TIJUANA, Mexico—Since last Thursday, a Central American exodus of 4,000-5,000 asylum seekers have been arriving at the Tijuana/San Ysidro Port of Entry. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG)and Al Otro Lado (AOL) are mobilizing legal support on both sides of the border to help protect and uphold the human rights of these refugees fleeing violence and political crisis.
The NLG and AOL are calling on attorneys, law students, and other legal workers to travel to the border and volunteer to Legal Observe (LO) refugee arrivals, lead know your rights trainings, and staff legal clinics. Volunteers must already be trained NLG Legal Observers, have some proficiency in Spanish, and above all, practice cultural sensitivity and remain aware of their privileged status as a guest in a space in which families are fighting for their lives.
On the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, the first priority for volunteers is to ensure that particularly vulnerable people are allowed access to the Port of Entry to make their claim for asylum. We also will be expanding legal rights presentations in shelters immediately and anticipate a constant need for attorneys and legal workers for three or more months. Volunteers may sign up at this form, and by doing so acknowledge that you are participating at your own risk. For questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The US government’s refusal to prepare to receive refugees, which it knew about for some time, has created a humanitarian crisis in Tijuana and other Mexican border cities. It is inconceivable that a government, one arguably among the most powerful and wealthiest in the world, chose to install barbed wire and soldiers in place of developing strategies and spaces to process refugees expeditiously, and with the human dignity that all human beings deserve. This response greatly diminishes the United States’ reputation as a champion for human rights,” said Al Otro Lado Border Rights Project Director Nicole Ramos.
Multiple NLG entities are contributing to the effort, including our International and Mass Defense Committees. The National Immigration Project of the NLG is also lining up volunteer immigration attorneys. Local NLG chapters in California including Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego will be ready to provide legal support on the US side, building upon work done during the previous migrant caravan with Pueblo Sin Fronteras that arrived in April earlier this year.
“On our 2016 Mexican delegation, we interviewed migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, who described their harrowing journeys of rape, robbery and murder. These refugees have an absolute right to come to the US under US and International law,” said NLG member Jose Luis Fuentes.
In addition, the Military Law Task Force (MLTF) of the NLG condemns the deployment of US military forces to the border in what MLTF Executive Director Kathleen Gilberd calls “an immoral and illegitimate use of US troops.”
Says Michael Galvan, NLG Queer Caucus Co-Chair: “My work with the caravan exodus began when a contingent of about 70+ LGBTQ persons split off and arrived in Tijuana sooner than most had anticipated. I’m amazed by the folks in the caravan, who though frustrated and tired, are showing tremendous patience, gratitude, and determination.”
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Al Otro Lado is a bi-national, direct legal services organization serving indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico.
The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights