Escobar, Mexican migrant defenders named recipients of DC-based group’s Human Rights Award


El Paso congresswoman recognized for holding U.S. agencies accountable for plight of asylum seekers, opposing border wall

Rep. Veronica Escobar greets attendants of a panel discussion on immigration and domestic terrorism at the University of Texas at El Paso on September 6, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. The House Judiciary Committees Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship is in El Paso for a field hearing focused on border issues and recent violence against immigrants in the United States (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A Washington, D.C., think-tank is recognizing a border congresswoman and a Mexican human-rights group for their advocacy toward migrants.

According to the Washington Office for Latin America, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, exhibited leadership in fighting for the rights of economic migrants and asylum seekers who faced treatment at the Southern border “that is anything but humane and dignified.”

WOLA is also honoring the staff at the Fray Matias de Cordova Human Rights Center in Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico showed a commitment to defend migrants and refugee families along the Mexico-Guatemala border.

Central American migrants walk toward Tapachula, Chiapas, as part of a caravan that crossed the Mexico-Guatemala border during the Central American surge of 2018-2019. (AP file photo)

Both are to receive the organization’s Human Rights Award this Tuesday.

“Our honorees this year fight for people who are fleeing perilous conditions at home only to be met by cruel policies at the border,” WOLA President Geoff Thale said in a statement marking the announcement. “We are proud to stand with these courageous advocates who know from deep personal experience that borders should not be barriers to human rights.”

The organization characterized Escobar –- who represents El Paso -– as a long-time advocate for human rights who has stood up against the U.S. immigration agencies’ policy of family separations and opposes efforts to expand the border wall.

Escobar also introduced legislation in the House of Representatives challenging the Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” which sent thousands of asylum seekers to wait out their processes in Mexico, even if they’re not from that country.

Escobar this week acknowledged the distinction, which she’s scheduled to receive Monday night at WOLA’s benefit gala.

“Our nation is in the middle of a contentious debate on the border and immigration policy — policy that has directly affected my district,” she said. “Rather than divide, we must unite our communities behind a vision of humanity and hope on our border. […] We must continue to stand up and protect our asylum system, fight for compassion, and show goodwill to those in need.”

According to WOLA, the Fray Matias de Cordova Human Rights Center for decades has exposed conditions at Mexico’s largest migrant detention center and supported policies to protect migrants and asylum seekers.

WOLA officials say such advocacy became critical as record levels of international citizens sought refuge in Mexico, amid continuous reports of abuse and inhumane conditions there.

WOLA began awarding its Human Rights Award in 2006. Previous winners include former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet; Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal; and Ivan Velasquez, president of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.

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