to cross several times. There are helicopters, drones, dogs, sensors that detect movements, migrants even believe that when they turn on their phone, the sensors can detect them. However, they can cross and walk 3-6 days until the North American migration authorities capture and detain them, sometimes until they have lost everything along the way. We always hear, “I almost made it.” They try many times. 

When they arrive with us, the deportees ask for food, clothes (sometimes they arrive in their prison suit or pajamas, flip flops). They ask to bathe and come very hungry. Sometimes they arrive dehydrated, in poor health, with traumas related to encounters with criminals, kidnappings, extortion, etc.

Temporarily closed for lodging, Frontera Digna served an average of 100 migrants every day before the COVID pandemic. Currently, they are providing pantry service, food and cleaning products and soaps, and follow up with pregnant women who are living in rented rooms. They also offered migrants the right to enter, rest a few hours and shower, but the municipality ordered them to only distribute food, bring clothes to wash, prohibiting others from entering the shelter.

There are migrants who are waiting for their asylum appointments in Nuevo Laredo, and many are arriving in Piedras Negras. They rent tiny rooms, now that the shelters are closed due to COVID. The person in charge of the INM who keeps the list to request asylum, reports that in the Piedras Negras detention center, around 160 deportees, are processed daily.

About the rented rooms, the police recently raided some buildings because the owners did not have the proper permits. The migrants were taken to detention even though some were awaiting asylum and had legal status in Mexico. They deported those who did not have papers to stay. They are constantly deporting people. 

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Title 42: Another day, another policy, another COVID-19 lie

On March 19 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order that blocked people from coming across the border. Under Title 42 of the Public Health Services Act border agents have been empowered to expel people as soon as they are encountered, with no access to traditional due process, and thus no ability to pursue asylum claims. The order has also been deployed to deny unaccompanied children access to asylum claims and other basic support. The result of this order is the expulsion of 154,000 people between March 19 and the end of August; 8,800 of them unaccompanied children. The vast majority of people are expelled back to Mexico, though people who are not from Mexico or Central America are sent elsewhere – presumably their home country, but there is little actually known about these folks. Some children, and families, mostly from Haiti, were found to have been put into hotels in Texas and Arizona until they could be removed. People detained, however briefly, under Title 42 are not given alien ID numbers (“A” numbers) that would allow them to be tracked while in detention. In effect, they disappear into the system until they can be removed. Family members are unable to find them, and they have no access to attorneys.

The impacts of Title 42 expulsions have rippled out in all directions from the border. In Mexico it has meant further crowding at the border among those trying to wait out the current crisis and continue their efforts to pursue asylum or other relief in the United States. Others have been forced back through Mexico to the border with Guatemala. Since March, they have been forced to wait until that border re-opens (it has in the last two weeks). Along the way, migrants look for places to stay in shelters that dot the landscape in Mexico. Staff with our partners in the Franciscan Network on Migration, for example, have noted there are more people traveling south these days than north.

Within the United States, Title 42 expulsions have led to a dramatic decline in detentions – as people apprehended at the border are now being expelled rather than transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be held while awaiting processing of their immigration status and/or asylum claims. Fewer people in ICE detention is a good thing, but the underlying reasons are not good – as people are in effect still being detained (halted from moving forward), but removed from oversight. Conditions within ICE detention facilities remain abysmal despite the lower numbers. Fiscal Year 2020 just ended, and during that year twenty-one people died while in ICE custody, the most in over 15 years. So, one of the chief stated purposes of Title 42 expulsions – to enhance safety for detention staff and detainees already in the United States, is patently false.

For those of us working on immigration policy, Title 42 was never a “good idea” simply administered badly. From the beginning it was clearly an effort to weaponize the COVID-19 response to do what the Trump team had otherwise been denied doing by the courts: Kill the asylum process and otherwise close the border to immigrants. It is also, one hopes this is because it is poorly understood, a popular policy, with a majority of U.S. Americans supporting it. That support has raised questions about whether Biden would actually suspend the order should he win the election. Given recent disclosures he absolutely must suspend the order.

