Refugee and asylum news highlight border needs - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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The border in El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

This week’s events in Afghanistan highlighted once again the importance of restoring a humane asylum and refugee policy in the U.S. At the same time, a sad and disturbing U.S. Supreme Court decision on Tuesday breathed new life into what’s known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, a cruel cornerstone of the former Trump administration’s inhumane immigration regime.

Maryknoll lay missioner Heidi Cerneka, who works with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center as an immigration attorney at the border, says, “We are devastated. This is a political play that has nothing to do with human rights conventions and commitments that the U.S. has assumed. It has nothing to do with the people who have a right to ask for asylum and are being pushed back across the border to try to survive with no infrastructure. It also has nothing to do with the devastation in the Mexican border cities. Ciudad Juárez again braces itself to try to offer some kind of humanitarian support for desperate migrants while the Mexican government and the U.S. government look away.”

Heidi adds, “From on the ground, personal knowledge of the reality and the people affected, I can’t see this as a legitimate question of security, or health precautions. Those are not real, although I understand that people believe they are real. They are not. And we must honor our national and international legal commitments to refugees and to asylum.”

In its statement on the Supreme Court’s Tuesday decision to deny a stay on the reinstatement of the Migrant Protection Protocols (“Remain in Mexico” policy), Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, said:

As a team we are still digesting the news from the Supreme Court tonight. We are still wondering what this means for those we serve and our work. We can’t help but be flooded by the memories of the people we helped get out of MPP.

Tania is a deaf/nonverbal woman who was cruelly placed in MPP and sent to Mexico. Because she could not communicate, her family thought she was dead for several weeks until her brother took a leave of absence from work to locate her. He found her alive and sought our help. In less than two days we were able to get her out of MPP.

Lily was a teenager when she was placed in MPP. She was raped after she failed her nonrefoulement (fear of Mexico) interview. She told the officer during her interview that she was certain she would be harmed and that she feared for her life in MX. She was brutally raped just days after USCIS denied her access to safety in the US and sent her back in Mexico. It took her being raped for OHS to finally allow her to stay in the US to fight her case.

Jessie was a young boy who was sexually assaulted and bullied in a shelter after he and his mother were returned to MX. It took several failed attempts to get them successfully out of MPP, but now he is safe and thriving with his mother.

We remember countless parents who were raped, kidnapped and assaulted in front of their children.

As the Biden Admin ended MPP, the silver lining for our Mexico team was being able to help with the entry of thousands of asylum seekers during the MPP wind-down process. We greeted them, helped educate them on their legal process, and cheered them on right before they boarded the bus to cross into the United States. It was an incredible experience for us after accompanying people at their lowest. That joy is gone for now.

The fight gets a little harder tonight.

We remain dedicated to welcome with dignity. We will continue to urge the Biden Ad min to restore asylum. Ending MPP was the first step and they cannot give up now. They must re-terminate MPP and end Title 42. We can’t go back. There is no gentler MPP. We need the Administration to renew their commitment to humanity at the border and take action now.

Please continue to pray and work for just and humane policies concerning the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees!

With veteran missioner Debbie Northern moving to the border earlier this month and an additional new missioner preparing to start in January, Maryknoll Lay Missioners is continuing to expand our crucial ministries with migrants and asylum seekers at the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border.

Please generously support our Border Ministries Fund.


Meinrad Scherer-Emunds
Meinrad Scherer-Emunds is Maryknoll Lay Missioners' director of communications.