In March 2020, Peace Brigades International – USA had the pleasure of joining Casa del Migrante de Saltillo on our Speaking Tour accompanied by PBI-Mexico Project Advocacy Coordinator, Lena Weber, and PBI's Advocacy Director in DC, Pat Davis.
The delegation planned on visiting six cities in the United States and Canada, meeting with local and federal authorities and advocacy groups to discuss immigration policy, the challenges that migrants and human rights defenders face, and to help strengthen the international support network for migrants. Unfortunately, the tour had to be cut short before it was able to visit Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increased travel restrictions.
Casa del Migrante de Saltillo: promoting and defending the rights of migrants and asylum seekers
Located in the northeast of Mexico, Casa del Migrante de Saltillo provides humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum seekers. They help with human rights defense and other legal and administrative support in applications for refuge in Mexico and are now beginning to support migrants in initiating their asylum application for the United States. The organization also provides shelter, basic necessities, and psychological support to migrants.
PBI-USA sat down with the delegation during their trip in Washington, DC, to discuss the challenges and dangers that the organization and migrant rights defenders face and to learn more about the benefits of PBI international accompaniment.
Casa del Migrante faces intimidation from Mexican cartels and other organized crime, as well as Mexican government officials. Javier Martínez of Casa del Migrante de Saltillo noted that "the work that we do is dangerous because we are making organized crime and the Mexican government uncomfortable." These human rights defenders are facing daily risks for doing their jobs.
Javier believes that the PBI-Mexico Project helps enable the work that they do. Javier elaborated "PBI is greatly assisting the work that we do [Casa del Migrante de Saltillo] with local authorities. Here in the United States, they have helped inform government agencies and advocacy groups about our work, which has helped generate support networks." Javier also noted that PBI is helping shed light on the humanitarian crisis at the Mexican border.
Javier's message to the American audience is that it is important to understand what is really happening at the border. "Asylum seekers here in the United States are left in a very vulnerable situation. Immigrants who are arriving and want to apply for asylum are in a situation of insecurity. They do not know what is left for them in Mexico and they do not have the means to prepare their own cases for asylum in the USA."
Javier asked the American audience to have compassion. "We must learn to have empathy. These people are not traveling for pleasure; they are, in fact, in a very dangerous position. They are requesting asylum because the situations and conditions in their home countries are difficult. Many are escaping violence from criminal organizations and are looking for a better future."
PBI-USA shows solidarity with Casa del Migrante de Saltillo in calling on the United States and Mexican governments to respect the rights of migrants. We must protect civil society organizations and the human rights defenders providing them with critical humanitarian support.
Photo: Pat Davis, PBI's Advocacy Director, Lena Weber, PBI-Mexico Project Advocacy Coordinator, and Javier Martinez, Casa del Migrante de Saltillo.