Immigration Panel Offers Guidance As To What We Can Do
There were important themes to the immigration panel staged by the League of Women Voters on Saturday, most importantly, that we should not feed the national frenzy that there is any kind of crisis at the border. We heard from Marcela Diaz, Somos Un Pueblo Unido; Allegra Love, Santa Fe Dreamers; and immigration rights attorney Rebekah Wolf that while there are things we can do to support asylum seekers, there are many more immigrants living here in Santa Fe who need our compassion and support. We heard that perhaps the single most important thing we can do is to use our personal political leverage to advocate with elected officials to advance humane immigration policies and our personal financial resources to support those doing the hard work of protecting our immigrant community.
Perhaps the most important take away for Roxanne and I, is that the fundamental flaw in our immigration policy is that it tries to divide immigrants and place them in categories, with some of those categories being “illegal” or worthy of being punished. The panelists pressed hard and repeatedly that those individuals seeking asylum are following United Nations developed and US signed asylum procedures and that the portrayal of a crisis or of hordes invading the US are vastly overstated and just plain wrong. The panelists emphasized that part of what all of us can do is to become better educated on what is true and what is not true and then to use our personal connections with others to counter media misinformation. To advance this work, Retake is setting up a meeting with Allegra Love from Santa Fe Dreamers. The purpose of the meeting is to find out more about how Retake and its volunteers could take on a more substantive role beyond providing supplies to the ABQ relief effort. If you think you might want to be involved in helping to coordinate an ongoing immigration rights project, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The panelists outlined the asylum process:
- People fleeing Central America have the legal right to present themselves at authorized checkpoints and seek asylum and the President’s rhetoric that they are entering illegally is misinformation that needs to be countered;;
- A low threshold is used to determine if someone seeking asylum has a legitimate claim and most asylum seekers pass this threshold and then are assigned a hearing with a judge to see if the asylum seeker meets the higher threshold that would result in granting asylum to the individual;
- In the past, the government used a ‘catch and release’ policy that did not confine asylum seekers while awaiting their hearing, but Trump has criminalized those seeking asylum and has tried to confine them, mostly in private profit making prisons;
- With the wait for the asylum hearing being years and with the numbers of asylum seekers outstripping the government’s capacity to confine them, ICE is now releasing asylum seekers most often without money, supplies or any direction as to how they are to find work, housing, or transportation.
- While it is understandable that Santa Feans would like to “do more” than provide supplies to asylum seekers in ABQ and Las Cruces, the nature of the situation limits what we can do logistically. Asylum seekers are in ABQ or Las Cruces for only 1-3 days before taking buses or flights to their sponsor family. Being bused to Santa Fe for one or two days, only to return to ABQ for transit makes no sense and imposes even more stress on the asylum seekers. This point was made strongly and by all panel members. The media has suggested that the Mayor should have done more and that there is something disingenuous about his claims that our appropriate role is to support not to house. The panel made it quite clear that this is not the case and that the Mayor is following the direction of those operating the system.
- New Mexicans are not good candidates for serving as sponsors for asylum seekers–-this was new information for us. Anyone sponsored by a New Mexico resident would have their asylum hearing assigned to the El Paso court and their approval rate is about 1% whereas in some districts in California approval rates are above 65%. Our role here is to spread the word to those we know in other parts of the country to ask them to explore being a sponsor. In our meeting with Allegra we will explore this in greater depth, try to learn more about which parts of the country have the highest approval rates and the precise role performed by sponsors. Stay tuned.
There is much more to say about what we can do and what we need to learn, but I want to get out this information this morning and Roxanne and I are having to rush to get to ABQ for the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s State Central Committee meeting. Never a dull moment. But for now, know this:
- Santa Fe has just hired a coordinator to develop a strategy for sustained support for asylum seekers;
- She is going to meet with Retake at New Energy Economy Monday or Tuesday with the likely outcome of the city replicating what we have done only bringing it to scale;
- In the meantime, please continue to bring the desired supplies to New Energy Economy at 343 E. Alameda, Santa Fe between 9:30-5pm M-F. It is likely to be several days before a transition in operations occurs.=, but use the link below to identify what is needed and only provide those goods. This list was updated on Saturday morning.
- We need a few people to volunteer as “sorters” as despite our efforts to have people limit their donations to what is listed by the groups in ABQ, we continue to get goods that are not sought by these groups and we want to minimize the degree to which they have to sort and redirect unneeded goods;
- We continue to need drivers.
- The Santa Fe Community Foundation plans to develop a website through which you can make donations to them for distribution to groups supporting asylum seekers, but while that system is being set up there is information on making financial donations in the link to our Immigration Support Resource Guide (link below). We also want to stress that we have two heroic agencies here in Santa Fe providing vital support and protection to immigrants in our community and these groups need your financial support.
- Somos Un Pueblo Unido and Santa Fe Dreamers. Click those links to make a contribution to them.These organizations need financial support to help protect our Santa Fe immigrants from continuing ICE raids that divide families and deport our neighbors. And for more on their role and their perspective, They have huge costs in seeking to prevent current Santa Fe residents from being deported and they also have operations in other parts of the state. I would say that before you do anything else, consider a donation to one or both of these agencies.
That is it for us today. Below you will find more about the asylum seeker support system established in ABQ. Click the link to find out how you can support asylum seekers no matter where you live in NM. The link provides information on what is needed, where to donate, etc. In the next couple days we will get more information on Las Cruces operations so our supporters in Dona Ana have a means to provide support.
A Visit to the ABQ Distribution Center
If any drivers go down again, they are definitely looking for volunteers. The church faces Broadway near the corner of Pacific Ave SE and Broadway but the drop-off building is one block before Pacific at the corner of Santa Fe and Broadway behind a fence. If you are going south on Broadway, turn left onto Santa Fe and make a quick right into the parking lot through the gate. There is no sign so I’ve provided three photos.