The need for volunteers on the ground in Tijuana – specifically legal professionals – is dire and urgent.
As 7,000+ refugee children, elders and individuals flee widespread political persecution, gang violence and discrimination from Central America in the largest caravan in decades, it is vital that we, as a legal community, come together and provide immediate and concrete legal support for the people seeking asylum in our country. The U.S. government is attempting to deny the right to asylum and has been violating U.S. and international law. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is denying asylum seekers their right to request asylum and is illegally restricting the asylum application process. There is a tremendous need during this rapidly changing humanitarian crisis for asylum seekers to receive accurate legal information on US immigration law and the asylum process. Our vision is to ensure that every individual seeking asylum at the border understands their rights.
- Commit to pro bono asylum cases now with local legal services providers to increase legal services to asylum seekers facing deportation in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Central Coast, Central Valley, and in the Bay Area. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Host an asylum training for your firm or network to build up the legal defense in your city and expand pro bono capacity to support asylum seekers.
- Contact your congressional office and ask your elected official to go to the border to put pressure on CBP to follow domestic and international law so asylum seekers can be processed.
National Lawyers Guild's (NLG) latest report: the information below was gathered by NLG volunteers who are on the ground in Tijuana providing direct legal support:
- “Most people in the exodus are hoping to present their case for asylum to the U.S., but the process has been backlogged and illegally restricted by the U.S. government. In November, the Trump administration issued the asylum ban, which is a new rule prohibiting migrants from crossing the border outside of designated ports of entry, creating a bottleneck and slowing the asylum application process to a crawl. Implementation of the rule was temporarily blocked, but the legal challenge continues. Recent asylum seekers will likely not be able to present themselves for 4-6 weeks as previous groups of migrants are being processed. In the meantime, they are waiting at encampments around Tijuana under conditions that unnecessarily expose people to illness and violence. NLG Legal Observers on the ground repeatedly brought the lack of clean drinking water and food to the attention of the UN and other organizations to no avail.”
The List: to understand the situation at the border and why it is so confusing, it is important to know about “The List.”
- Asylum law permits that when someone requests asylum at the port of entry, they are supposed to be processed right away. Currently, people are being denied the legal right to request asylum at the port of entry and are being placed on The List, which was created by the Mexican government in conjunction with CBP because there is “not enough personnel” at the border to process all of the people requesting asylum. The List is a physical notebook with names and assigned numbers, and is technically not a legal or official document. There are currently an estimated 5,000 people waiting in Tijuana for their number to be called. As more people arrive, we expect people to be waiting for up to 6 months. Here is an article on the precarious situation of unaccompanied minors in this process. There are several lawsuits being launched to challenge the unfair, illegal, and inhumane practices at the border.
Go-to legal response organizations on the ground in Tijuana:
- Al Otro Lado: Small but mighty bi-national direct legal services organization serving indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana.
- Primary organization coordinating Know Your Rights group workshops, legal clinics, legal consultations, and placement for pro bono legal representation.
- National Lawyers Guild (NLG): Lawyers, law students and legal workers in service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.
- Primary organization coordinating and employing trained legal observers at the port of entry, to monitor law enforcement activity, gather information, and keep track of the progress of The List.
- Read: National Lawyers Guild Report From the Mexico - U.S. Border from 12/10/18
- Watch NLG and Al Otro Lado's Webinar: Why Do Refugees Caravans Exist? A Lesson in Geo-Political History of Central America
- Here are some training resources to provide a basic overview of asylum law and process:
- Fact Sheet: Asylum in the United States by the American Immigration Council
- Video: Asylum Law by Immigration Justice Campaign
- Take 5 minutes to create an account with the Immigration Justice Campaign and you will receive access to a resource library with free training materials
- Webinar: Asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SJIS), Crime Victim and Other Immigration Relief by Practising Law Institute
Volunteer Manual: 2018 Guide to Representing Asylum Seekers at the Border by the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)