STATEMENT: LIRS Sees Chilling Impact of Remain in Mexico Policy in NM, Fears Grave Human Consequences
For Immediate Release:
June 28, 2019
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BALTIMORE – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) emergency operations in New Mexico report an alarming slowdown in asylum seekers being released from DHS custody, indicating that the Administration’s policies have established an effective chokehold on families’ ability to apply for asylum. Something they have every legal right to do.
At LIRS, we speak from the perspective of having emergency operations at the border, dedicated to supporting migrant families released from detention with immediate shelter and basic care. Just two weeks ago, Respite and Welcome operations in New Mexico and the El Paso area were receiving asylum-seeking families by the thousands; yet, today this number has dropped into the low hundreds. This chilling change is a direct result of families being sent back to Mexico to wait for their opportunity to seek asylum and of the United States’ aggressive efforts to deter asylum seekers from exercising their legal rights to seek protection in this country.
“The Administration’s efforts to reduce channels for asylum seekers has led some, desperate for protection, to take other, more risky, paths across the border,” explained Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President & CEO of LIRS. “As wait times in Mexico increase, we’re going to see more asylum seekers taking drastic measures to secure their chance at safety in the U.S.”
On the heels of recent, highly-publicized drowning deaths, we learned that one family had been waiting in a shelter in Mexico – waiting for their turn to present themselves to the U.S. for asylum – for more than two months, before they made the fatal decision to cross the Rio Grande.
“Innocent people have died risking their lives to reach our shores, and more deaths will happen if we don’t make changes to our asylum system,” said Vignarajah. “The United States has the capacity to welcome these vulnerable families. What we need now, is for our leaders to prioritize the value of human life over politics.”
Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.