Posts Tagged ‘#SaveAsylum’

Mothers of Disappeared Migrants Travel to D.C. for Justice

Caravan of Mothers of Disappeared Migrants with Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-3)

On a brisk Tuesday morning, across from the white dome of the U.S. Capitol, a group of five women from Central America gathered to bring awareness to the hundreds of migrants who disappear each year while attempting to cross into the United States. Dressed in shawls and cute jackets, hair impeccably styled, any one of them could have been one of my tías, or my abuelita. Despite the October cold, the mothers stood tall—heads lifted high—as they recounted their stories. 

“We are dying while alive. We have no peace, day and night we hold them in our hearts, and our only desire is to find them,” said Arecely de Mejía, a member of the Committee for Family members of Deceased and Disappeared Migrants (COFAMIDE) whose son Edwin has been missing for over nine years.

“I am the mother of Carlos Osorio Parada,” said Bertila Parada from El Salvador. “I did find him, but I did not find him the way I wanted to. I was not able to hold him. My son left with the hope of coming to this country, and he was kidnapped in Mexico. His body was found in a clandestine grave in Tamaulipas in 2011. He was finally repatriated in 2015 to El Salvador.”

“We want to open borders so that you can see the suffering of mothers of disappeared people in our countries,” said Ángela Lacayo from Honduras. “Our youth are forced to migrate because of crime, because of lack of opportunity, because of unemployment, because of organized crime, because of M-18. We want to be heard and for our voices may make it to the halls of Congress so that laws can change and the militarization of migratory routes ceases.” 

Photographs of Disappeared Family Members

According to Border Patrol, 7,209 migrants have died while crossing the U.S.-Mexico over the last 20 years. However, according to Border Angels, the real death toll could be anywhere between 25% to 300% higher, based on reports of human remains uncovered by other groups such as local law enforcement, humanitarian groups, ranchers, ect. This would mean that, over the past 20 years, there have been anywhere between 9,100 to just under 29,000 deaths. This does not even take into account that, in the harsh conditions of the desert, human remains can rapidly decompose without ever being recorded. 

Since 2014, according to the IOM, another 3,400 migrants have gone missing while attempting the U.S.-Mexico border crossing; again, this is likely a vast underestimate of the true number. Collecting data on disappeared migrants is extremely difficult given that there is no singular entity tracking these numbers; the Missing Migrants Project pieced together reports from Mexican immigration authorities and US border county medical examiners, coroners, and sheriffs offices. 

What is it that makes this journey so deadly? Migrants who cross the border through the desert risk fatal heat exposurehypothermia (exposure to cold), hyperthermia (exposure to heat), and drowning. Those who become unable to keep up with the group are often abandoned by the very coyotes they hired—meaning that even a minor injury could result in death. Vehicle accidents—mostly tied to freight trains used as transit—are the first most common recorded cause of death, with violence being the second. Throughout Mexico and Central America, migrants risk becoming victims of robbery, kidnapping, rape, or human trafficking carried out by gangs and cartels.

Migratory routes were not always this dangerous. In 1994, under the Clinton Administration, Border Patrol launched Operation Gatekeeper, designed to keep out migrants by building up the border apparatus—such as increasing detention bed space and building new walls and infrastructure where they previously had not existed—thus intentionally pushing migrants to take more dangerous and irregular routes for crossing. This policy of “prevention through deterrence” led to the militarization of the border as we see it today.

But as the past twenty years have demonstrated, deterrence does not work. Instead, it merely leads to pointless tragedy, as evidenced by the mothers. 

For 16 years, hundreds of mothers and family members of disappeared migrants have joined together to form caravans through Mexico in order to search for their missing loved ones and demand justice. They succeeded in locating over 350 migrants and reuniting some, such as victims of human trafficking, with their families. 

Most of the mothers in D.C. had already participated in caravans, though this marked their first time traveling to the US. Migrant Roots Media, Pax Christi USA and Proyecto Puentes de Esperanza co-sponsored and organized their journey in coordination with the Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano.

Karen Morales, the youngest member, had come from Honduras. She had been searching for her brother Aarón Eleazar Carrasco Turcios for nine years. Her mother participated in a 2019 caravan to Mexico, but unable to find any answers, organized her own committee for mothers of disappeared migrants. Tears crept into Karen’s voice as she spoke, displaying a photograph of her brother that hung around her neck. 

“Why do our brothers, our family members, flee from Africa, from Haiti, from Central America? Why? The answer is easy. Because there is a lot of poverty and crime. The government makes us believe that they’re coming for a dream, but that’s not true…[gangs] are killing our youth.

“We also came here to be heard, so that the U.S. government can stop sending money to our governments; that only worsens the situation because they are reinforcing the borders, and we believe the money should go to something better, such as education, so that we will never be forced to migrate.”

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-5) was slated to appear, but could not attend due to a sudden conflict. As the mothers shared their stories, Congressman Raύl Grijalva (AZ-3) listened attentively. When they were done, he stepped forward to give his speech, once in Spanish, and once in English:

“The essential action that is needed on the part of Congress is to do something to assist these countries in a humanitarian manner, no longer in terms of military or security. Resources have to go to the most important interest, which is the people of these countries. And the people need education, food, nutrition, housing and opportunity in terms of employment.”

The caravan had two specific requests for Congress: to enact both the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act (HR 2716) and the Berta Cáceres Act (HR 1574), which both call for the suspension of U.S. assistance to Honduran security forces.

After the media was done taking pictures, I found myself standing next to Karen. When I thanked her for sharing her story, she smiled warmly. 

“That’s what we’re here for,” she said. “To share their stories. And maybe, if someone somewhere hears it, they might know something that can help us find them.”

Karen poses for a picture with the photograph of her brother Aarón, who has been missing since 2012.

Click HERE to watch a recording of the event. 

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Week of Action Against Deportation

This week, we are joining the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and other local and national organizations on a week of action in defense of Black immigrants. With waning media coverage of the administration’s horrible treatment of Haitian migrants in Texas since mid-September, the Biden administration believes that it can now sweep ongoing mistreatment of Haitians and other Black migrants under the rug.

Now is the time to mobilize and to show the administration that we are watching—and that we’ve had enough.

Yesterday, our community partners in New Orleans at Unión Migrante organized a march to City Hall for immigrant justice. Later this week, there are actions planned in Washington D.C., California, Louisiana, New York, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Arizona, and North Carolina. Visit the No More Deportations website, or click the link HERE, to find an action in your area.

And if you don’t see an action near you? Get together a few friends and community members, use the Haitian Bridge Alliance toolkit to organize your own, and add click “Host an Event” on the No More Deportations website. An action could be as simple as a small vigil in honor of the families and children deported under Title 42, or a rally in front of a local or federal government building.

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Daily Dispatch 2/13/2020: No Way Out: New Report from Doctors Without Borders; read and take action!

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Daily Dispatch

February 13, 2020


Skip ahead if you want to take action to support migrants right now!

Last week we wrote up a news summary that highlighted the increasingly grave situation that non-Hindu’s and political opponents face in India under the Hindu nationalist BJP. We also discussed the number of people from El Salvador who had been killed following deportation from the United States – most within a year of return, often in the very conditions that were recorded in their asylum claims (for those who had filed). The theme was that asylum seekers are not lying, and making it nearly impossible to safely access asylum processes in the United States means people die.

For those who are following the dismantling of asylum that has taken place under Trump – and working to push back against it – Médicins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (hereafter MSF) has issued a must-read report this week on the violence that people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are facing at home. The report, No Way Out: The Humanitarian Crisis for Migrants and Asylum Seekers Trapped  Between the United States, Mexico and the Northern Triangle of Central America is available here.

The report is based on interviews of 480 Central American refugees accessing MSF clinics in Mexico, in addition to the review of medical records of 26,000 other migrants. Summary statistics from the report. 

On violence in home countries (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala):

— 61.9 % of the migrants and refugees interviewed by MSF had been exposed to a violent situation in the two years prior to leaving their home country.

Almost half (42.5 %) of those interviewed reported the violent death of a relative in the last two years, 16.2 % had a relative who was forcibly disappeared, and 9.2 % had a relative kidnapped.

— Of those interviewed, 35.8 % had been threatened for extortion, 26.9 % had been victims of some kind of assault, and 5 % had been victims of torture in the two years prior to leaving their country.

— Of those interviewed, 45.8 % mentioned at least one event involving exposure to violent situations as a key reason for deciding to migrate. The most frequently reported violence-related reasons were direct assaults on themselves or their families (20.8 %), extortion (14.9 %), other threats (14.3 %), attempted forced recruitment by gangs (10.5 %), and confinement (5.5 %). People traveling with children more often reported leaving on the grounds of violence (75.8 %).

More than a third (36.4 %) of the migrants and refugees who mentioned that they had fled due to violence had initially been internally displaced for the same reason.

— Of the migrants and refugees interviewed, 52.3 % had already tried to migrate at least once before. Of these, 82 % had been deported at least once before.

— Of the 2,353 people who received a mental health consultation in MSF clinics in El Salvador between January 2018 and September 2019, 62 % had suffered from exposure to violence as a precipitating factor; 23.3 % of all cases were related to intentional physical violence (assault, rape, or torture).

MSF also reports on the extreme amount of violence that migrants face trying to cross Mexico to get to the U.S. border – where so many are now trapped.

— Of those interviewed, 57.3 % had been exposed to some kind of violence along the migration route through Mexico.

— During their transit through Mexico, 39.2 % were violently attacked and 27.3 % were threatened or extorted.

— 5.93 % reported witnessing a death after entering Mexico; in 17.9 % of cases the cause of death was murder.

— Of the 3,695 people who received MSF mental health consultations at health care posts for the migrant population in Mexico between January 2018 and September 2019, 78 % had suffered from exposure to violence as a precipitating factor. With regard to the type of violence to which they had been exposed, 24.7 % presented risk factors associated with intentional physical violence (assault, sexual violence, and torture).

— In the first nine months of 2019, the number of sexual violence cases (277) treated by MSF in Mexico more than doubled —increasing by 134 % compared to the same period last year (118).

