Pilot program aims to connect asylum seekers waiting in Mexico to American attorneys


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A pilot program that will connect immigration attorneys to asylum seekers waiting in Juarez under the Migrant Protection Protocols program, or “Remain in Mexico” policy, is ready to launch.

The program is a first-of-its-kind program called “Puentes Libres” or “Bridges of Freedom.” Organizers say the program will help connect asylum seekers and immigration attorneys in the United States through teleconference.

The Hispanic Federation organization donated 50 laptops with the technology needed to make it happen. Officials said all immigration attorneys participating in the program are doing it for free.

The program is the result of recommendations made by members of Texas State Senator Jose Rodriguez’s recently formed Immigration Advisory Committee. Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy group has been at the forefront of providing legal services to asylum seekers in El Paso.

“Access to a secure and reliable channel of communication between our clients in Mexico and legal counsel in the United States is fundamental to fair representation,” said Nicolas Palazzo, Staff Attorney for Las Americas. “Less than two percent of migrants in MPP is represented by counsel. A welcoming and safe space like this will help bridge the digital and physical divide between attorneys willing to help and individuals who need help.”

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez’s office said there are approximately 15,000 cases currently under the Trump administration’s MPP and El Paso immigration courts are handling about a quarter of those cases.

“As this administration –the Trump administration– promotes policies that endanger refugees this border community continues to respond on both sides of the border with compassion, commitment and now innovation driven by an unbreakable bond that transcends our barriers,” Senator Rodriguez said.

The program is a partnership between Rodríguez, Hispanic Federation, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Municipal Government of Ciudad Juárez, and federal and local immigration agencies in Juarez.

The pilot program is expected to officially launch this month.

Attorneys who are interested in volunteering may contact Diana Nevárez Ramírez, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, volunteer coordinator at diananevarez@las-americas.org.

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