President-elect Biden is expected to issue executive orders on issues like immigration during his first days in office. A group of pro immigrant rights activists and hundreds of asylum seekers stranded in Nogales, Sonora hope for one of those executive orders to include them and restore the asylum process.
“We will be addressing President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris tomorrow. We will publicly recognize their victory and reveal a letter that migrants have written themselves,” said Sara Ritchie, Director of Communications for Kino Border Initiative.
Ritchie says the letter was written and signed by thousands of asylum seekers in Nogales, Tijuana, and Agua Prieta. Some of them have been waiting for as long as a year to get a hearing in the U.S. to claim asylum.
“We’re scared. We’re scared that they will find us here,” said Andrea, an asylum seeker from Michoacán, Mexico.
Andrea is using a pseudonym for fear to be recognized by the criminal organizations she’s allegedly currently hiding from.
Andrea says her family fled Michoacán, Mexico a year ago after cartel members tried to kill her husband when he refused to join them.
“We thought we were only going to wait for up to three months,” expressed Andrea.
She says she never expected she would have to wait for a year in the same country that they were running away from.
“Our thinking was to turn ourselves into immigration. We felt we would be more safe with them than here.”
But Andrea is not alone. According to the Kino Border Initiative, hundreds of migrants have been waiting in Nogales for a year now under the Migrant Protection Protocols policy also known as the “Remain in Mexico."
Under MPP, migrants seeking asylum must wait in Mexico for a hearing to make their claim.
“The whole premise of this program is to not have individuals in the U.S. cause the catch and release policy that ended, it was the logic of the Trump administration that individuals would not return to their hearings,” stated Immigration lawyer Ezequiel Hernandez.
For Hernandez, such a policy doesn’t make sense.
“Now it has a crisis of individuals waiting for U.S. immigration law outside the United States, I find that problematic,” said Hernandez.
Meanwhile Sara Ritchie with the nonprofit organization Kino Border Initiative says, a new administration is their only hope.
“There are so many other elements of the entire asylum process that've been dismantled. So, yeah, we hope he ends MPP but to also be followed by other policies as well, to not only restore it, but to make it more robust,” stated Ritchie.
It’s unknown what could happen to MPP, but Arturo del Cueto, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council says he knows change is coming.
“I believe under the new presidency it will be restored to a different degree. My problem that I think we see is, realistically you can restore it, but don’t restore it to how it was.
I think they need to learn the problems that they had in the past and use those problems to try to fix them before you just all of a sudden open it up and restore everything.”
According to del Cueto, one of those problems is the lack of staff to assist with asylum claims.
“They need more asylum officers, more immigration judges, more boots on the ground. A lot of times we concentrate on technology and more technology in different areas that we forget that there’s no substitute for manpower. I think that’s the most valuable tool that we can ever use,” stated del Cueto.
Others just hope they can get an opportunity for their case to be heard.
“Us, immigrants are good people. We’re not criminals,” said Andrea, who will be among the migrants reading the letter publicly for the first time at a march to be held at the border fence with Nogales tomorrow.