News » Tragedy in Texas is a Direct Result of Our Anti-Asylum Policies

Tragedy in Texas is a Direct Result of Our Anti-Asylum Policies

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Jun 28, 2022

In response to the tragedy in Texas where at least 50 migrants lost their lives, and over a dozen were hospitalized, members of the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights responded. Member organizations noted with sorrow that this is the latest in a string of mass casualty events resulting from the United States’ cruel asylum policies. In May we mourned the loss of 11 Haitians whose ship capsized while they were trying to seek safety on U.S. shores. U.S. action on these issues matters because these losses are a part of a terrible global trend, with over 30 migrants killed just last Friday at the border between Moroccan and Spanish territory in Melilla.

Seeking asylum is a legal form of entry under U.S. law and a fundamental human right. Policies like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico are designed to subvert that right and keep Black, brown, and Indigenous asylum seekers out. They force desperate people to take even more desperate measures to protect themselves and their families, like pursuing more dangerous routes to U.S. territory and turning to human traffickers who have no regard for human life. These tragedies are preventable. A fair and humane asylum process at the southern border would allow people to seek protection safely. #WelcomeWithDignity’s recommendations to restore asylum are available here.

“Our hearts ache for the 50 migrants who lost their lives in San Antonio this week,” said Kate Jastram, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “This tragedy is the direct result of illegal, inhumane, and racist U.S. policies, including Title 42 and Remain in Mexico, which punish people for seeking protection and force them to take ever more dangerous routes in search of safety. People fleeing persecution should be welcomed at the U.S. border with dignity and compassion, not blocked from exercising their right to seek asylum and returned to harm. Our deadly border policies have left too many families and communities in mourning. This cannot continue. We implore our leaders to stop playing politics with human lives and do everything in their power establish a humane and dignified asylum process at the border.”

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of lives here in San Antonio and the many other harms migrants continue to experience coming to our country. If the administration was following the law and processing all requests for asylum as legally required, instead of misusing Title 42 to expel people, there would be less need for people to take more and more desperate measures to find protection,” said Sara Ramey, Executive Director of the Migrant Center for Human Rights. “And by considering all applications for asylum at our Ports of Entry, the administration could process asylum seekers in an orderly and humane way, as well as significantly undercut the smugglers’ and cartels’ funding network.” 

“My heart goes out to all who were stranded in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio which has resulted in the death of at least 50 people. We will support our local partners as they help the survivors recovering in the hospital. These deaths are the result of a system meant to prevent people from seeking safety and asylum. However, it results in families, adults, and children being forced to take dangerous routes because our border remains closed,” said Melina Roche, Campaign Manager of #WelcomeWithDignity. “We have seen over and over that policies that block access to asylum, like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico, are deadly. They also create an environment in which nefarious actors prey on the desperation of people trying to seek a better life. It’s past time to move away from these anti-asylum policies and build a safe and welcoming reception for all.”

“We are tired of heartache from inhumane conditions in our countries of origin and the loss of lives of our peoples and communities when we are forced to migrate,” said Juanita Cabrera Lopez, (Maya Mam Nation) and Executive Director of the International Mayan League. “In our countries of origin, governments enact policies that steal our lands, persecute, and kill us and disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples.  Where are we to go if we are ‘invaders’ in our own lands?  What happened in Texas is not a smuggling problem. This is the outcome of colonial states and discriminatory laws and policies that deny our peoples the right to exist and to stay in our ancestral lands. We must not forget to address root drivers of forced migration, remember U.S. intervention and military aid, and how they merge with current racist policies.”  

“We are devastated,” said Marisa Limón Garza, senior director for advocacy and programming at the Hope Border Institute. “This tragic loss of human life was preventable. We have legal pathways for migrants to seek protection in the US. We just choose not to use them. It is in that vacuum that nefarious actors enter and the trafficking of vulnerable people becomes a business opportunity. A new way forward is possible. We just need to center the needs of the most vulnerable and the courage to think and act differently.” 

“The American Immigration Council mourns this tragic loss of life and sends our condolences to each of the families of these victims. This tragedy speaks to the unspeakable conditions that migrants are experiencing, and is a stark reminder of the need for a humane immigration system where people are processed through ports of entry instead of subjecting themselves to dangerous methods of attempted entry,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the American Immigration Council. “We continue to advocate against an array of cruel and inhumane policies including an end to Title 42, a policy that has reshaped border processing and created a patchwork of arbitrary and inconsistent outcomes for migrants. It has also enriched the cartels, driven up border crossings, and fueled a rise in chaos and death at the border. We also ask the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to ensure that any survivors are not deported and are instead paroled into the United States to seek U visas, an option for victims of crime and abuse.” 

“Our hearts are broken once again”, said Luis Marcos, Co-Executive Director of Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim. “We have crossed these lands and colonial borders since time immemorial. We have inherent rights as Indigenous peoples of Abya Yala to maintain relationships of reciprocity with the land and our Indigenous relatives in the north of Turtle Island. Even the United Nations has recognized this right under Article 36 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP). The land knows us and we come from these lands yet, we suffer the greatest numbers of deaths at the colonial US – Mexico border. People may not recognize this because our identities as citizens of Maya and Indigenous nations are constantly erased and invisibilized. This Indigenous erasure coupled with policies like family separations, MPP, and Title 42 continue to result in the deaths of Maya people and other Indigenous migrants forced to seek asylum because of continuing colonial genocidal practices and extractive industries forcibly displacing us from our ancestral lands. Please don’t erase Indigenous peoples once again and understand that these tragedies are part and parcel of continuing genocidal policies we face north, south, east, and west. The U.S. must be held accountable for U.S. complicity with human rights violations and genocide in our homelands that cause us to flee and for the human rights violations perpetrated against us at imposed colonial borders. In our worldview and cosmovision, every life is precious and we mourn the loss of each of those lost in this tragedy. Our hearts go out to all of the families suffering. The U.S. must end domestic and international policies that accelerate and perpetuate genocide and destruction here and in our ancestral lands.”  

“We decry this senseless tragedy of the deaths of young Mexican, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan immigrants in San Antonio”, said Rabbi Joshua Lesser, President of Bridges Faith Initiative. “This tragedy is a direct result of the inhumane U.S. policies Title 42 and ‘Remain in Mexico’ that prevent legal and safe immigration. Our prayers are for the swift recovery and safety of the survivors of this tragedy. We pledge to redouble our efforts to push the U.S. government towards humane immigration policies, so the memories of those who died will be a blessing and their goodness will be kept alive.”

“Today we mourn the death of fifty souls. Fifty people who were loved, had families, and wanted nothing more than to build a better life,” said Dr. Kim Lamberty, Executive Director of the Quixote Center. “This is the price of deterrence-based immigration policies. This tragedy was completely preventable, but cruel and racist policies such as Title 42 and ‘Remain in Mexico’ have blocked migrants from seeking safety, pushing them to take on increasingly dire risks to escape from danger.  We demand justice for these immigrant families and children. We demand the full restoration of a safe and just asylum system, so that such a tragedy will never happen again.”

“Words are inadequate to convey the collective horror, grief, and dismay resulting from the deaths of dozens of people seeking protection and a better life in this country,” said Lisa Koop, National Director of Legal Services at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “This latest tragedy in San Antonio was utterly preventable. But for policies such as Title 42, Remain in Mexico, and cruel deterrence policies, families would not be mourning these lost lives. The United States has a duty to provide safe pathways for people to seek protection. When these pathways are shut down, people die. We renew our calls to the Biden administration to reopen ports of entry for asylum screenings. We owe nothing less to the people who died and their loved ones.”

“We are heartbroken by this tragic news and send our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who lost their lives,” said Rocío Castañeda Acosta, an advocacy attorney with the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “No one should have to resort to such a dangerous path in order to seek safety and freedom in the United States. This tragic news underscores the cruelty and inhumanity of anti-immigrant policies like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico. Last year, a record number of people died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Deterrence policies are deadly, and this tragedy is a direct result of these policies. Federal leaders must stop forcing people to risk extremely dangerous conditions simply to seek safety in the U.S.” 

“Oxfam America joins in mourning the deaths of people fleeing persecution in search of protection & express condolences to their families & loved ones,” said Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead at Oxfam America. “This awful & horrific tragedy could’ve been avoided. We’ll continue to fight for the rights of everyone to seek safety, security & asylum.”

