Migrant Advocates Urge DHS To Meet With People Mistreated At The Border

By Kendal Blust
Published: Thursday, February 11, 2021 - 6:20pm
Updated: Saturday, February 13, 2021 - 12:05am

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Save Asylum Protest Nogales
Kino Border Initiative
A protester holds up a sign at the base of the border wall during the #SaveAsylum protest in Nogales, Sonora, on Aug. 6, 2020.

Migrant advocates are pushing the Biden administration to address complaints of abuse against immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, and to meet with migrants whose complaints have gone unanswered.

Since 2017, the Nogales-based migrant aid organization Kino Border Initiative (KBI) has filed 73 complaints against Homeland Security alleging mistreatment of migrants. Most came from asylum seekers who said Customs and Border Protection denied them due process, including under policies like the public health measure known as Title 42 and the so-called "Remain In Mexico" program.

The organization sent a report to newly confirmed DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday, detailing each of the complaints and urging him to address the abuses and end policies that allow them to continue.

"The Biden administration has come in with this attitude of turning over a fresh leaf. But the reality is that the people who have been harmed by the Department of Homeland Security in the last four years are still carrying those experiences. There are still complaints that have been unanswered. There is still abuses that are ongoing," said Joanna Williams, KBI's director of education and advocacy. "So we wanted to raise this to Secretary Mayorkas' attention and insist that people's lives didn't restart on inauguration day, and he still, as the secretary, is responsible for the abuses of the past in the Department of Homeland Security."

She added that KBI is "deeply disappointed" by Biden’s executive orders, that have not yet fully restored access to asylum at the border.

"It's not enough because families in Nogales are still stranded in limbo," she said. "Every day that people are are stranded in Nogales is another day that kids don't get access to education, that people live in precarity and insecurity."

KBI has also helped migrants in Nogales make six new complaints against DHS since Biden took office.

The report asks Mayorkas to commit by Feb. 22 to meet with migrants whose complaints have gone unanswered, saying that those harmed by the agency he now leads deserve his attention.

"But ultimately what we want to administration to do as soon as possible is to restore access to asylum," Williams said.

That would include allowing into the United States tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have been sent back to Mexico while their asylum processes proceed in the U.S. under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), or Remain in Mexico program, Williams said. It would also mean ending Title 42, which has allowed CBP to immediately expel migrants at the border amid the pandemic.

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