EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A coalition of immigrant advocates on held a vigil Thursday to honor hundreds who died trying to enter the United States.
They blamed those deaths on the “militarization” of the U.S.-Mexico border that forces fathers trying to provide for their children and mothers with children in tow to walk across deserts, sort irrigation canals and ride sweltering truck trailers.
They also downplayed the Supreme Court decision allowing President Joe Biden to do away with the “Remain in Mexico” policy because it is only one of many obstacles to safe and orderly migration. The Biden administration has placed some 7,200 migrants on MPP this fiscal year, compared to the 734,322 it has expelled under Title 42 in that time frame.
“Migrants, refugees and entire families are using more distant and dangerous routes to come to the United States due to border policies that pretend to deter migration,” said Irma Cruz, a member of Border Network for Human Rights. “We demand immediate action to prevent more unnecessary deaths and we demand border policy solutions that save lives, not lead people to their deaths.”
The activists with the Frontera Texas Organizing Project laid white crosses on the ground a short distance from the border wall and held signs calling for an end to Title 42 expulsions and Texas’ Operation Lone Star. “They (those policies) are clearly responsible for this catastrophic human rights crisis,” Cruz said.
Some demonstrators held back tears while decrying this week’s death of 53 migrants near San Antonio that suffocated in the back of a semi-truck trailer box while being driven by smugglers from Laredo to the interior of the country.
“Our hearts are broken, right now. There’s going to be a lot of family members who will never find out what happened to (their loved ones). We cannot allow this to continue,” said Ivonne Diaz, of the group Undocumented915 “We need to see people for what they are: human beings.”
She said many Americans have an erroneous view of immigrants. It’s true that people flee poverty and violence. But “we don’t come here to seek benefits or get food stamps – we cannot even get food stamps. We came here because we came to work and want a better life for ourselves,” Diaz said.
The demonstrators had harsh, oft-angry words for conservative politicians they feel demean and demonize migrants and for Democrats who make campaign promises to “undocumented Americans” and don’t deliver.
Immigration policy changes “on Biden’s court” now
Donald Trump dealt with a sudden migrant surge in 2019 by making asylum-seekers wait for U.S. court dates in Mexico. He sent more than 65,000 applicants south, with their court dates often scheduled one or two years out.
President Biden rolled back the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols program before a Texas judge forced him to stop. By then he had disenrolled more than 10,000 MPP participants and reduced appointment wait times to six months.
The United Nations facilitated the “disenrollment” process by running a web page for MPP participants to apply. Buses took families and individuals who were approved from Mexican shelters to U.S. ports of entry in groups of 30 to 50.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled the president has the authority to end the program. The administration so far hasn’t said how – or when – participants can disenroll from MPP 2.0.
“Logistically speaking, it should be easier, it should be quicker to organize that, but it’s going to depend on the determination of the U.S. government and the international organizations who will do the logistics and the planning behind that,” said Nicolas Palazzo, senior staff attorney at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center.
It’s also not clear what will happen to the tens of thousands who did not disenroll from MPP 1.0 and whose asylum cases may have been closed in absentia.
“There are thousands who were deported who did not have the opportunity to come into the United States. Many of those people are still in Mexico,” Palazzo said. “What is going to happen to that population that is extremely vulnerable, who has been in Mexico for several years now?”
Advocates spoke of an information gap once the migrant is sent south. As it is, only a small number of asylum seekers procure legal representation – which increases their odds of winning a case.
“Most have very limited resources, are living in a crowded (Mexican) shelter in unsanitary conditions. Many of them are sick and have limited access to obtaining (U.S. government) information,” Palazzo said. “It’s going to be up to the government and international organizations to make sure every migrant enrolled in this program has access to that information.”