FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 2, 2021
#WelcomeWithDignity Denounces Biden Administration’s Expansion of MPP, Calls for this Unlawful and Cruel Policy to be Ended Once and For All
Washington – Today the Biden administration announced it will restart and expand the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as ‘Remain in Mexico’, with the willing cooperation of the Mexican Government. It is inexplicable and unconscionable that the administration has chosen to expand the populations subjected to the deadly program, despite not being under any obligation to do so. Several #WelcomeWithDignity partners asserted in an amicus brief filed earlier this year that any form of MPP would in fact violate the laws of the United States and its treaty obligations to people escaping persecution. In fact, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in his memo terminating the program, “MPP not only undercuts the Administration’s ability to implement critically needed and foundational changes to the immigration system, but it also fails to provide the fair process and humanitarian protections that all persons deserve.”
Under MPP people seeking asylum were forced to await their U.S. court dates in dangerous conditions in northern Mexico, under the threat of violence, kidnappings, and homelessness. Although the Biden administration continues to signal its intent to fully end MPP, its embrace of another violent policy, Title 42, is exposing families, children, and adults to the very same dangers. Since the president took office, human rights investigators have documented over 7,647 violent attacks on people expelled to Mexico. Since September the administration has used Title 42 to expel over 8,000 Haitians to a country in deep crisis. If President Biden truly wants to turn the page on the racism and cruelty of the Trump era, his administration must immediately stop the expulsions, permanently end MPP, and welcome with dignity all people seeking safety at our nation’s doorstep.
“There is no safe, humane, or legal way to send asylum seekers back into harm’s way,” said Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s Global Policy Lead. “Tinkering with the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program does nothing to change that. Restarting this program – in any form – violates both the rights of people seeking protection and the promises President Biden made to build a fair and humane asylum system. Countless people are still suffering from the harm caused by ‘Remain in Mexico’. The Biden administration was right to issue a second termination memo of this shameful program, and must now do everything in its power to put an end to the policy once and for all.”
“The Remain in Mexico program was a human rights catastrophe that trapped people seeking safety in an ecosystem of violence and terror,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) and co-counsel in Innovation Law Lab v. Mayorkas, which challenged the legality of MPP. “The policy was designed to punish and deter people seeking safety and deprive them of their rights. It is impossible to implement MPP in a way that keeps refugees safe and comports with our laws. We will continue to fight for a permanent end to MPP and all policies that place asylum seekers in harm’s way. It is long past time to restore access to a safe and fair asylum process at the border.”
“MPP and similar policies like Title 42 cannot be allowed to become the new normal,” said Jennifer Babaie, U.S. Southern Border Project Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “It is unacceptable that nearly a year into President Biden’s presidency, his administration is enforcing multiple Trump-era policies known for their abject cruelty. The first iteration of MPP directly placed thousands of migrants in harm’s way, making them vulnerable to kidnapping, extortion, and assault while denying them their right to seek safety in the United States. Any new version of the program will do the same. There is no way to make an inherently inhumane program humane, and yet the administration is going beyond what is legally required to re-implement MPP. Instead, the administration must make every effort to undo the damage caused by these policies and restore full access to asylum at the border.”
“The Biden administration’s shameful regression in restarting this unlawful Trump policy flies in the face of its own determination that no number of changes could render this deadly policy more humane or provide the access to the asylum system that the law requires,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). “The administration must stop hiding behind a flawed court order to justify restarting Remain in Mexico. Now is the time for the administration to discard misguided political calculus and instead lead with courage and humanity to do everything in its power to relegate Remain in Mexico to the past.”
“From Day 1 of its January 2019 implementation, the Remain in Mexico policy has wreaked havoc on the lives of courageous people who left everything behind to save their lives and seek refuge in the United States. We must not only continue to work to repair the unimaginable harm inflicted on more than 70,000 people already affected by this illegal policy, but also must end the policy once and for all, alongside other policies like Title 42 that amount to a blockade against vulnerable asylum seekers.” – Jordan Cunnings, Legal Director, Innovation Law Lab
“We are appalled that President Biden has not only restarted MPP but is expanding it to include Haitian nationals. MPP and policies such as Title 42 can never be just or humane,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director Government Relations, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “We stand with immigrants and our partners providing services at the border and reiterate that meaningful access to counsel, justice, and due process under MPP is impossible and to even attempt it would make a mockery of U.S. laws and the tenets of our faith. We call on the Biden administration end MPP and Title 42 and restore the ability to seek asylum at the border ”
“This administration is failing to see that the people who will be most impacted by the Remain in Mexico policy are climate refugees—mostly Black & Indigenous peoples from Latin America who are forcefully displaced from their ancestral lands,” said Dr. Jessica Hernandez, Climate Justice Policy Strategist from the International Mayan League. “For months, this administration has always blamed the previous administration for the harmful rhetoric and tactics used at the border, but this shows us that they are no different. For an administration that is building a false persona about caring for Black lives and centering Indigenous rights and knowledge, this policy points to a different reality. Most climate refugees are Black and Indigenous peoples, trying to seek asylum in this country. We cannot remain silent as we see this administration pass policies that are the most harmful to Black and Indigenous climate refugees—many who are also escaping persecution because they are defending their rights to their ancestral lands and the rights of their peoples.”
