Since 2017 the Florence Project has worked in partnership with the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) to provide legal services to migrants in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. A program that started with one attorney has since grown to two attorneys and three legal assistants in just three years.

The Kino Border Initiative is a binational organization located in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico that provides humanitarian assistance and accompaniment with migrants, engages in social and pastoral education with communities on both sides of the border, and participates in collaborative advocacy efforts to change immigration policies. Its vision is to help make humane, just, workable migration between the U.S. and Mexico a reality.

The Border Action Team provides legal orientations to migrants who arrive to KBI’s aid center in Nogales, Sonora. We also provide pro se assistance and legal representation to some migrants who seek asylum in the U.S. and are later detained Through this work, we work to ensure that migrants are empowered with the information they need to make decisions about their immigration cases.

The story of Yosbel and Yarlenis exemplifies the critical, lifesaving work our Border Action Team does, and the current situation on the border.

Over the past several years, attacks on access to asylum have increased at the U.S. Mexico border, including policies like metering, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), and Title 42. In partnership with KBI, we also work with regional and national partners to preserve and restore access to asylum, which has been subject to increasing attacks for years. We have also taken a leadership role in coordinating logistics in both Arizona and Mexico between legal services and humanitarian aid organizations to meet the needs of the hundreds, or even thousands, of vulnerable migrants at the Arizona Mexico border.

The Current Situation at the Border

In January 2020, MPP (also know as “Remain in Mexico”) was implemented at the Arizona border. A border wide policy that forced nearly 70,000 people seeking asylum to wait in Mexico for court dates in their asylum cases, it has endangered the lives of every single person subjected to it. While President Biden halted new admissions to the policy when he took office, the rollback of the policy has been unwieldy and slow, and the people we serve in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico have been largely forgotten in the initial phase.

Additionally, since March 2020, the border has been effectively closed to all migrants. Virtually no one has been allowed by CBP to present at ports of entry, and anyone who crosses the border between ports of entry is immediately expelled back to Mexico without seeing an immigration judge or having their safety considered. This policy, known as Title 42, was issued by the Trump administration despite objections by senior CDC medical experts that it lacked a public health justification. Thus far, the Biden administration has elected to keep the policy in place. Like people who have been subjected to MPP, people expelled to Mexico under Title 42 are in grave danger: our clients continually report extortion, kidnapping, threats of violence, injury, and illness while in Mexico.

In response to these significant challenges, the Florence Project’s Border Action Team is currently maintaining a seven day a week presence on the ground in Nogales, Sonora, with at least two people present each day to ensure that people who are in MPP, expelled under Title 42, or newly arriving to the border have access to high-quality legal services. We can only do this work with your support. Thank you for making this work possible.