We are called to bring an end to the deaths and injuries of refugees–killed or harmed as they seek safety, opportunity, and life. Join us in demanding that the Biden administration definitively end policies that jeopardizes human safety and restricts human rights to seek asylum. We must not look away in the face of the suffering of the refugees at our doorstep.
On June 27, 2022, 53 people were found inside a semi-truck trailer; each died from heat exhaustion. This is the single deadliest tragedy of its kind to have occurred on U.S. soil. These individuals, from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador ranged in age from 13 to 55 years; they were sons and daughters, parents, spouses, siblings, people with stories and dreams. Each of them risked their lives in an effort to find protection or employment in the U.S. Instead, their journey ended in a semi-trailer, and they were denied that most basic right; a right to make a living and create a life.
These tragic deaths are the consequence of policies that criminalize migration and mean that seeking safety is itself life-threatening. Though the tragedy in San Antonio was egregious in its scope, preventable deaths of people in migration have occurred for far too long. Headlines fail to capture a reality in which far too many encounter violence not only at the US-Mexico border, but also in Europe and other communities internationally. During the current fiscal year in the El Paso region alone, at least 37 migrants have died of injuries while crossing, including drowning, dehydration, and vehicle fatalities. In addition to these deaths– the worst of all outcomes– there are countless other grave injuries sustained by people migrating as a result of the dangerous routes they are forced to undertake. Many of our guests at Annunciation House are recovering from broken bones, amputations, or other injuries that were sustained because of the border wall and draconian immigration policies. In many cases, these injuries will permanently affect their mobility, well-being, and ability to earn a living.
The week after the tragic deaths in San Antonio, the Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration has the ability to end the “Migration Protection Protocols” (MPP), a policy implemented under Trump that forced individuals seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while their cases were considered. MPP has exposed tens of thousands of people and families to precariousness, danger, and an appalling lack of due process. In the first two years of the policy’s existence, fewer than 2% of individuals who were placed in MPP were granted asylum. During that same time frame, there were 1,544 publicly reported cases of violent assaults committed against migrants that ranged from murder, rape, torture, to kidnapping. Above all, MPP has been used to keep refugees from accessing the asylum process and pushes people to instead risk more dangerous methods of entering the United States. Tragically, in many people’s attempts to instead seek safety, they encounter injury or death–the precise fates they undertook the journey to avoid. This is a cruel and unnecessary irony.
Policies like MPP block people from exercising their human right to migrate, request asylum, and seek safety, and are an affront to the Church’s position regarding the right to migrate and the centrality of human dignity. These policies are forms of structural violence. They do not stop migrants, but rather force people to take more dangerous routes and expose people to harsh environmental and social risks. This is how the tragedy in San Antonio occurred, and also why we are seeing so many more injuries and deaths among the refugee guests we work with in El Paso. The Biden administration now has the ability to end the Migration Protection Protocols (alternatively, they can wait for lower courts in Texas to rule on the policy). Annunciation House calls upon the administration to end this policy immediately; indeed, we must collectively galvanize to end policies that force refugees to risk everything to find safety and life.