FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 14, 2022
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DC Advocates Rally to Welcome Asylum Seekers in Response to Abbott’s Stunt
Groups remind Governor Abbott human beings are not props
Washington – Dozens of groups based in the District of Columbia, which is located in Piscataway Nation, expressed their solidarity and steadfast support to the migrants and asylum seekers that were bussed to the nation’s capital by Governor Greg Abbott of Texas. When Governor Abbott announced his plan to send people seeking asylum and other migrants to Washington, DC using Texas’ state funds, DC-area groups began planning a robust welcome, including a welcoming party and press conference at Union Station.
Today’s welcome rally comes just hours after the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition held a press call with faith leaders welcoming the Biden administration’s first step towards restoring asylum by ending Title 42. The faith leaders from California, Texas, and Arizona represented organizations and faith communities working directly with asylum seekers who continue to be subjected to Title 42 and will finally have their chance to apply for asylum once the policy is repealed on May 23.
“We welcome our southern Indigenous relatives to the Piscataway homeland, know that you are part of our family” said Dr. Gabrille Tayac, Piscataway Activist and Historian. “Our peoples have walked together seeking justice and healing for 40 years – and we will keep going by your side as long as it takes.”
“As a resident of our nation’s capital, I and #WelcomeWithDignity partners stand ready to welcome migrants and people seeking asylum to our city and help them reunite with family and loved ones,” said Melina Roche, Campaign Manager of #WelcomeWithDignity. “As an immigrant whose family fled a war-torn Guatemala in the ’90s, I personally have borne witness to America’s welcoming spirit. Neighbors, teachers, congregations, nonprofit organizations, and local governments have always stepped up to provide support and create a sense of belonging for those seeking safety in the U.S.. I am proud to pay it forward at this moment and until we have built a fair, humane, and orderly asylum system.”
“We are eager to serve the asylum seekers that arrive from Texas and beyond,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA. “In our region, we are blessed with a forward-thinking government and a tight net of advocates, allies, and immigrant activists that lead with respect and dignity. Restoring asylum and expanding opportunities for immigrants to receive protection is what our country must do. For those who seek to stay, we are ready to offer what’s needed for the DMV to be a safe and happy home.”
“As Christians now in the embrace of Holy Week, we are moved by the model of healing leadership, humble respect, suffering in solidarity, and resistance to threats and trauma imposed by the powerful that was modelled by Jesus in events commemorated in these sacred days,” said Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Director, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries. “Recalling each one, we renew our commitment to engage in sacred acts ourselves—as we actively welcome and restore asylum for migrants who have experienced great loss, stand in solidarity against efforts to exclude asylum seekers from protections, and continue to push back against any powers that seek to extend the restrictions and traumas caused by Title 42. Our arms and hearts are ready to robustly welcome–in our borderlands, in our neighborhoods near Washington, DC, and throughout our nation!”
“In this sacred season of Ramadan, Passover, Good Friday, and Easter, we Franciscans want immigrants to know that they are welcomed by Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the Washington DC area,” states Sr. Marie Lucey OSF, Associate Director of Franciscan Action Network. “As Governor Abbott uses our immigrant neighbors for political theater, we Franciscans join other people of faith in welcoming them as sisters and brothers.”
“Doctors for Camp Closure locally and nationally welcome our new immigrant neighbors. We are happy to provide you medical care when needed. We always want you to be treated humanely and with respect,” said Dr. Kate Sugarman, Doctors for Camp Closure.
“Washington, DC is always happy to welcome new neighbors to our homes,” John Payne, an organizer with Sanctuary DMV. “We have strong, rich immigrant communities in the DMV and we are always ready to support individuals seeking refuge. While Greg Abbott is trying to create biggoted political theater, we will make sure all of our new neighbors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. We call on the US government to grant the unjustly blocked asylum requests and will continue to stand alongside all immigrants and refugees in their fight for justice.”