Why? If one had any doubts about the duplicitous rationale behind Title 42 expulsions, news came this weekend that the CDC had originally refused to issue the order because there was no public health reason to do so. In fact, the order did not originate with the CDC at all. Rather, it was Trump advisor Stephen Miller’s brainchild. From the Associated Press:

“That was a Stephen Miller special. He was all over that,” said Olivia Troye, a former top aide to Pence, who coordinated the White House coronavirus task force. She recently resigned in protest, saying the administration had placed politics above public health. “There was a lot of pressure on DHS and CDC to push this forward.”

CDC doctors resisted implementing it for weeks because it would do no good in slowing the spread of coronavirus. Eventually Vice-President Pence was brought in to get it done. He called the CDC and told them to issue the order, “or else.”  [“They forced us,” said a former health official involved in the process. “It is either do it or get fired” in AP report] The order was issued the next day.

“The decision to halt asylum processes ‘to protect the public health’ is not based on evidence or science,” wrote Dr. Anthony So, an international public health expert at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a letter to Redfield in April. “This order directly endangers tens of thousands of lives and threatens to amplify dangerous anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia.”

The order was initially supposed to last for one month as an emergency measure – but that was a lie as well. Indeed, Miller made clear immediately upon implementation that he viewed this as a long-term approach

Of course, amplifying dangerous anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia is precisely the point. It’s an election year after all. Calling the current administration out on its hypocrisy and lies seems almost pointless at this stage. But we take note in the hope that one day, perhaps, there will be some accountability. Shuttering the border and denying people legislatively guaranteed protections based on false pretenses has to be illegal….right? We’ll see. 

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Save Asylum- Take Action Now!

The comment period to protest the proposed changes to the US Asylum laws closes Wednesday July 15, 2020.

Speak out now!

To learn more about the proposed changes and what you can do to speak up against them please visit the Bay Area Border Relief page.

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Mazatlán Franciscans still providing food to migrants

The Franciscan Network on Migration provides support to migrants traveling through Central America and Mexico. The network includes dozens of shelters and soup kitchens in the region. The shelters that we are working with most directly are the Frontera Digna in Piedras Negras, La 72 in Tenosique, and the Casa y Comedor San Francisco de Asís in Mazatlán, pictured below.

In Mazatlán, the house has been primarily a soup kitchen, or comedor. During periods of high traffic, however, people have been allowed to sleep in the corridors and courtyard at the church that is providing support. Thanks to the donation of a new facility, and support from donors helping to fund renovations, there will be a full service shelter in the coming months – though not likely to open until after the current health crisis has abated.

The photographs below show friars in Mazatlán providing meals this week – as they have for years. But, for now, they must offer bags “to go,” as sit-down meals are not possible because due to pandemic health considerations.

The Quixote Center is the fiscal sponsor for the Franciscan Network on Migration within the United States.

You can donate to support the work of the network here.

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Situation of shelters in the Franciscan Network on Migration during COVID-19


The Franciscan Network for Migrants (RFM) emerged in April 2018 during the annual Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation Course, held in Guadalajara, Mexico. During 2019, the Network took form, organized with four original houses for migrants belonging to the Order: La 72 (Mexico), The Migrant Center of New York (USA), Comedor para Migrantes San Francisco (Mexico) and Pilgrims’ house of the Migrant “Santo Hermano Pedro” (Guatemala). 

The Quixote Center is a partner of the Network and currently operates as its fiscal sponsor in the United States. We work to amplify the voices of the people who staff shelters as well as the voices of the people they serve. 

The update below is from interviews with staff at shelters in Mexico and one in Guatemala, which form the core of the network. Each section below provides a brief status update and a description of current needs. If you would like to support the Network you can make a donation here.


People gathered at Frontera Digna

Frontera Digna, Piedras Negras, Mexico

The Frontera Digna shelter is current hosting 34 adults and 14 children. The shelter is providing 3 meals a day and will let these people stay as long as they need. However, the shelter is not able to accept new people. In recent days there have not been many people arriving from the south. Shelter staff think that the immigration agents are waiting for people near the train so they can be detained and repatriated. [Note: We reported earlier this week about a fire breaking out in a site operated by the same Franciscan sisters as a shelter, which immigration officials had essentially commandeered to hold people recently deported from the United States]. A few people do arrive seeking food, but are generally not allowed to approach the house. When possible, staff distribute food to those who need it.

