January 29 marks one year since President Donald Trump's administration implemented 'Remain in Mexico,' a disastrous policy that traps asylum-seekers in Mexico while they wait to make their asylum cases in the United States.
Forcing people to wait in Mexico is extremely dangerous. Most migrants do not have a place to stay, so they sleep on the streets. Children go without education or adequate medical care. Many migrants waiting in Mexico - especially women - have been kidnapped, trafficked, extorted, and sexually assaulted.
National Day of Prayer and Action
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition called a national day of prayer vigils and activities across the United States on the anniversary, calling for an end to 'Remain in Mexico' and for a more compassionate welcome for families seeking safety in the United States.
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the United States and Europe created the refugee system in order to relocate people living in war, violence, and/or persecution to safety. Asylum is a similar form of protection, but for people who are already in a country or at the border who meet the international law definition of a "refugee". Under Trump's administration, the U.S. government has implemented numerous policies and procedural hurdles that make it practically impossible for asylum-seekers to receive the protection they desperately need. Although Trump's administration initiated this policy, Congress can stop it. Congress can refuse to give money for the policy's implementation.
Columban missionaries have been accompanying communities along the US/Mexico border for over 25 years. Every day we see how border communities are models of hospitality and creative cross-cultural encounter. But we also see how inhumane immigration enforcement and extreme militarisation sow fear, distrust, and trauma in our communities.
Asylum seekers used to be able to remain in the United States while they waited for their asylum cases to be resolved in court. This allowed them to reunite with their families and connect with service providers like lawyers and doctors. Along the border on the US side, a robust network of volunteer shelters provided overnight accommodations, foods, and help with travel. Now these shelters are nearly empty.
Limiting people's ability to cross the border at ports of entry by only taking a certain number of people per day (or none), and forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their case is processed, is incredibly dangerous.
While the government abandons its moral duty to care for our vulnerable sisters and brothers, Columbans and other people of faith living in Mexico are working non-stop with many volunteers to address this manufactured humanitarian crisis. They are coordinating safe shelters, transportation to hearings, and livelihood projects for migrants. They are also providing emotional and spiritual support to families as they navigate a volatile and uncertain future.
Washington-based Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach