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This photo essay by Mary Dahdouh includes images taken by IRAP staff members on their June 2021 trip to the Ciudad Juárez / El Paso border region to provide information and legal assistance to asylum seekers.
This banner was placed near the Paso del Norte bridge in Ciudad Juarez by a coalition of organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Mexico (ACNUR) and the International Organization on Migration, to provide basic information and phone numbers for individuals and families who are in Mexico due to the U.S.’s Remain in Mexico (RMX) policy. Under RMX, asylum seekers who arrived at the southern border of the U.S. in and after January 2019 were returned to Mexico to await their immigration proceedings, in contravention of the U.S.’s long-standing asylum laws. On February 19, 2021, the U.S. began to parole into the country certain groups of individuals who are or had been in RMX. However, many individuals and families with a legal right to seek asylum in the U.S. remain at risk in Mexico or in their home countries due to RMX and other harmful policies enacted by the U.S. government despite recent efforts to parole impacted individuals into the country. Photo: Megan McDonough.
The Paso del Norte Bridge, also known as the Santa Fe bridge, is among the United States’ busiest border crossings. Individuals and families being paroled into the U.S. under the government’s current efforts to remedy the harm caused the Migrant Protection Protocols are processed through this port of entry. As our staff crossed this bridge to visit with partners in El Paso, however, they observed several groups of men and women being expelled to Mexico from the United States by U.S. immigration authorities. Photo: Jennifer Babaie.
As you walk across the Paso del Norte Bridge from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, you can see the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico (pictured here to the top left) through the fencing and barbed wire that encases the pathway between the two cities. Photo: Trinh Tran.
As one of the busiest ports of entry into the United States from Mexico, the Paso del Norte Bridge often has an hours’ long wait for pedestrians trying to cross the bridge by foot. In addition to migrants, many individuals cross this bridge daily to head to work or school in El Paso before coming home to Ciudad Juarez each evening. Photo: Trinh Tran.
Every year, the Border Network for Human Rights organizes the “Hugs not Walls” event that brings together families from the U.S. and Mexico who have not seen each other, sometimes for many years, due to the border and immigration system that separates them. Families who participate are allowed to spend five minutes with one another before having to return to their respective sides of the Rio Grande. To read more about this event and the work of the Border Network for Human Rights, please visit bnhr.org. Photo: Megan McDonough.
In February 2021, the U.S. government began to parole in certain groups of individuals who had been forced to remain in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols while their immigration application to the United States pended. The government-run Leona Vicario shelter in Ciudad Juarez (pictured above) became a processing center for individuals who were eligible to be paroled in and who were already scheduled to approach the U.S. border for entry. Mixed status families, meaning families where not all family members had an active U.S. immigration case, and non-Mexican families granted residency in Mexico were sent to Station 6, pictured above, to give up their Mexican residency cards before entering the U.S. Photo: Jennifer Babaie.
In Ciudad Juarez, Hotel Flamingo, also known as Hotel Filtro or “Filter Hotel,” has turned its rooms into a space where migrants can quarantine for 14 days before transferring to a longer-term migrant shelter. At Hotel Filtro, individuals and families receive COVID testing, medical care, and other basic necessities through a coalition of volunteers and support from many groups including the World Organization for Peace, Seguimos Adelante, and the International Organization for Migration. During their stay, children at the Hotel Filtro have the opportunity to participate in an outdoor art class and create pieces such as the ones pictured above. Photo: Trinh Tran.
The Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (the National Commission for Human Rights), Mexico’s official human rights commission tasked with ensuring the Mexican government addresses and remedies human rights abuses throughout the country, has become deeply involved in the protection of migrants in Mexico, including those who are returned from the U.S. under policies like RMX and Title 42. The office of the Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos in Ciudad Juarez in particular observes and monitors the migrant shelters across the city that house thousands of migrants awaiting the next step in their journey to the United States. Photo: Jennifer Babaie.
Casa del Migrante, or the “House of Migrants,” in Ciudad Juarez, the entrance of which is pictured above, is a shelter for migrants supported by Caritas International. Here, migrants are able to stay longer than other shelters and receive assistance, including medical care and mental health services. Through IRAP’s Southern Border Project, in partnership with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., IRAP attorneys have also provided legal assistance and counseling to asylum seekers staying in Casa Del Migrante who were turned away from the U.S. under the current Title 42 expulsions justified by the U.S. government by the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Megan McDonough.
Migrants and volunteers are welcomed in the front lobby of Casa del Migrante with religious statues and other devotional objects. Each year, Casa del Migrante welcomes several thousand individuals into its shelter. Many of the migrants who travel through its doors leave their immigration detention wristbands amongst the statues and rosaries that adorn the set of drawers in the lobby. Photo: Lily Fajardo.
Based in El Paso, Texas, Annunciation House is a volunteer organization that offers shelter and other assistance to migrants throughout the region. In Annunciation House’s main shelter, which often serves as a resting point for many who cross through the U.S.’s southern border before continuing their onward travel, migrants are surrounded by local artwork that is rooted in justice, strength, compassion, and the experience of the migrant. The mural pictured above can be interpreted to reflect how migrants often move their lives — and their sense of home — on foot as they seek safety. Photo: Jennifer Babaie.
Established in 1978, Annunciation House has provided shelter, clothing, food, and other basic necessities for hundreds of thousands of migrants who have passed through their group of short- and long-term shelters. One of the many wall murals in its main shelter, pictured above, reminds those who pass through the shelter that the cornerstones of life are resilience, family, and freedom. Photo: Jennifer Babaie.
“Esperanza,” or “hope,” fills the back wall of Annunciation House’s main room, which houses more than a hundred Red Cross cots for its visitors. Annunciation House’s shelters serve as a place of rest for many migrants traveling through El Paso’s border region, and its shelters also serve as the home for its volunteers who live in community with those whom they serve. Photo: Mary Dahdouh.