The mayor has said there will be a curfew if people ignore orders to stay at home. As of April 7, there are 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city of Piedras Negras.

The shelter’s main need at the moment is support to continue feeding the people who are staying at the shelter and cannot leave.


Mezquital, Guatemala City

Given restrictions put in place by the Guatemalan government, there are currently no people staying at the Mezquital shelter. The last people who stayed included a family from Honduras and 3 men from San Pedro Sula and Olancho, also in Honduras. This was on March 14. The restrictions are for the protection of the staff and volunteers. They will evaluate these rules once the restrictions are lifted.

On Monday, April 6, shelter staff were informed that there was a family from Brazil that needed accommodation immediately because they were scheduled to be deported to Brazil on Thursday, April 9. The shelter paid for them to stay at a hotel in the city. Shelter staff think they will continue to do this with others who need a place to stay.

The shelter’s current need is help in building a fund to support people with hotel accommodations as needed.


People in line at La 72 in Tenosique

La 72, Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico

La 72 Migrant and Refugee Shelter is under self-quarantine. There are some people who have entered after the quarantine began, but staff are requiring them to stay in isolation for 14 days, in the area that has typically housed unaccompanied minors. These adolescents are now being accommodated in the Ayotzinapa Room (meeting room). Only 6 people and 2 volunteers have arrived during the quarantine, and all are in isolation at the moment.

Before closing the doors, shelter staff alerted people to the new protocols. Many decided to leave and look for housing in town. Approximately 130-140 remained inside. Those who stayed only go out for their asylum appointments at COMAR. Shelter staff drive them to the appointments in groups, using the shelter’s pick-up truck.

Given travel restrictions, volunteers are in short supply. Staff are staying at the shelter in 24-hour shifts.

Shelter staff are requesting donations to cover emergency support for food and other humanitarian aid.

Comedor San Francisco, Mazatlán, Mexico

The soup kitchen at the San Francisco shelter continues to provide food to people. However, as they cannot have them gather in the dining rooms, they are distributing bags with basic food items: cakes, sandwiches, tuna or sardines, canned goods, cookies, bottled water, cooked eggs, etc. People are not allowed to stay on site.

Only in very special cases (families) are people allowed to enter the parish grounds with due precautions. Most migrants are trying to shelter in place, but in locations scattered throughout the neighborhood. There are volunteers who, when they see them near their homes, give them hot food. Many of the migrants know the territory very well and are able to locate volunteers who can help with food.

Right now there are no volunteers on site, only the friars. Many of the volunteers who regularly help are older people and therefore they are no longer allowed to come to the dining room given the risks of contracting COVID-19. There are benefactors who continue to support from their homes organizing food collections for migrants, some of which they bring to the shelter to distribute.

The shelter needs to purchase more food because the end to the situation is not in sight. They also need funds to buy underwear and other clothing (shorts, socks, T-shirts, etc.).

If you would like to support the Franciscan Network on Migration, please click here to find a donation page.

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Mexico’s detention network is human rights disaster – and U.S. policy is making it worse

At all times, and certainly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governments of Mexico and the U.S. must protect the rights of migrants. In the current context of a global pandemic, both governments must halt enforcement actions and deportations, and release people from detention facilities where their lives are endangered by overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

On Friday April 3, a fire broke out during a protest in a makeshift facility, located in Piedras Negras, Mexico, which is being used to detain people deported from the United States. There are 163 people in the facility who are mostly non-Mexican nationals who cannot be returned to their home countries as borders in the region are closed in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The police, National Guard and immigration police were mobilized en masse to respond to the demonstration. Six people were detained by police and another six people were taken to a local hospital with injuries.

Isabel Turcios, a Franciscan sister whose community operates the Frontera Digna shelter in Piedras Negras explained that in recent weeks, as people have been deported into the city the numbers have quickly overwhelmed the capacity of local shelters to provide assistance. Currently, the Frontera Digna shelter can only serve 64 people. As the shelter could not accommodate more people, immigration authorities requested the use of a new shelter that was being prepared exclusively for women and children and the sisters complied with their request. The facility has a capacity to hold 80 people, but as noted, over 160 people were locked in. 