“Washington, DC is a vibrant community home to immigrants from around the world. Greg Abbott’s outrageous attempt to use asylum seekers and migrants as a political weapon is a failure from the start, because Washingtonians are ready, willing, and able to assist vulnerable individuals get to their ultimate destinations, whether in the region or elsewhere,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Senior Policy Counsel, American Immigration Council. “Despite Abbott’s dehumanizing rhetoric, asylum seekers are authorized to remain legally in the United States while they go through the asylum process and have a right to live where they may choose. Rather than seeking to sow chaos, Abbott should instead work with local NGOs in south Texas to ensure that no person is dropped off at the border with no place to go.”
“We are blessed that during this Holy Week, we in Washington, D.C. have been able to welcome immigrants to our city and live out the principles of Catholic Social Justice so prominently,” said Mary Novak, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “During this Holy Week we reflect on the words of Pope Francis and we ask all politicians to do the same – ‘Every migrant is a person with dignity, with roots, with a culture. Each of them is the bearer of a wealth infinitely greater than the problems they bring. The phenomenon of migration cannot be reduced to a crisis; it is a sign of our times.’”
“We are thrilled to welcome our new neighbors to the District, just as Human Rights First has received and served asylum seekers in Washington, D.C. for decades,” said Robyn Barnard, senior advocacy counsel for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “This failed attempt to politicize refugees and migrants by the Governor of Texas is a sad failure of leadership. We will continue to work closely with our partners in Texas and along the border to do the work of receiving and helping asylum seekers along their journey to seek security and safety in the United States, as is their legal right under the laws of our country.”
“The D.C. region has made strides to be welcoming immigrant neighbors as we try to live up to the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty,” said Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of the District Columbia.“The ACLU-D.C. will continue working with our allies, fighting for the rights of asylum seekers and working to celebrate and welcome our immigrant neighbors as they come to our area.”
“Individuals, advocates and organizations like The Tahirih Justice Center are proud to welcome our new neighbors arriving from Texas,” said Casey Carter Swegman, Director of Public Policy at the Tahirih Justice Center. “People fleeing violence and seeking safety in this country should never be used as pawns in a political stunt. Our rich and diverse community will ensure these migrants receive the services they need as they determine the next steps on their journey to justice.”
“We in Washington DC stand alongside communities throughout the country ready to welcome with dignity those individuals and families who are seeking refuge at the U.S. border,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at Women’s Refugee Commission. “Women’s Refugee Commission has long known that the U.S. can have a fair, welcoming, and orderly asylum system and will continue to work to ensure exactly that. While we are horrified by this shameful ploy to use migrants for a fear-mongering photo-op, we know DC communities and organizations will ensure that those arriving here will be supported to ensure they can navigate the immigration process and reunite with families.”
“Whether at the border or arriving on our doorsteps here in Washington, DC, migrants are our brothers and sisters,” said Susan Gunn, Director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. “We hear from our partners at the Southwest border that the migrants on these buses represent some of the neediest cases – people with nowhere else to turn. During the Passover feast, Jesus bent to wash the feet of his disciples. May we follow in his footsteps by bending to serve these newcomers during Holy Week and the Easter Season, offering them the welcome and hospitality they deserve as children of God. May their stories move us to create a robust asylum system that offers fair protection for the persecuted.”
“We are so happy to welcome immigrants coming to the DC area. We understand the trauma of having to flee and the hope of getting to the promised land as is our passover story, said Rabbi Joshua Lesser, President Bridges Faith Initiative. Our faith traditions urge welcoming them with dignity and offering care and support. Seeking Asylum is a human right. Title 42 was a thinly veiled attempt to gut our country’s asylum system. Title 42 undermines what we hold as a humane, sensible, and necessary asylum system and we support the Biden administration’s decision to end it. It is an important step to ensure that immigrants have the right to be safe.”
“Our message is simple: refugees and immigrants are always welcome here. This disturbing attempt in Texas to ostracize refugees and immigrants runs so deeply counter to the reality of how integral our new neighbors are to our communities,” said Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director of Refugee Congress. “People seeking refuge and safety must continue to be welcomed with dignity and kindness, and we are proud to model that in our nation’s capital.”
