Save Asylum- Take Action Now!

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

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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)