“The Remain in Mexico policy was a human rights travesty when it was first implemented under the Trump administration, and it is doomed to be so again. Based on our extensive research on the Remain in Mexico policy, we know too well that no asserted ‘improvements’ can fix this inherently flawed policy,” said Kennji Kizuka, associate director for research on refugee protection at Human Rights First. “In concert with partner organizations in the United States and Mexico, Human Rights First will once again restart our efforts to track and document the grave human rights violations that asylum seekers face when they are forced to wait in danger in Mexico in order to exercise their right to seek U.S. asylum protection.”
“Rather than keep its promises to provide a border where migrants can seek asylum as permitted under U.S. and international law, the Biden Administration instead continues to rely on inhumane and xenophobic Trump policies that put families and children into danger,” said Tami Goodlette, Director of Litigation at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). “There is no way to reinstate MPP in a moral or humane way—the policy is fundamentally unjust and disproportionately impacts Black and Indigenous migrants, and because of it, families’ lives are in jeopardy. President Biden has chosen to devise illegal deterrent measures instead of protect the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees. He must do better and immediately end MPP.”
“With the restart of MPP, the Biden administration is exacerbating an unlawful and dangerous approach of chaos, cruelty, and danger at the U.S. border,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at Women’s Refugee Commission. “There is no way to make the inhumane humane, no matter the exemptions or attempts at harm mitigation of a policy rooted in xenophobic and cruel origins. What’s more, that the U.S. and Mexican governments are willing to expand the populations who can now be subject to MPP signals an even deeper betrayal of the promises President Biden made while on the campaign trail. U.S. border policy today is rooted even further on an approach that creates harm and disorder rather than builds a humane, just, and dignified asylum system. U.S. border policy today is rooted even further on an approach that creates harm and disorder rather than builds a humane, just, and dignified asylum system. The administration must reverse course, and stand by the words in its memo terminating this policy once and for all.”
“It is distressing to see this flawed program reinstated while its long-term fate is still being decided by U.S. courts. For years, Save the Children has shed light on the deeply flawed nature of MPP, which very clearly puts children and families at risk of harm and limits their access to long-standing legal protections,” said Janti Soeripto, President and CEO of Save the Children U.S. “This country – together with Mexico – must ensure asylum-seeking children and families are treated as human beings, with dignity and respect. This begins with ending MPP, once and for all. We must remember that asylum-seeking children are escaping violence and extreme poverty in their own countries – the same harsh and dangerous conditions often found in the border cities the U.S. government is knowingly and willingly forcing them to wait in. Children deserve better from this country, and must be protected at each step of the asylum process.”
“We have spoken to many children who have told us of the emotional stress the MPP program has caused them. One child detailed how he and his family fled to the U.S. after being kidnapped in Honduras. When they arrived at the border, they willingly gave themselves into the custody and safety of U.S. immigration officials, only to be sent to Mexico. Another child heartbreakingly told us how he ‘spent three days alone crying’ after being separated from his family before being sent back to Mexico,” said María Josefina Menéndez, CEO of Save the Children Mexico. “Such treatment is unacceptable. The U.S. and Mexico must work together to ensure the safety of returned children. Mexico, alone, cannot bear the asylum responsibilities of both countries.”
“The Biden administration has broken its promise to restore access to a humane asylum system at the border. There is no humane way to implement the Remain in Mexico program and provide people the protections they are guaranteed by law. The Migrant Protection Protocols eliminated due process for 70,000 people and forced vulnerable families to run a gauntlet of kidnappers and extortionists just to get to the courtroom door. Now the Biden administration will again send vulnerable people into the lion’s den,” said Jorge Loweree, policy director at the American Immigration Council. “We categorically reject the Biden administration’s claims that it can administer the Remain in Mexico program in a more humane manner. Today is a dark day for the United States and for the rule of law. The longer the administration delays terminating this unlawful and cruel policy, the more people will suffer.”
“The Biden administration bears full responsibility for this reinstatement. They stood by for months after a court order put a clear choice before them: either terminate based on the full record of atrocities endemic to MPP, or restart the program. Two months went by until they issued this overdue termination. Meanwhile, disturbing reports revealed that members of the Biden administration co-signed the Trump program along with their continued use of deadly Title 42 expulsions for their own anti-asylum purposes. Every child, adult, or family subjected to this reinstatement will suffer because this administration failed to uphold their lawful right to seek asylum on U.S. soil,” said Lisa Koop, Associate Director of Legal Services of the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Any version of MPP, even one with attempted humanitarian safeguards, will place thousands of migrants and asylum seekers in danger. Once again, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) calls on the Biden administration to end this inhumane program.”
