EL PASO, Texas — Dozens of immigration activists and religious leaders marched this Monday on the El Paso Border Patrol station, demanding better treatment for detained migrants and calling for Congress to hold accountability hearings here.
The group gathered on an empty lot next to the station, holding signs and banners like “Stop the killing of kids” and “Fight ignorance, not migrants.” The group led by activist Fernando Garcia of the Border Network for Human Rights and the Rev. William Barber of Repairers of the Breach then marched to the entrance of the station, where migrants are held for processing.
Barber and various pastors, priests, rabbis and an imam asked to be let into the station to provide prayer services for the detainees but were not allowed in. The pastors held a prayer service over the intercom at the entrance of the Border Patrol station, where a group of children wearing white shirts held signs and an American flag.
“You are holding angels in this place, but you will not hold they forever,” Barber said, referring to minors detained at the facility. The Border Patrol kept its gates closed during the protest and did not send a representative to meet with the demonstrators. El Paso Police managed traffic away from the Border Patrol station entrance for the duration of the protest.
After the protest, Barber told local activists he would continue to push for accountability from lawmakers in Washington, D.C., not only urging them to hold congressional hearings on border cities where the bulk of the Central American migrants are being held, but also supporting a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) requiring closer oversight over immigration agencies and guaranteeing the rights of detained migrants.
Barber echoed El Paso immigrant advocates’ demand that the Migrant Protection Protocols, which required asylum seekers to wait out their hearings in Mexico, be abolished.
Garcia said Border Network staff took Barber and other visiting Repairers of the Breach members to Juarez, where some of the migrants are being made to wait. “We saw families in refugee camps without legal support, with no food, no jobs and living in the midst of violence. We have read reports that as many as nine refugees have died because of the violence in Mexico,” Garcia said.
He added that the activists would continue pushing for an end to detention of migrant families in facilities that lack space, basic supplies and where they are allegedly subject to mistreatment. “We don’t want families detained any longer. Also, we don’t want them to be sent to Mexico. Mexico is not a safe country,” Garcia said.