NNIRR’s Statement on the Situation in El Paso, Texas.
On International Migrants’ Day, NNIRR calls for immediate humanitarian assistance and human rights commitments to the increasing number of migrants and asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border.
As we commemorate International Migrants’ Day today, the El Paso border region is immersed in a humanitarian and protection crisis. Thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers are arriving each day in the Paso del Norte region in search of safety, escaping from economic and political violence, and seeking to reunite with their families. They are primarily from Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Ecuador – countries that have been beset by recurring social and economic disasters.
With the Covid-era Title 42 set to end in a few days, we urge the Biden Administration to reinstate real commitments and guarantee the right to seek asylum at the border. This must include infusing resources to support refugees, asylum-seekers, trafficked persons, and other migrants in vulnerable situations. We must ensure immediate access to food, shelter, healthcare, and other life-saving services.
Since last week, migrants have converged under the Santa Fe bridge connecting Ciudad Juarez with El Paso, Texas. They are dangerously crossing freeways and waiting in long lines, in severe weather conditions, to turn themselves over to Border Patrol officers. Shelters are at capacity, and people are being released onto the streets without sweaters, blankets, or identifications. Most urgently, they need food and water, warm clothing, information, and resources to cover vital expenses such as paying for safe places to sleep.
In the face of this crisis, the Texas Governor has announced that his administration will begin targeting the El Paso community organizations that provide humanitarian aid like shelter, food, and legal services –essentially persecuting those helping to facilitate compliance with international human rights obligations. These attempts to “criminalize” and intimidate local organizations and undermine their humanitarian efforts are part of a cynical part of his strategy to enforce more restrictive border policies and normalize dangerous and xenophobic narratives that threaten human rights activism in the United States. All at the cost of the lives of migrants, asylum seekers, and their families.
We need immediate action at multiple levels – not promises that can be bureaucratically tied up for weeks and months. We urge the Biden Administration to delay no further and to work with city officials, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders to put in place supports for safe, orderly, and dignified reception of migrants and asylum seekers that includes the following:
- Set up offices for processing claims in the main ports of entry to guarantee orderly and efficient access to asylum procedures and the principle of non-refoulment.
- Create a photo ID for provisional documentation that confirms and acknowledges the individual’s intent to seek asylum in the US while their case is pending.
- Coordinate with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist with reception and referral procedures.
- Ensure immediate rights-based and gender-sensitive access to medical care.
- Ensure protection from retribution for civil society organizations and human rights defenders who assist migrants in distress, providing shelter, aid, food, water, and other assistance.
Finally, it is time to take a holistic approach to migration by creating pathways for regular migration. Long-term and rights-respecting options for migration are urgently needed to address the adverse drivers of migration and prevent more tragedies for people on the move.
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National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights