A delegation of prominent national civil and immigrant rights leaders led by the Haitian Bridge Alliance visited locations in the Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas to bear witness to the end of Title 42 and the implementation of number of punitive policies along the border, including a new asylum ban.
The delegation included leaders and experts from the ACLU, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, NILC, NIJC, Tahirih Justice Center, UndocuBlack Network, and the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights.
Guerline Jozef, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Haitian Bridge Alliance:
“The end of Title 42 was a chance for President Biden to put our country on the right side of history and should have been a cause for celebration. Unfortunately, what we have witnessed these past few days is a continuation of policies that are rooted in violence and abuse instead of compassion. The new restrictive asylum ban policy from the Biden administration will continue to force asylum seekers to wait for months or years in extremely vulnerable conditions in camps in Mexico, where they are prone to kidnapping and abuse. We are extremely concerned that the lack of a clear understanding from DHS will push these already extremely vulnerable people, including pregnant women and children, into human smugglers and other ill-intentioned entities as the border effectively remains closed. Black and indigenous people will continue to suffer and even be killed as they endure dangerous and inhumane conditions as they wait to seek protection in the United States of America.
We call upon the Biden administration to invest in our nation’s ability to welcome people with dignity and to not just replace one inhumane border policy for another.”
Patrice Lawrence, Executive Director of the UndocuBlack Network:
“What we witnessed on this trip is the Biden-Harris administration mimicking the cruel intent and consequences of Title 42 by perpetuating the disproportionate harm on Black asylum seekers while they rolled out a new oppressive asylum ban. These past couple of days, we spoke with Black migrants, and each one we encountered expressed that CBP One, the app the Administration is relying on for asylum processing, does not work properly. The asylum seekers we met have been waiting for months for an appointment while trying to navigate an app that does not recognize their dark skin and has constant error messages. The Biden-Harris administration must lean into the moral and legal choice of providing people the right to seek asylum. Full stop. There is clear disparate treatment, we were told by migrants and organizers that European migrants, particularly from Russia, and Ukraine were also in tents waiting for an appointment to cross, but they were allowed safe passage into the U.S., quickly leaving our siblings from our backyard as close as Haiti behind. It is not humane in the camps in Reynosa, Matamoros, other towns on the Southern border where asylum seekers have been cornered to remain indefinitely. Efforts to maintain safe shelters keep being thwarted by the U.S. What we saw was blatant human rights violations, and Secretary Mayorkas has failed to do the right thing.”
Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center:
“Today, we were able to witness the suffering, confusion, and pain that is the direct consequence of U.S. government policies. Standing on the banks of the Rio Grande River, we attempted to inform people of opaque and arbitrary changes in U.S. law that were just announced and that they must navigate to access safety through the U.S. asylum system. This rule dismantles the U.S. asylum system and our government’s compliance with domestic and international law.”
Deirdre Schifeling, national political director at the ACLU:
“During this trip, we’ve witnessed firsthand the pain and suffering of thousands of families who are being failed by the Biden administration’s immigration policies. Parents and small children fleeing violence have no other choice but to wait for months in extremely unsanitary and dangerous camps for an appointment they can never get. Hours every day are spent futilely trying to get the CBP One app to work, while children get sicker and fragile tarp shelters get blown away. What we’ve witnessed is a humanitarian disaster – and the Biden administration must act. Our country is better than this. We will continue to fight to make sure our country lives up to its own laws, values, and history of being a beacon of hope and freedom for people fleeing persecution, violence, war, and human rights violations.”
Maricarmen Garza, Chief of Programs at the Tahirih Justice Center:
“What I have witnessed over the last two days has been nothing short of heartbreaking, despite the resilience of those who continue to fight for the legal right to seek asylum and a life of safety and dignity in the U.S. It is abundantly clear from what I have seen that our immigration system fails to protect those who come to our borders in search of safety. This has been true under Title 42 and is likely to only get worse in the days ahead as the new asylum ban is implemented. This new policy will inevitably result in migrants with credible claims for asylum being turned away and sent back to dangerous, sometimes life-threatening situations. This administration must swiftly reverse course and implement policy solutions that respect human dignity and U.S. and international law instead of turning our backs on immigrant survivors of abuse, domestic violence, trafficking, rape, and other forms of gender-based harm. We cannot claim to fight for human rights elsewhere while we slam the doors on people seeking a chance at survival and a better future on our own doorstep.”
Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director of Amnesty International:
“We’ve heard devastating stories of people making their way to the border to seek asylum. Coming from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, Central America, Colombia, and many other places, they don’t just experience massive human rights violations in their home countries but also confront the horrors of cruel and inhuman migration policies along the way. The US government is outsourcing its border enforcement to Mexico and now Colombia and Guatemala, but it’s not willing to take responsibility for the chaos its policies have created. It’s time to step up and address this humanitarian crisis and the suffering it causes.”
Paul O’Brien, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA:
“After over three years and over two million expulsions of people exercising their human right to seek safety, Title 42 is finally ending. What should be a day of celebration is instead the start of new border measures that threaten the human rights of people seeking safety. The Biden Administration had over two years to invest in systems of welcome and safety so that people arriving at our border could enter in a humane and orderly fashion and pursue their asylum claims in communities, supported with legal and social services. Instead, the Biden Administration has turned its back on human rights and is planning on implementing new, draconian border measures that will threaten to return people to harm, increase immigration detention, and force people to wait in danger in Mexico until they are lucky enough to make an appointment via a problematic app. Amnesty International USA calls upon the Biden Administration to abandon the asylum ban and instead invest in systems of welcome.”
Kica Matos, incoming president of the National Immigration Law Center:
“Seeking safety is a legal and human right. Despite President Biden’s promises to reassert America’s commitment to asylum seekers and uphold their right to seek safety, the administration has done the exact opposite. With this new asylum ban, they have lifted a page from deadly Trump policies. Our country has the resources and capability to support a fair and orderly system that welcomes people with dignity. We call on the administration to restore full and fair access to asylum immediately for everyone who comes to America seeking freedom and safety. Americans want to see real solutions, not political rhetoric because lives are at stake.”
Eleanor Acer, Senior Director for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First:
“Today, we should be marking the end of the policies that delivered people seeking asylum to horrific dangers. Instead, we are witnessing the initiation of a Biden administration policy that will render people who qualify for asylum ineligible for that life-saving protection. This new bar on asylum is a tremendous legal, moral, and political mistake. It bolsters the xenophobic and racist narratives of anti-immigrant politicians portraying people seeking asylum as threats. The Biden administration must rescind this inhumane policy, maximize asylum capacity at ports of entry, and focus on the steps it is rightly taking to increase resettlement and parole. They must also work with Mexico and the international community to remedy the atrocious conditions refugees and migrants suffer in Matamoros, Reynosa, and other cities along the border. While the United States is the leading donor of refugee aid around the world, at its own doorstep, people seeking refuge are left to suffer inhumane conditions without the kinds of services and protections, it would demand elsewhere.”
After bearing witness to human rights violations along the border, the delegation urgently calls on the Biden administration to uphold asylum and due process, rescind its new asylum ban, and welcome people with dignity and respect for human rights and racial justice. A humane border policy would instead focus on increased communication, coordination, and support for humanitarian aid, shelter, and reception at the border and in destination communities.
Many of the asylum seekers and migrants the delegation met with had been stranded in Reynosa and Matamoros by the Title 42 policy, and will now be left stranded in highly dangerous and difficult conditions by the new asylum bar’s restrictions. In these areas, the level of violence and danger is so severe that the U.S. State Department advises that they are too dangerous for Americans to visit. Recent reports of escalated cartel violence make the areas even more dangerous for asylum seekers, migrants, and humanitarian workers. Black asylum seekers in particular, face racist violence and compounded risks in Mexico, as human rights reports have documented.
The delegation and its experts heard accounts of the difficulties that people seeking asylum face when attempting to secure appointments at U.S. ports of entry via the CBP One app, the barriers some faced waiting and trying to seek asylum at ports of entry without a CBP One appointment, the squalid and inhumane living conditions migrants at the border lived in, and the violence and anti-Black racism migrants endure while waiting in Mexico.
Most people, after having travelled for months or years to seek safety, had already been waiting for many months in dangerous conditions. Overwhelmingly, they expressed confusion about changes to U.S. policy that are now in place and how to best access their right to asylum. Delegation members were unable to answer many of their questions because of the lack of transparency and information provided by the U.S. government.
The delegation met with community, faith-based, humanitarian, shelter, legal, and other organizations, groups and volunteers working in tremendously challenging situations with a significant lack of resources and struggling to provide humanitarian aid to people seeking asylum in the United States. Delegation members witnessed the astounding commitment and work performed by these individuals and organizations, and their willingness to work with U.S agencies and communities to ensure the U.S. upholds its human rights commitments to welcome with dignity people fleeing persecution and violence.
The delegation thanks the migrants, asylum seekers and humanitarian, faith-based, shelter, and other groups it met with during this visit.