Border advocates and lawmakers join summit to discuss ‘New Ellis Island’

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Border advocates, lawmakers and policy experts convened online Friday in a virtual summit to explore the challenges at the southern border, as well as possible solutions to the ongoing immigration crisis.

The Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) hosted the New Ellis Island (NEI) Virtual Border Policy Summit that included U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Bishop Mark J. Seitz from the Diocese of El Paso, former Texas State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, and more.

“In a moment where the voices of border residents are being drowned out or ignored by many politicians and lawmakers who prefer to use our communities and struggles as pawns in their political game, the New Ellis Island Virtual Border Policy Summit provides a much-needed platform to elevate policy solutions from the border, for the border, and discuss strategies to build a more compassionate and humane border and immigration system,” said Fernando García, executive director of BNHR. 

The phrase “the new Ellis Island” was coined by Democrats and used by Escobar when she traveled with Vice President Kamala Harris to El Paso, which Republicans have criticized.

“The Biden administration’s open border policies have resulted in a humanitarian crisis at the border with drugs decimating our communities and children being exploited and trafficked. Since Kamala Harris’ fellow open borders buddy Veronica Escobar compared El Paso to Ellis Island, Harris has gone completely missing from handling the Biden border crisis,” Macarena Martinez, Republican National Committee Spokesperson tells KTSM.

Ellis Island is the immigration station that opened at the mouth of the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey in 1892. About 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one ancestor who immigrated through Ellis Island and the Democrats have been hopeful that new policies could transform El Paso into a contemporary hub for legal immigration.

Concerns have been raised over whether the term implies a free-for-all or open-door policy for immigration when Ellis Island served as a port of entry that allowed immigrants — including asylum seekers — to begin the process of legal and medical evaluations to determine entry into the U.S.

Policies like the Immigrant Quota Act of 1921 and the National Origins Act in 1924 restricted the volume and nationalities of immigrants permitted into the U.S., which stopped mass immigration into New York. 

By 1924, Ellis Island functioned primarily as a temporary detainment center.

The New Ellis Island Virtual Border Policy Summit discussed topics that include creating a welcoming and functional border processing system, enhancing law enforcement transparency and accountability, promoting economic growth at the border and combating policies designed to suppress border communities. 

The event builds on the continued work of border advocates, organizations and lawmakers.

“Last month on Juneteenth, BNHR united Black, Brown and immigrant communities throughout the border region at the 8th edition of our ‘Hugs Not Walls’ event, which brought families together on the Rio Grande who have been separated by inhumane and unjust immigration laws,” said Garcia. “This week’s summit is an opportunity to find real policy and administrative solutions to end the suffering of those same families and thousands more, and underscore the urgent need for changes to our draconian and outdated immigration laws.”  

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