Sister Isabel says that the conditions faced by people in the facility led to the demonstration. “The conditions seem to have been very desperate, especially among the men, because of the overcrowding they had, and they could barely move and they were screaming to please repatriate them, to their places, to their countries. Since they were not paying attention to them, well, they made them take heed, burning some of the mattresses. That was what they did around 10:00 in the morning, in the place where they were. They started to set the mattresses on fire. And of course the house, some of the areas, filled with smoke. They had children who were also affected, children and women affected by the smoke.”  

In Piedras Negras, the recent wave of deportations from the United States are occurring alongside the fall out of another Trump policy, “Remain in Mexico,” that requires people to wait in Mexico for asylum hearings. Those hearings, already a farce, have been put on hold during the pandemic. And so, people seeking asylum are left in border towns like Piedras Negras in unsafe conditions, while more and more people are being turned back at the border into the same conditions. Much as in the United States, the response by the government in Mexico has been to simply round people up. The resulting conditions have proven deadly.

On Tuesday, March 31, Héctor Rolando Barrientos Dardón died during a fire at the Tenosique Migration Station, an immigrant detention facility near Mexico’s border with Guatemala in the state of Tabasco. His death occurred during a protest by several men who were denouncing their ongoing detention in the overcrowded facility, a situation which puts their lives at risk in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In responding to the protest in Tenosique, police blocked people from leaving the facility, even after a sleeping mat caught fire, resulting in Barrientos’ death and 14 other people being sent to the hospital due to smoke inhalation and other injuries. 

Following events in Tenosique – itself the result of a pattern of abuse, organizations throughout Mexico denounced the government’s response and called for the resignation of the head of the National Institute on Migration. They also issued three demands:

  • The National Institute on Migration must carry out a thorough investigation into the death in Tenosique, clarify internal responsibility and take urgent measures to ensure that no more deaths occur in migration stations.
  • The government of Mexico, in the context of the pandemic, should stop the arrest of migrants, release people detained at migrant stations, and guarantee the safe return of those who wish to return.
  • Authorities at the local, state and federal level of government must work to guarantee the rights of migrants to health and protection permanently and with special attention for the duration of the pandemic.

U.S. Policy is Making the Situation Worse

The situation in Mexico is made much worse by the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Trump has refused to release people held in immigation detention within the United States, and has, instead, been engaging in mass deportations to Mexico, Central America and Colombia. Globally, one in four people confirmed COVID-19 positive live in the United States. COVID-19 has been confirmed in both adult imigration detention facilities, and facilities for unaccompanied children run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Given the dangers, deporting people with nothing more than a temperature check is certainly going to spread the disease even further. Indeed, a man deported from the Arizona area to Guatemala this week arrived with COVID-19, and many other people deported show symptoms and require quarantine when arriving outside the United States.

Exacerbating the situation is the Trump administration’s decision to summarily return anyone apprehended between ports of entry to Mexico, wherever they are from, and without any due process. The combination of deportation flights from the United States and summary deportations at the border, is contributing to the human rights catastrophe unfolding in Mexico’s overcrowded detention network. 

In order to protect the rights of migrants and the public health of our communities, we call for the following steps:

  • The government of Mexico must heed the call of civil society organizations and release people from detention immediately, halt enforcement actions, and guarantee the safety of those who are seeking to get to their home countries.
  • The United States government must stop its policy of summary expulsions at the border that not only violates U.S. law protecting the rights of anyone to seek asylum within the United States, but also violate international agreements and the guidance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who said, “All states must manage their borders in the context of this unique crisis as they see fit. But these measures should not result in closure of avenues to asylum, or of forcing people to return to situations of danger”
  • The United States must also stop deportation flights immediately. Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement should allow for the humanitarian release of people being held in administrative detention within the U.S.

The Franciscan Network on Migration (RFM), emerged in April 2018 during the annual JPIC Course, held in Guadalajara, Mexico, the main theme of which was “Migration: causes, walls and Franciscan perspectives.”