“The Women’s Refugee Commission mourns the deaths of at least 50 people found last night in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “They were attempting to migrate to the United States at a time when it has become almost impossible to access safety and asylum at the border. We are thinking of the survivors and the families who have lost loved ones in this devastating tragedy. These deaths follow a horrific pattern of violence and loss of life that has only increased with ongoing policies that attempt to deter and illegally prevent people from seeking protection at the U.S.-Mexico border, and often leave individuals no choice but to turn to smugglers and take dangerous routes. Individuals and families must be allowed to seek safety at the U.S.-Mexico border, and those who survived should be offered support and the chance to seek protection. The Women’s Refugee Commission reiterates our call for the United States to uphold its own refugee and asylum laws and to end the use of Title 42 and other anti-asylum policies. We must prevent future tragedies and create safe pathways for families and individuals to seek protection.” 

“We are sick of hearing stories of suffering from the border. Sadly, this is not the first or the last case of migrants dying in crossing our border,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Latin America Working Group Co-director. “Policies restricting access to asylum must be lifted. While we wait for the courts to issue their decisions, the Biden Administration must do everything it can to begin restoring access to asylum with organizations on the ground. The Title 42 policy is only pushing people to take even more dangerous routes, separating families and causing unnecessary harm and death —like this tragedy in Texas. This cannot go on. Let’s end the suffering and welcome people seeking safety.”

“Our hearts ache for the loss of human life in Texas and for the families who are suffering,” said Dani Marrero Hi, director of communications at LUPE. “We mourn the people who lost their lives, and we send our deepest condolences to their loved ones. This devastating incident should serve as a reminder that federal and state governments must end the use of violent deterrence immigration policies. People seeking protection at our border should be welcomed with dignity and shelter— not with guns, walls, and cruel policies that force them to risk everything for a chance to live in safety. Throughout history, border residents have extended a helping hand to welcome families and children at our nation’s doorstep. We know we’re strong and big enough to safely welcome people with dignity. These deaths are preventable, but only if federal and state officials stop putting people in danger. President Biden must end the Trump-era policies of Title 42 and ‘Remain in Mexico,’ and Governor Abbott must stop playing politics with the lives of migrants who he dehumanizes for his own greed and gain.”

“We are horrified by this tragedy in San Antonio. This is the largest loss of immigrant lives on American soil this year, however, every day immigrants from Haiti and other Central American countries and from the African and Asian continents are dying because of U.S. policies like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico. These dangerous and inhumane policies must end so lives can be saved,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Government Relations Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “We pray for those who died and their families, and for the survivors of yesterday’s tragedy to recover quickly and finally find safety in the United States. We also pray that all of our legislators’ and judges’ hearts will not be hardened and that they will work to prevent future tragedies by enacting policies that allow for safe immigration in the United States and respect the right to asylum.”

Sue Roche, Executive Director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) in Maine said: “The ILAP community mourns the devastating loss of at least 50 people in Texas who were seeking safety, security, and a better life for themselves and their families in the United States. This tragedy – and the many like it that do not make mainstream news – is the result of inhumane and needless U.S. policies like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico that force asylum seekers who are already fleeing for their lives into even more danger. There is no question that the United States has the ability to welcome people escaping from desperate situations with dignity, aid, services, and the opportunity for a new, better life. When we fail to do so, it’s because of deliberate political choices, choices that are rooted in racism and xenophobia. We call on the Biden administration and Congress to take every step possible to create a just and welcoming asylum system. The horrible human suffering and loss of life in Texas was avoidable and those in power must act now.”     

“Team Brownsville joins with others who are heartbroken by the recent deaths of 50 migrant brothers and sisters. As we welcome asylum seeking people with dignity every day , we recognize that there are people who are being kept back ,expelled back , forced away from their legal right to pursue asylum in a safe and humane manner. Let us elevate their voices and be part of the loud chorus insisting on change in the broken asylum system,“ said Andrea Rudnik, Team Brownsville co-founder/board president.

