Our Response to the Consortium Referral Process and the Restoration of Asylum at the Border

The Florence Project and its partner organizations supporting migrants at the Arizona/Sonora border are relieved that some asylum seekers are finally able to seek protection at the Nogales Port of Entry through the recently announced “Consortium” referral process. However, this announcement does not change our commitment to advocating with migrants for the full restoration of access to asylum at the border. Since August 2020, asylum seekers in Nogales, Mexico have courageously and persistently organized to assert their right to seek protection at the border. Their persistence, sacrifice, and leadership has helped to hold the Biden Administration accountable and to push the Administration to finally begin to follow through on its campaign promises. Today’s announcement would not have happened without them.

As we work to support migrants at the Arizona/Sonora border, we have seen the heavy toll that waiting has had on the individuals and families forced to wait in danger at the border – many for over a year. While the current process does give some of these vulnerable migrants the opportunity to enter the U.S. to seek asylum, it is wholly inadequate and no substitute for a robust, functional asylum system. By closing the border to migrants fleeing harm in this era of deep need, the United States government has betrayed its purported values, its own laws, and its humanitarian obligations to the rest of the world.

Alongside migrants in Nogales, we call on the government to commit to a transparent, clear, and timely process to fully restore asylum along the entire border. We have the capacity to not only welcome more asylum seekers but to partner with the federal government to restore full access asylum. Unfortunately, the government’s lack of engagement and honesty with migrants at the border and the organizations that support them, has deepened mistrust and confusion. This lack of positive change and transparency has further undermined the Administration’s stated objectives of identifying safe ways to ensure vulnerable migrants have access to asylum – and in the interim has continued to place migrants in harm’s way. Arbitrary and opaque metering systems at the port of entry in prior years created the conditions for corrupt management and profiteering by bad actors. We must learn from those past mistakes.

Recently, in order to facilitate the speedy processing of more individuals, local organizations have come together alongside national organizations to identify and refer vulnerable families and individuals to DHS for exemption from Title 42. We have provided legal services and shelter, coordinated COVID-19 testing, received asylum seekers released from the Port of Entry, and assisted them in boarding transportation to Tucson. We are proud of our capacity as a community to creatively and generously provide hospitality. However, we are participating in this process in protest. The slow, piecemeal rollback of Remain in Mexico and the continued use of Title 42 underscore the long road ahead of us. We continue to demand an immediate end to Title 42 and an opportunity for all those impacted by MPP to pursue their asylum claims in the U.S. if they so choose. We stand in solidarity with the migrants in Nogales who have so courageously called on the U.S. government to live up to its promises and obligations.

We are a diverse set of organizations with unique missions, visions, and perspectives. However, we unite in emphasizing our commitment in this trying time to be a society of generosity, a society that promotes the well-being of all individuals and families, and a society of welcome. We believe there is a moral imperative to support and welcome those in need – whether based on our faith, as religious institutions, or on our committed values, as humanitarian institutions. We call on the Biden Administration to allow us to live out our faith and our values by ending Title 42 and fully restoring access to asylum.

We would like to leave you with the words of Elena, a migrant leader of the #SaveAsylum coalition, who waited over a year in Nogales and is now fighting her asylum case from within the U.S.: “The movement to restore asylum was borne of the pain of desperation and suffering, of waiting for an answer that did not come. It was borne at the foot of a wall where we waited in limbo and grew from 8 migrants to 10 to 20 and 30. What we have achieved grew out of our hope to find a response to our suffering – a door or even a window toward safety in the U.S. That’s how we finally succeeded in seeing a window open, a few families finding safety. Every time a family entered the US, we celebrated, seeing their radiant, hopeful faces. That’s when you know the struggle was worth it. You realize that the seed you planted finally took root and now it is bearing fruit! But the fight will continue until the last person who needs to save their lives is here safe.”

We stand with Elena. The fight will continue.