By KAY MATTHEWS
As many La Jicarita readers know, earlier in 2019 I began volunteering for the Diocese of Las Cruces Project Oak Tree at a shelter in Las Cruces, where Central American asylum seekers were able to find refuge after days in detention at the border and get help making travel arrangements to their families and sponsors across the county to await their hearings. Project Oak Tree operated a number of shelters in the Las Cruces area under the auspices of Annunciation House in El Paso.
Many of these readers, and others across el norte, responded to my requests for needed supplies at the shelter, and on my trips down I brought money, clothing, food, toys, bicycles, diapers, and toiletries donated from Peñasco Dixon, Embudo, Taos, Nambe, Española, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque.
Then, in August of this year Sylvia Corona, the volunteer coordinator at Immaculate Heart of Mary, notified volunteers that the shelter was going to shut down, due to the reduced number of migrants coming across the border from Mexico. Asylum seekers were being detained at the border by CBP (Custom and Border Protection) and instead of being transferred to ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) detention centers to be processed and then moved to shelters in the US, they were being sent back to Mexico to await their hearings.
As we all know now, this was the result of the Trump administration’s policy called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), implemented in January of 2019 that has stranded thousands of migrants in dangerous and underfunded Mexican border towns. Initially the policy met resistance from the new government of Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but by the summer he began to yield to the “Remain in Mexico” rule.
Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” is another of the administration’s attempt to deter asylum seekers from coming to the US, just as his 2018 child separation policy was implemented to frighten people seeking relief from even more dire circumstances in their home countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduran, and Nicaragua. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the first three of these countries rank the lowest for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita among countries in Latin America. Citizens there face the violence of gang extortion, assault and murder along with drought and climate crisis that have destroyed agriculture and made it impossible for farmers to make a living.
The deterrent is working: in a study by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, 39 percent of migrants forced to stay in Mexico while waiting for their asylum case have missed a court date. Many others choose to go back home to face the terrible conditions that forced them to leave in the first place. In an article by the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center , Communications Associate Abdiel Razo has this to say: “This policy of “Remain in Mexico” is simply a deterrent with a death sentence.”
On this “Black Friday,” New Mexicans can still support these asylum seekers stranded in Mexico by donating to Annunciation House in El Paso that in turn supports Casa Del Migrantes, which is a group of sister shelters in Juarez. Migrants live and cook in the shelters while they await hearings and need money for a variety of supplies: refrigerators, clothing, food, cooking gas, electric bills, water bills, construction supplies to finish renovation of the bathrooms, blankets, and school supplies. The Annunciation House address is: Annunciation House, 815 Myrtle Ave, El Paso, TX 79901.
People can also donate to Santa Fe Dreamers Project, which opened a second office in El Paso to offer legal help to asylum seekers stuck in Juarez. The Santa Dreamers Project’s address is: Santa Fe Dreamers, P.O. Box 8009, Santa Fe, NM 87504.
The New Mexico Immigrant Law Center will use donations to continue its work in New Mexico representing asylum seekers in rural areas across the state, such as Cibola and Torrance counties, and to represent immigrants in court and arrested by ICE. You can donate here.