“It’s a shame that any government official would play with the lives of humans, but here in Washington DC, not only do we welcome refugees with arms wide open, but we are excited to help incorporate them into our community,” said Jessi Calzado-Esponda, Refugee Congress Delegate for the District of Columbia.
“It is Holy Week and as people of faith, we grasp onto the prophetic promise of restoration,” said Katie Adams, Domestic Policy Advocate, The United Church of Christ. “This means more than sacred hymns or rituals, it means loving and welcoming our neighbors be they across the street or across many miles. Love is an action, and the United Church of Christ is grateful to welcome asylum seekers and migrants as they arrive in D.C. or at the border; we stand ready and willing to make sure that those arriving are cared for and reunited with family and community.”
“Governor Greg Abbot of Texas, most recent political act of transporting migrants to Washington, D.C. will be met with the radical Christian love that God calls us to”, said Rev. Kendal L. McBroom, Director of Civil and Human Rights at the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. “On this Holy Thursday, the Christian church remembers the commandment Christ gave his disciples saying “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”In this same spirit of love we meet and welcome our immigrant neighbors with open arms and care, and we call for policies that offer this same radical love and welcome to all people seeking safety and refuge, not just some. As United Methodists we believe that at the center of Christian faithfulness to Scripture is the call we have been given to love and welcome the sojourner.”
“In attempting to intimidate the people of Washington DC by dehumanizing migrants, Governor Abbot’s political ploy has severely backfired,” said Kim Lamberty, DMin, Executive Director of the Quixote Center. “Migrants are an integral part of the vibrant fabric that makes up the DMV region. As multiple faith communities prepare to celebrate their sacred holidays, we stand more ready than ever to welcome our new neighbors.”
“As the only Maya women led organization in the country founded by Maya refugees and allies of the solidarity movement during the genocide in Guatemala, we welcome all people fleeing violence and persecution, and affirm our support of Indigenous migrants” said Juanita Cabrera Lopez of the Maya Mam Nation and Executive Director of the International Mayan League. “Indigenous peoples continue to be a large demographic of those seeking asylum but remain invisible in official data due to misclassification as Latino or Hispanic. We applaud the regional efforts to respond to the needs in our communities, but we must ensure that the Indigeneity of our peoples is recognized so they are welcomed with respect and dignity.”
“I know the heart of Texans, and Governor Abbot’s decision to transport migrants from south Texas to Washington D.C. does not represent the heart of Texas. That is why I am deeply disappointed and saddened today,” said Elket Rodriguez, a resident of Texas and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s field personnel serving at the U.S.-Mexico border. “When I fled my country, I was welcomed by very conservative Christian Texans who loved me and cared for me and my family as one of their own. So, I know firsthand the compassionate heart of Texans and the joy they experience as they welcome the least of these, following in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let no one be fooled, there are thousands of Texans who care, volunteer, and donate to serve the migrants among us. The spirit of those Texans cannot and will not be diminished and we will continue to welcome and serve until there are no more migrants bussed to other locations besides their destinations.”
“We are horrified by Abbott’s anti-immigrant political theater. This shameful ploy uses people who are coming to this country seeking refuge in a mercenary and xenophobic way,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project. “While we know that DC will welcome its new neighbors with the dignity and respect they deserve, we will continue fighting for a world where everyone can live and move freely and find a warm welcome at our borders.”
“During this holy time, we should remember and do justice to our faith values by welcoming the stranger,” said Viviana Westbrook, State and Local Advocacy Attorney at Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC). “Our communities are stronger than fear and xenophobia. We embrace our immigrant and refugee neighbors and open our doors to welcome in more.”
“This Holy Week Governor Abbott has sent the DC metro area migrants from our southern border. This Holy Week we remember the path of palms laid down to welcome Jesus. And we see how quickly a path of welcome can change to a tortured path of death,” said Fran Eskin-Royer, Executive Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. “Our community is vibrant and caring and stands proudly to welcome these men, women and children; to welcome these children of God.”
“Guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light within each person, we welcome those who have migrated to Texas and are now arriving in D.C.” said Imani Cruz, Migration Policy Advocacy Coordinator at American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). “We celebrate the common humanity and spiritual connectedness in us all, which transcend borders, and recognize that migration enriches both individual lives and communities. While we celebrate the ending of Title 42, which has blocked the right to claim asylum for years, we are heartbroken by migration policies that dehumanize some members of our human family on the basis of where they come from. We call for policies that protect, respect, and uphold the human rights of all migrants by giving equal access to all essential services so that they can fully enjoy the rights to which they are entitled.”
“We’re thrilled to welcome our new neighbors,” said Lisi DiTullio, an organizer with Never Again Action DC. “On Passover, we’re asked to reflect on our ancestors’ oppression and bring those lessons into the present. Our history commands us to embrace and care for people seeking refuge. While Greg Abbott puts his white nationalism and xenophobia on full display, we’re proud to join our partners in treating immigrants with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
“Instead of recognizing the humanity of these migrants and finding solutions that serve everyone’s needs, Governor Abbott has decided to politicize the issue in an attempt to score cheap political points,” said María José Espinosa, Deputy Director at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. “Among those on the move in the Americas and coming to the U.S., there are individuals with bona fide international protection needs, in addition to individuals with vulnerability profiles such as separated and unaccompanied children, pregnant and lactating mothers, victims of trafficking, and survivors of sexual violence. This necessitates a protection lens in migration management, including within deterrence and enforcement measures. The Governor should support a U.S. policy that prioritizes an integrated plan of action that acknowledges the protection crisis in the hemisphere, including within the U.S., and lays out a sustainable approach to migration management that is safe, orderly, and humane.”
“Borderland communities and communities across the country are ready to welcome,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute. “In this time of Holy Week, we remember that communities of faith are on the front lines, welcoming and protecting vulnerable people on the move in their home countries, at the border and in the places where they arrive. In the face of that movement of compassion, mercy and justice, every political stunt falls flat.”
“Governor Abbott’s grandstanding amounts to nothing more than a crass political stunt, and it’s one that will ultimately backfire. Even today, as his buses arrive in Washington, the asylum seekers on board are being welcomed with open arms and are being given the support they need to rebuild their lives as our new neighbors,” said Elissa Diaz, Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy, Church World Service. “These new members of our communities came here through our asylum system, because as a nation the United States created laws that protect those fleeing violence and persecution. Asylum seekers are our coworkers, our fellow parishioners, and our friends, by welcoming them we become stronger. So as the governor engages in political theater, the only result will be depriving his constituents of a most valuable resource, a shared humanity.”
“HIAS applauds the impending end of Title 42, a policy which violates US and international law, as well as basic principles of human decency,” said Sue Kenney-Pfalzer, Director of Border & Asylum Network, HIAS. “Headquartered near our nation’s capital, HIAS and our supporters welcome the opportunity to greet the asylum seekers that Governor Abbott bused to Washington, DC to show them the very best of our American and Jewish values. We do not believe those seeking safety from violence and persecution should be transported around the country as political pawns. Instead, they should have access to an asylum system that is fair, humane and treats all people with dignity and respect.”
The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign’s recommendations to humanely restore our asylum system are available here.
The Welcome with Dignity Campaign is composed of more than 95 national and regional organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: welcomewithdignity.org
With over 122,000 lifetime Latino, immigrant, and working-class members across 46 US states, CASA is the foremost immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region and a national leader in supporting immigrant families and ensuring that all individuals have the core support necessary for full participation in society. Now a national immigrant powerhouse, CASA creates change with its powerbuilding model blending human services, community organizing, and advocacy in order to serve the full spectrum of the needs, dreams, and aspirations of members. Visit us at www.wearecasa.org and follow us on Twitter at @CASAforall.
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is made up of over 55 national, faith-based organizations brought together across many theological traditions with a common call to seek just policies that lift up the God-given dignity of every individual. In partnership, we work to protect the rights, dignity, and safety of all refugees and migrants. Follow us on Twitter @interfaithimm