LETTERS: Shameful practices

Shameful practices

The following letter has been delivered to Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn by his Texas constituents, the Angry Tías and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley.

Dear Senator Cornyn:

Our organization, Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV, was formed in June 2018 in response to what turned out to be the beginning of an immoral and anti-humanitarian process: blocking asylum seekers from crossing the international bridge to apply for asylum, and separating children from their parents once they arrived to the U.S. We have personally seen the results of these and subsequent policies, having spent the last 17 months on the international bridges helping asylum seekers stranded there, at Rio Grande Valley bus stations aiding those recently released from detention, at detention centers where asylum seekers languish for way too long, and now in Mexico where victims of the Migrant “Protection” Protocol are not protected but are subjected to the dangers of the most violent area in Mexico as well as to extreme health hazards due to lack of sanitation, food, and water as well as almost no access to health care. An estimated 1,500 people are currently living in Matamoros in tents that are not of the best quality, where there are very few toilet facilities and showers (and most of those have been paid for by volunteer groups from the U.S.), where children have no access to an education, where there are no cooking facilities, and where rain or cold weather — and previously the heat — present an additional danger due to living conditions.

People do not abandon their country and family members without good reason. We have gotten to know families from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries and have heard countless stories of kidnapping, rape and other abuses these people have suffered in their home countries, in the long trek to the border, and then at the actual border itself, where they were looking for safety.

Our country has an asylum system that has worked for decades. What is happening now has virtually shut down that process. Those who are stranded in Mexico are not only subject to incredible danger, they are also unable to access the help they need to proceed with their case. There is almost no access to an attorney, and because of the dangers and conditions at the border, it is extremely difficult for families to make it to their court appearances. When they do, only 1% have legal representation. Additionally, the tent courts that have been established in Brownsville and Laredo have a dystopian feel to them. There is no access to the public, to attorneys who aren’t representing a client who is appearing at the moment, to journalists, to anyone other than the migrants themselves who usually have no idea what is happening. We are told that there is no simultaneous translation and certain exchanges are not translated at all. Judges are not on site, making it more difficult for them to have clear communications. We have also learned of the increasing pressures on immigration judges to deny asylum and to be overturned by (the Department of Justice) when they don’t deny it.

Additionally, we have gotten to know many people who have made treacherous journeys from many parts of the world, some from as far away as Africa who, upon arrival to request asylum, are locked away in long-term detention, sometimes for more than two years. Because of the length of time it takes for a decision to be made in an asylum case, this detention takes a huge psychological toll on people who have committed no crime but are locked away as though they are criminals.

We are ashamed of our country’s actions.

This also makes no sense. Our country needs immigrants. Our population is growing older, the birth rate has slowed down, the unemployment rate is so low that many low-wage jobs are unfilled, causing employers problems. Our economy needs immigrants, and the people we are seeing would love to contribute. And despite a huge national debt, we are wasting taxpayers’ money on detention facilities all over the country.

We ask you, for the sake of people who deserve the help of our country, for our reputation as a country that is committed to justice, and even for the self-interest of our own economy, please work to end the “Migrant Protection Protocol” program and the unjust system of long-term detention for those who have committed no crime.

Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV Nayelly Barrios, Edinburg;

Cindy Candia, Harlingen; Elizabeth Cavazos, Donna;

Joyce Hamilton, Harlingen; Jennifer Harbury, Weslaco;

Susan Law, Pharr; Madeleine SandefurLaguna Vista.

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