EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Catholic Diocese of El Paso is committing $100,000 to assist migrant shelters in Juarez cope with new expulsions of Venezuelan migrants from the U.S.
The Biden administration this week announced it will no longer welcome Venezuelan asylum seekers who enter the United States illegally. Instead, it will set up a remote application process to allow 24,000 citizens of that South American country fly directly to the U.S. if approved.
Those who come across the Mexican border without authorization will be subjected to Title 42 public health order expulsions, the Department of Homeland Security announced.
“We are disappointed at the expansion of Title 42 to vulnerable Venezuelans. This will have an immediate impact on our border community,” El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz said. “Now we must all work harder, especially the faith community, to build a culture of hospitality that respects the dignity of those who migrate, and to continue to press lawmakers and the Biden administration to establish a safe, humane, functioning and rights-respecting system to ensure protection to those in need.”
The money comes from the Border Refugee Assistance Fund, a joint project between the diocese and the Hope Border Institute. It will be used for emergency health care, COVID-19 testing and treatment, trauma therapy and food at two Juarez migrant shelters.
Other migrant advocates also expressed disappointment with Biden’s use of a Trump-era program originally meant to prevent cross-border spread of COVID-19.
“While 24,000 Venezuelans will be spared Title 42’s inhumanity, thousands more will face violence and danger. For too long, Black and indigenous migrants have been disproportionately impacted by Title 42’s unlawfulness. This policy makes that bias worse.” said Marisa Limon Garza, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center.
The DHS decision comes as migrant shelters in El Paso are overwhelmed by the arrival of more than 20,000 Venezuelan asylum seekers in September alone.
El Paso County has opened a support center to help migrants with sponsors arrange for travel and the City of El Paso is waiting for $6.1 million in federal reimbursements for money spent on busing, feeding and providing hotel rooms for unsponsored migrants, most of them from Venezuela.
Limon said this is a time to shore up support for migrants, not slam the door on some of them.
“Every day Las Americas’ teams in Mexico witness the fear and injury migrants undergo because of this (Title 42) policy. It’s time for our government to strengthen, not weaken, the principle that access to asylum is a right for all, not a privilege for a select few,” Limon said. “We urge the Biden administration to provide infrastructure funding to support a safe, orderly, and humane asylum process – not one that deters and externalizes the right to asylum.”
Jennifer Babale, U.S.-Mexico border program director at the International Refugee Assistance Project, said expelling Venezuelans to Mexico will place them in danger.
“Emergency responses should expand pathways to safety, not shut them off,” Babale said. “Given the administration’s stated intention to end Title 42 expulsions, it is outrageous it would instead move to expand (the policy) and deny Venezuelans access to the asylum system.
Title 42 expulsions have never been about protecting public health, but are instead illegal and xenophobic attacks on the right to seek asylum.”
The advocates said asylum is about providing protection for the oppressed and support for the needy regardless of nationality or whether they have existing ties to the United States.