“Today’s news of migrant deaths in Texas is a sobering reminder of the harsh circumstances placed on migrants forced to flee their homes every day.” said Chloe Rastatter, Cofounder and Field Engineering at Solidarity Engineering. “When speaking of the refugee crisis, we often see narratives that fail to recognise the migrants for what they are: vulnerable people fleeing persecution and violence in their own countries. As a nation, the US should band together to support refugees in their time of need. Although essential work is being done by humanitarian aid organizations at the border unless the government ends inhumane policies such as ‘Return to Mexico’ and Title 42 situations like the ones uncovered today will continue to happen. Solidarity Engineering stands with refugees. Our request is that you do too.”

“The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has long implemented policies of militarization and deterrence that are designed to steer migrants to dangerous and perilous situations. These horrific strategies, based on the cruel thought that migrants will not come to the U.S. if they are tormented along their journey, are causing tens of thousands of deaths in the desert. Time has proven that deterrence policies do not work and instead, cause suffering and death. People fleeing for their lives and to protect their families will not defer their travel to stay where they will face fatal circumstances,” said Rev. Noel Andersen, Church World Service Director of Grassroots Organizing. “The ongoing misuse of public health code Title 42 follows this same flawed logic and continues to result in tragic deaths like that of the 50 individuals, including parents and children, who met an end of extreme suffering in the San Antonio trailer packed with migrants. It is morally atrocious that we have not yet restored our asylum policies and instead, allow migrants to suffer. We must end Title 42, as well as all anti-asylum policies, and restore welcome to those fleeing violence and persecution. We must create a humane reception process to provide hospitality that treats all with dignity and respect.”

“We are grieved and horrified by the news of these tragic deaths of migrants – our brothers and sisters,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC. “We join Pope Francis and people of faith around the world in offering prayers of lament and of hope for a future in which the dignity of our migrant brothers and sisters is respected through systems that protect and welcome those seeking refuge. May this heartbreaking news move us to a deeper commitment to building such a world through concrete action – including through restoring access to asylum at our Southern border, a legal right.”

“Every life has value. A policy that vilifies the human right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness such as Title 42 and Migrant Protection Protocol creates situations that exacerbate the desperation many refugee/migrants face. The Sidewalk School stands with our humanitarian partners in calling for an end to these dehumanizing policies and demanding our lawmakers follow suit. The recent tragedy in San Antonio that cost 50 lives must be a call to all for change,” said Víctor Cavazos, Co-Director, The Sidewalk School

“Today we mourn the tragic deaths of at least 50 migrants in San Antonio, Texas. While details are still forthcoming, we know their deaths were preventable, as were the drowning deaths of 11 Haitian women and girls earlier this month, and the deaths of countless others who have perished while seeking a better life in the United States,” said Jennifer Babaie, U.S.-Mexico Program Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “People only turn to dangerous migration routes when they don’t have access to safe ones. Today, we honor the lives of those lost and recommit to ending inhumane policies like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico, which deny migrants access to legal pathways to protection and push people into desperate situations. Creating an accessible and humane immigration system is the only way to prevent these tragedies in the future.”

This is a heartbreaking tragedy for the victims, the survivors and their families,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who perished yesterday, and the families of all those who have perished in their attempts to reach safety in the United States. Policies that deny people in danger the ability to seek asylum, or deny people the opportunity to safely migrate, are inflicting horrific suffering and human rights abuses that are escalating as the barriers to safety have grown and continued. It is long past time for the U.S. government to end the cruel and counterproductive Title 42 policy, restore asylum at the U.S. border, and create substantial, just and quick  pathways for people to safely migrate and reunite with their families.”        

“Our hearts are with the victims of this tragedy, their families, and communities,” said Jonathan Blazer, Director of Border Strategies at the ACLU. “Punitive immigration and border policies are forcing people to risk their lives in pursuit of safety. It’s past time to follow our asylum laws, and to create pathways for people to come here safely.”

“The deaths in San Antonio yesterday were tragic, heartbreaking, and also completely avoidable,” said MomsRising Immigration Campaign Director Claudia Tristán. “They follow the tragic deaths of 11 Haitian asylum-seekers at sea, and many other lives lost that were not reported in the news. These deaths result from policies the Trump administration created – Remain in Mexico and Title 42, in particular – that remain in place because of Republican-led lawsuits. It’s past time we end these cruel, immoral policies and craft new ones that recognize that asylum-seekers, many of whom are moms and children, make the journey to the United States and fall prey to smugglers because they are desperate for safety and a better life. Our border policies do nothing to protect the lives of those vulnerable mothers and children, and instead multiply their suffering. America’s moms want every immigrant and asylum-seekers to be treated with dignity, compassion and respect.”

