EL PASO, Texas — A Maryland-based group plans to provide legal services to migrants stranded in Juarez while their asylum cases play out in El Paso.
Members of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC) will come to the border next week to set up the program, said Pat Zapor, spokeswoman for the organization.
The effort will be led by Luis Guerra, a CLINIC staff member that helped set up a similar program in Tijuana, and attorney Tania Guerrero, who’s familiar with the U.S, and Mexican immigration law.
The project called the We Are United Asylum Project, or Estamos Unidos: Proyecto de Asilo, aims to serve the estimated 11,000 Cuban, Central American and other migrants currently staying in Juarez. That total includes the 7,600 returned from the United States so far under the Migrant Protection Protocols, or Remain in Mexico program, and more than 3,500 awaiting an initial interview at the international bridges.
“At its most basic, this project will save lives by helping protect vulnerable people whose best hope for escaping violence and other threats at home lie in a new life in the United States through the asylum process,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC.
A location is not available yet for the Juarez office.
“We mostly wanted to get the information out so people know we’re coming and start getting support and volunteers. It will be August before we get rolling,” Zapor said.
El Paso immigration advocates said the group’s work in Juarez will complement their efforts to procure legal advice and services to asylum seekers.
“They have been in touch since February, we’ve been having conversations about how to possibly partner. They have had success in the San Diego-Tijuana area,” said Marisa Limon, deputy director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso.
Advocates have expressed concerns that they would be losing contact with their clients once they were sent to Mexico to wait out their asylum claims. American immigration lawyers can’t practice law in Mexico, so the arrival of a group with binational legal resources is welcome, they said.
“Juarez makes the most sense in regards to continue doing the work they have done in other parts of the border, amplified and maximized by local efforts so that together it will result in greater service to people in the Remain in Mexico program,” Limon said.
Advocates say that a migrant stands a better chance of winning an asylum claim when he or she has legal counsel. However, Limon cautioned that the overall asylum denial rate in El Paso is about 94%.