Faith leaders call on DHS to welcome and process asylum seekers and uphold moral and legal obligations to protect the ‘least of these’
SILVER SPRING, Maryland – More than 500 interfaith leaders and organizations have called on the Department of Homeland Security to end its so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy (Migration Protection Protocols) that requires asylum seekers at the southern border to wait in Mexico for months - or even years -while their asylum cases are processed in the United States. A letter delivered to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Feb. 26 condemned the policy as “baseless and immoral.”
The letter, delivered by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and Church World Service on behalf of a diverse group, including faith based organizations, denominational leaders, religious orders, and faith-based immigration services agencies, focused on a shared faith-based call to compassion: “Our faith traditions compel us to welcome one another with love and compassion, regardless of place of birth, religion, or ethnicity. Our diverse moral teachings find consistency in the absolute value of the human person and our obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
The policy was implemented in January at the San Ysidro port of entry outside San Diego and was recently expanded to Eagle Pass, Texas, west of San Antonio. It is expected to be expanded to other ports of entry in coming weeks.
The Rev. John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service, said “this ‘Remain in Mexico’ plan is the latest step in the administration’s campaign of cruelty and illegality, which has claimed the lives of migrant children and torn families apart. Instead of addressing the inhumane policies that led to the recent deaths of children in Customs and Border Protection custody, including 8-year-old asylum-seeker Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, the U.S. government is closing our doors to others seeking protection and sending them back to danger.”
Rev. McCullough added: “This illegal policy destabilizes Mexican and U.S. border communities alike, and sows the same kind of chaos we saw during the height of the family separation crisis. Faith communities across the country are ready to welcome these families and help them rebuild their lives as our neighbors.”
“This policy is yet another poorly conceived and immoral attack on asylum seekers, which puts people at physical risk and threatens their access to legal counsel,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “As the letter explains, it will be a nearly insurmountable hurdle for asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico to get the assistance of U.S. legal counsel to help them prepare their cases. Denying them their due process rights to access to counsel when seeking asylum is just plain wrong and violates our obligations under the law to protect refugees from persecution."
Gallagher, who is attending a meeting in El Paso, Texas, of Catholic immigrant advocates from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, said many participants fear for the physical safety of refugees if they are forced to wait in Mexico while waiting for court hearings on their asylum claims.
The letter urges the administration to immediately terminate its cruel, immoral “Remain in Mexico” policy and to stop its attacks against asylum seekers, immigrants, unaccompanied children, and other vulnerable populations seeking protection. The administration should instead meaningfully address the root causes of displacement, without undermining the U.S. asylum, anti-trafficking, or child protections.
Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty. Learn more about our work and join our global homebase for refugee solidarity at GreaterAs1.org.