When Sr. Manuela and I went to El Paso in July, I noticed a big difference from when we went in January. That difference was the reduction in the number of asylees who were actually getting into the United States and staying at an Annunciation House hospitality center. The reason for the decline was primarily due to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) also called the Back to Mexico Policy that requires asylees to wait in Mexico for their immigration process. Now these numbers will be decreased even more because of a new rule published in July stating that migrants who pass through another country must seek asylum there rather than passing to the U.S. border and seeking asylum here. This means that anyone from Central or South America coming through Mexico would be required to seek asylum there.
Since 1980, the U.S. has said that those who are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries have the right to apply for asylum. National and international asylum laws give them these rights. Christian values of caring for the marginalized requires us to welcome them and help them to build new lives in peace. After all, didn’t Jesus say that how we treat the least of our brothers and sisters, we treat him?
This new rule change which recently passed through the Supreme Court overturns long-standing convention that the U.S. hears asylum claims no matter how people have arrived at the border. Justice Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion, “Once again the Executive Branch has issued a rule that seeks to upend longstanding practices regarding refugees who seek shelter from persecution.” The rule also didn’t go through the regular process of public comment that would have allowed the public to provide input on the change.
Part of the rationale for this rule is that asylum seekers should go through the ‘legal’ process of obtaining papers to come to the U.S. Often this means applying at a USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) Office in their home country. According to the USCIS Website, the purpose of these offices is to reunite families, enable adoptive children to come to join permanent families, and provide information services and travel documents to people around the world. There were 20 offices in 18 countries but now the administration is closing all but seven including the office in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico which is the city across from El Paso. It will be almost impossible for asylum seekers who are already in fear of corrupt governments and military to get documents to leave their country. These efforts would put them in even more danger.
Manuela and I heard many heartbreaking stories during our time in El Paso. Now, there will be no hope for those seeking a safe and secure life for their children.