During 2019, a systematic dissemination and construction of the Network was organized with four houses for migrants belonging to the Order: La 72 (Mexico), The Migrant Center of New York (USA), Comedor para Migrantes San Francisco(Mexico) and Pilgrims’ house of the Migrant “Santo Hermano Pedro” (Guatemala). In addition, five working groups were created at the service of migrants: USA, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala.

Signed: Steering Committee of the Franciscan Network on Migration

For more information contact:

Lori Winther
Franciscan Network on Migration
Exective Committee
redfranciscana@ofmjpic.org

Tom Ricker
Quixote Center
tom@quixote.org

Click here to read/download statement in Spanish

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La 72, Franciscan Network on Migration and others, denounce Mexican immigration authorities after death in custody

Firefighters on the scene. Image/La 72

Héctor Rolando Barrientos Dardón died on Tuesday during a fire at the Tenosique Migration Station, an immigrant detention facility near Mexico’s border with Guatemala in the state of Tabasco. His death occurred during a protest by several men who were denouncing their ongoing detention in the overcrowded facility, a situation which puts their lives at risk in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the protest a sleeping mat caught on fire. According to witness testimony collected by staff at La 72, a nearby shelter and human rights organization we work with, guards at the migration station refused to let people leave the facility, locking the gates and threatening to beat anyone attempting escape, including men, women and children. As a result of the fire, Barrientos, a forty-two year old man from Guatemala, was killed, and fourteen other people were seriously injured. A group of migrants did finally break down the door to the men’s area where the fire began and were able to get people out. Barrientos was seeking asylum in Mexico. According to this press report, he should have been released on Thursday, April 2 to pursue his case.

Our partners in the Franciscan Network on Migration, La 72 house for migrants , issued a press release denouncing the actions of guards and local police, as well as the ongoing failure of Mexico’s National Institute on Migration (INM) to secure the rights of migrants in Mexico. They also expressed concern that the National Human Rights Commission did not send anyone to investigate the fire, despite the Commission’s earlier call on March 19th for the INM to “implement precautionary measures to safeguard the physical, psychological, health and life conditions of migrants housed in immigration stations.”

In the same press release, La 72 raised additional concerns about the subsidiary impact of the U.S. policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico, which is straining an already unsustainable situation: 

Last weekend we received in La 72 three Honduran people: a mother, with her 15-year-old daughter, and a male adult,  deported from the United States and Mexico. They first crossed into Texas, where they were captured by border patrol agents and immediately deported to Reynosa, remaining in custody of Mexican immigration. During their confinement at the Immigration Station, the mother and daughter were denied consular representation and the possibility of requesting refuge in Mexico. They were told they would have to do so in the south. On March 24, they signed their deportation order, indicating that they would be returned across the border from Talisman, Chiapas….The INM breached the deportation order and transferred them to the border port of El Ceibo, in Tabasco, where they were forced to cross through a blind spot, irregularly and clandestinely, towards Guatemala in order to continue on their journey to Honduras. The Guatemalan army intercepted them at the border and returned them to Mexico again. These abusive practices not only violate fundamental rights, such as the principle of non-refoulement, but also put the life and integrity of the deported persons at risk.

The release ends with three demands:

  1. The National Institute on Migration must carry out a thorough investigation into the death in Tenosique, clarify internal responsibility and take urgent measures to ensure that no more deaths occur in migration stations.
  2. The government of Mexico, in the context of the pandemic, should stop the arrest of migrants, release people detained at migrant stations, and guarantee the safe return of those who wish to return.
  3. Authorities at the local, state and federal level of government must work to guarantee the rights of migrants to health and protection permanently and with special attention for the duration of the pandemic.

Yesterday, La 72 joined hundreds of other organizations in Mexico in issuing a second statement further denouncing Mexican immigration authorities and calling for the firing of the head to National Institute on Immigration. The letter notes that the death in detention was the result of systemic abuses. They also state that, “keeping people in immigration detention, at serious risk of Covid-19 infection, is a violation of human rights and an attack on the lives of migrants and those who work in immigration stations.” For these reasons the organizations demand “the immediate dismissal of the INM commissioner.” You can read the full text of the organization letter here (in Spanish)

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)