"Title 42 is a racist policy." Migrants gather and protest Biden's decision to keep asylum seekers stranded in inhumane conditions even as the border opens to non-essential travel
Asylum seekers hold a bi-national press conference and peaceful demonstration at the border demanding for the end of Title 42 and the full restoration of asylum protections
(NOGALES, SONORA, MEXICO). On Monday, November 8th, as the border reopened for non-essential travel for all fully vaccinated visa holders, hundreds of asylum seekers stuck at border marched and held a peaceful demonstration near the DeConcini port of entry to demand their right to seek asylum and express their disappointment that they have once again been excluded and ignored by the Biden administration.
One family, accompanied by legal observers and reporters, stood in the pedestrian line to attempt to cross at the port of entry. They carried proof of vaccination. When they approached the turnstile, the CBP official turned them away. Lisandro* spoke to press about his experience in a bi-national press conference held at the Kino Border Initiative Migrant Outreach Center later that morning. He said, "The border is only opened for tourists who carry passports and visas. Not us, they couldn't give us asylum because there wasn't [a process]. From my perspective, I see it as a racist policy. Because I am vaccinated, and they denied me asylum. It is my right to ask for asylum, since I have been fleeing from a very dangerous place. How is it possible that they do this to us?"
Other migrants expressed the layers of abuse and exploitation they experienced in their home countries and are currently enduring as they try to survive living stuck at the border, waiting in limbo for an asylum process to restart. Jose*, an asylum seeker from Central America who fled after receiving death threats from the cartels, told the press on Monday, "When you come from another country, you are a commodity. You are not a citizen. In fact, they don't even see you as a person. So it is not an option to stay here. Your life is in danger. And going back is not an option either because your life is also in danger. At least in my case, my life is in danger if I return. And the life of my family."
Sister Josefina "Pina" Bejarano Padilla, Missionary Sister of the Eucharist and Shelter Coordinator at the Kino Border Initiative, directly invited Mexican authorities to address concerns of survival and safety; and to ultimately support asylum seekers waiting in Nogales, MX. She said, "The stay here is difficult. It is hard. It is a tremendous exploitation. I invite the Mexican authorities to make this cross lighter. Make that load lighter. They need a roof, they need food, the right to health, they need work, and not a job that is exploited, they are surviving on the border, and it is not about survival. They have to live. They have the right to life. So I truly invite the Mexican authorities to assert the rights of each of the people who are here, requesting that asylum. Likewise, the same invitation to the Biden administration."
At the peaceful demonstration held downtown near the DeConcini port of entry, migrants held signs that read "Biden Save Asylum Now" and "Biden Keep Your Promise". One migrant shared her disappointment and frustration as she shouted through the megaphone, making sure not only the crowd could hear her but those passengers in the car lanes waiting to cross the border as it reopened. She said, "One of the main things President Biden promised in his campaign was to restore the asylum. He has not kept his word. They give us the pretext of the pandemic using the famous Title 42, when we can clearly see people come and go when they want... It is sad to see how they discriminate us for not having papers to cross."
In both the morning's press conference and peaceful demonstration, migrants and advocates publicly invited U.S. elected officials to come visit Nogales and to speak directly with asylum seekers. Noah Schramm, Project Coordinator of the Border Action Team with Florence Immigrant and Refugee Project, told the press on Monday, "We invite Democrats and members of Congress to see what's going on and to do more advocacy. Because it is not just Biden's policy, but the entire policy of the U.S. government. We invite them to come to the border to see what is happening. To hear what the people who are waiting here are suffering."
*Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.
CLICK HERE for Zoom recording of press conference.
CLICK HERE for video footage of Lisandro's family presenting at the port of entry
The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) is a bi-national organization located in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. KBI provides humanitarian aid to migrants in Nogales, Sonora and engages in education and advocacy on both sides of the border with a vision of promoting humane, just and workable migration.
The #SaveAsylum Coalition mobilizes migrants, faith-based groups, and over a dozen humanitarian organizations to restore clear and transparent access to asylum. The coalition works to recognize and publicly condemn the US government’s violation of international law as well as the 1980 Refugee Act. A complementary aspect of this public condemnation is lifting up the testimonies of asylum seekers and acknowledging the injustices that they have faced not only in their home country, but as they wait outside the border of a country that had vowed to receive and protect them. The #SaveAsylum Coalition has organized ten events since August 2020.