— Eight out of every 10 people (79.6 %) treated by MSF in Nuevo Laredo during the first nine months of 2019 reported being victims of violence. 43.7 % of patients said they had experienced violence in the seven days prior to their consultation.

— 18.6 % of the people seen in our mental health program in Nuevo Laredo between January and September 2019 had been victims of kidnapping, and 63 % of those said they had been abducted in the seven days prior to the consultation.

— In September 2019, out of 41 patients in Nuevo Laredo who were returned to Mexico by the US under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), 418 had been kidnapped recently (43.9 %) and an additional five patients (12.2 %) had been the victim of an attempted kidnapping. In October, the percentage of kidnappings among those sent to Mexico under the MPP program increased to 75 % (33 of the 44 new patients).

From the press release announcing the report:

Recent US policies and bilateral agreements reached with Mexico and other regional governments are effectively dismantling the system to protect refugees and asylum seekers. These measures leave Central Americans with nowhere to turn for protection and no viable way to escape the violence.

Insecurity, pervasive violence, and the lack of adequate protection mechanisms have clear impacts on the physical and mental health of the patients treated by MSF. Teams see conditions commonly suffered by people on the move, such as respiratory infections, skin disorders, and acute musculoskeletal problems.

They also treat a range of injuries from weapons and from kidnappings, sexual abuse, and rape. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress conditions precipitated by a violent event are some of the main reasons why people seek mental health services.

“These policies to block people from asylum and send them back into danger have worsened the humanitarian crisis in the region,” said Marc Bosch, who oversees MSF programs in Latin America. “The US and Mexico must end these policies and governments of the region must put people at the centre of migration policies.”

“The US and Mexican governments must ensure that victims of violence have access to humanitarian assistance, health services and protection,” said Bosch. “All people, regardless of their legal status, deserve to be treated with dignity.”

Take Action!

The Quixote Center is working with the Franciscan Network on Migration, which provides support for migrants traversing Mexico. The network includes the shelter La 72 Casa de Migrantes in Tenosique (MSF works here, among other spaces in the country), and a shelter in Mazatlán. Quixote Center is serving as fiscal sponsor for fundraising activities for these initiatives in the United States. If you would like to support this work, you can do so here.

You can also take action to demand Congress defund the Remain in Mexico policy – Trump has requested $126 million more this year. Congress must tell him “No”!!!!

Veronica Escobar (TX-D) has introduced legislation to defund remain in Mexico and work to extend protections to asylum seekers more generally. The Asylum Seeker Protection Act (H.R. 2662) has 63 co-sponsors. Check to see if your member of Congress is one of them here. If not, call and ask them to co-sponsor the bill!

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Daily Dispatch 11/19/2019: #SaveAsylum

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Daily Dispatch

November 19, 2019

This week we are joining with the Latin American Working Group, Alianza Americas, the Washington Office on Latin America and many others, to #SaveAsylum! Today, and through the week (indeed keep at it as long as necessary), we are getting the word out to call members of Congress and demand that they defund/end the Remain In Mexico program. This is a good follow-up action for those who took part in the National Call-in Day to Defund Hate – as it is the same set of policies! From the Latin America Working Group:

The Trump Administration’s immigration policies violate more human rights by the minute. 

Over 60,000 families, men, women, and children who have been returned to Remain in Mexico are waiting in danger throughout their asylum proceedings. And the numbers keep growing. The administration calls this the “Migrant Protection Protocols.” We call it the #MigrantPersecutionProtocols. This needs to end. We can’t let more people be turned away, waiting without shelter and in danger. 

Sham virtual courtrooms costing $20 million were created in tent facilities to hear 500-700 asylum cases per day. Apart from violating asylum seekers’ rights to due process, the public is also barred from entry. This is outrageous. The administration is trying to rush through these cases, denying asylum seekers their fair day in court to try to deport them more quickly. 

To add insult to injury, a transit asylum ban was implemented to deny protection to those who traveled through other countries first before arriving at our border, denying access to asylum to everyone but Mexicans. “Safe Third Country” agreements were signed with Central American countries that are not safe. This means that migrants from other countries will be sent back to the very conditions that they were fleeing in the first place.

These are not the principles under which this country was founded. We don’t turn our backs on people when they need us most. The actions of our government undermine what it means to be an American. Join us in speaking out. 

Take Action!!

Here’s what you can do to get involved:

Together, let’s make their phones ring: 

    •         Call your representative and two senators. Find them here >>>
    •         ​Sample Script: “My name is ____ and I am a constituent from ____. I urge Representative/Senator ____ to defund and terminate the harmful MPP policy. DHS must be held accountable for violations of the rights of migrants due to their policies. Asylum seekers should be allowed to wait for their asylum hearings in safety within the United States, not be sent to harm in Mexico to wait for months. I am alarmed that they are being returned to dangerous Mexican cities where they are at risk for kidnapping and extortion. I implore you to speak out against these policies. My community welcomes and values immigrants & refugees, and as someone who represents my community, I urge you to do the same.” 

Together, let’s get trending: 

Join us in this Week of Action to raise our voices and tell the administration that we will not let them shut the door on asylum. Your action is vital. 

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