“By shutting down legal pathways to migrate, building walls, deploying armed border agents and drones and expelling people without so much as asking them why they left their homes, the US government turned San Antonio yesterday into a bloodbath. That bloodbath killed mothers, sons, neighbors, friends,” said Ana Ortiz Varela, Data Strategist with Innovation Law Lab based in San Antonio, TX. “We must take a step back and ask ourselves why dozens, hundreds, thousands of people, with no choice but to abandon their homes, are dying in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, the Sonoran desert and the Rio Grande river, and even at the end of the barrels of the guns of Moroccan police at the border with Spanish territory in Melilla, as happened just last Friday. All over the world. Every day. These are not accidents. They are massacres. And we must hold our governments responsible for them.”

“We face another day in a country, in a world, that does not want to admit a very simple truth, that people have the right to migrate in order to live…..Look at the stacks of bodies left to suffocate in a tractor trailer near San Antonio. Look at the bloated bodies that from time to time float into view in that river with two names….It’s another day for us to mourn and wonder how it is that we live, and that they no longer do. Inhumane policies that restrict the movement of the world’s most vulnerable, like Remain in Mexico and Title 42, are to blame. We are all to blame if we cannot stop them,” said Joshua Rubin with Margaret Seiler, Witness at the Border.

“We are mourning the loss of lives in San Antonio, yet another tragedy resulting from an intentionally decimated asylum system, a militarized border, and politically-motivated immigration policies,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “As the rights and dignity of migrants and people of color continue to be under attack, it is urgent that the United States end Title 42 expulsions, Remain in Mexico, and other cruel and illegal policies that endanger the lives of people seeking safety and freedom in our nation. We are watching how the Supreme Court will rule on the cruel and unlawful Remain in Mexico policy, which is partially responsible for tragic deaths like those of these children and families.”

“We are completely devastated over the numerous lives lost at the cost of seeking refuge. We mourn for the people who lost their lives and keep the survivors in our thoughts as they fight for their lives,” said Lourena Gboeah, Chair of the Refugee Congress Board of Directors. “People who leave their countries of origin and loved ones are coming to the U.S. to seek safety and build better lives. We must be a country that welcomes people seeking refuge, not a place where they face further risks and death. We call on our leaders to end discriminatory and dangerous policies like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico and put an end to these preventable tragedies.”

“However shocking to our consciences, this tragedy is an unsurprising result of years of cruel policies that use billions of taxpayer dollars annually to deter and expel migrants instead of fixing our failed immigration system,” said Archi Pyati, CEO of the Tahirih Justice Center. “We will keep seeing lives unnecessarily lost if unwise and illegal policies like Title 42 and ‘Remain in Mexico’ continue to prevent safe and legal immigration. They don’t dissuade migrants from crossing the southern border; instead, they force them to make dangerous choices — like turning to unscrupulous human smugglers and traffickers—ultimately facing danger and even death.  In the next few days, the Biden administration must ensure that the few people—including children—that survived this crime are not detained and deported. They must be paroled into the United States so they can seek immigration relief.”

“We are incensed at the repeated, preventable  loss of Black and Brown lives due to politicization of the simple, sacred act of seeking safety,” said Laura Peña, Director of the Beyond Borders program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Whether at the hot and humid hills of San Antonio, the dry deserts of Arizona, the choppy waters of Caribbean Sea, or the jungles of the Darien Gap —  the blame of these senseless loss of lives are squarely on Greg Abbott and Joe Biden.  When people are shuttered from all access to safety because of policies like Operation Lone Star and Title 42, they are forced to take more dangerous routes to the border. This leads to what happened in San Antonio where people’s only option is to be locked in a trailer instead of receiving a dignified, humane process at the border. This was preventable, it is time to end both Title 42 and Operation Lone Star. We stand in solidarity with the thousands of mourning families and communities across the region who must grapple with the loss of their loved ones.”