“The Biden administration has written a new memo to end MPP, one that states in unusually strong language that Remain in Mexico is dangerous and unworkable. Despite this admission, our country is joining with Mexico, under US court order, to add this to our arsenal of cruelty. Whether a person coming to our gates is hit with Title 42 and expelled, across bridges or by plane, or allowed to fill out forms to appear in court after a harrowing stay in places that our State Department tells us are too dangerous to even visit, is a matter of discretion. Both policies are part of a larger framework that is aimed at keeping the desperation caused by poverty, violence, and inequality out of sight and out of mind. Both use brutality to turn away asylum seekers who come to our gates. Both deny humanity, theirs and ours.”–said Joshua Rubin, Founder, Witness at the Border.
“We are long overdue to restore asylum at the US-Mexico border. We can no longer afford half-measures or backsliding and the return of MPP is a devastating step in the wrong direction. Now is the time for the United States to restore robust protections for asylum seekers and refugees and put in place forward-looking and humane systems at the border that honor the rights of people on the move,” said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute.
“Many of our Jewish ancestors perished in the Holocaust because the doors to the United States were closed. Some got to our shores and were returned to Europe to be murdered by the Nazis. As a result of this atrocity, the US and the world recognized and enshrined into law that those fleeing for their lives have the right to seek asylum. The Migrant Protection Policy denies people who are fleeing for their lives the right to seek asylum, violating US and international law. In 2020, our group visited the tent camp in Matamoros, MX, and learned first-hand the devastating impact of the illegal and inhumane Migrant Protection Protocol on real people who have committed no crime and are just trying to survive. Every legal avenue must immediately be pursued to make sure that MPP is NEVER reinstated. NEVER AGAIN.” Karen Levine from Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice.
“The restart and expansion of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is unconscionable. To say that this decision will cost lives is not exaggeration, but near fact. Thousands have already been victimized by this cruel and inhumane program, forced to exist in perilous circumstances or returned to the very danger they fled in the first place,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at CWS. “With both Title 42 and MPP in place, mothers, fathers, and their children will be put at risk in Mexico, and thousands of Haitians will be expelled back to Haiti, despite widespread unrest and crisis in that country. The politics of exclusion and marginalization that this ill-conceived program was created under should not dictate a U.S. immigration policy. The Biden administration must reconsider immediately and instead, fully restore asylum.”
“There is no safe way to return people to danger,” said Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice. “The United States has a legal and moral obligation to provide for the safety of those legally requesting asylum at our borders, embassies and ports of entry and, unlike the previous president, we expect the current president to take our legal and moral obligations seriously. Returning those seeking safety to wait in uncertain and dangerous conditions has a disgraceful track record of murder, assault, rape and kidnapping. Let’s be clear, Trump policies were designed to make sure valid claims of asylum never reached the inside of a U.S. court of law to be evaluated fairly on their merits by a judge. That should never be the goal of our asylum policy again. ‘Remain in Mexico’ was ineffective, cruel and indefensible under the last president and remains so under President Biden.”
“With today’s announcement, the Biden Administration has taken a step back and chosen once again to continue upholding the inhumane and illegal Trump-era immigration policies that prevent asylum seekers from seeking protection and instead send them back to danger, said Giulia McPherson, Director of Advocacy & Operations at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “There is no ‘better’ or ‘improved’ version of the Migrant Protection Protocols – better known as ‘Remain in Mexico.’ Instead of continuing to implement this harmful policy, the Biden Administration should make every effort to terminate MPP and transfer individuals currently enrolled in it to other dockets as soon as possible.”
Managing Attorney of ImmDef’s Cross-Border Initiative, Margaret Cargioli, shared, “MPP is a proven human rights failure. It deprives human beings in need of protection from access to counsel and access to safety from harm and poverty. We urge you to contact your representatives and ask them to restore the U.S. asylum system at the border in order to welcome persons fleeing abusive spouses, repressive regimes, political oppression, and LGBTQ who cannot live their truth in their country of origin.”
“This restarting and expansion of Remain in Mexico represents an abject failure by the Biden administration to uphold respect for human dignity and its own campaign promises to end the draconian immigration policies of the Trump era,” said Karen Tumlin, Founder and Director of Justice Action Center. “We will continue to hold the Biden administration accountable for the cruelty and harm it has decided to perpetuate and vigorously advocate for the fair, orderly, and humane asylum process we know is possible.”
“Under the Remain in Mexico program, the United States and Mexico knowingly subject thousands of asylum seekers to persecution and serious harm in Mexico at the hands of both cartels and Mexican government officials,” said Ari Sawyer, US Border Researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Human Rights Watch has documented the systematic targeting of asylum seekers in Mexico by state and non-state actors for kidnapping and extortion, especially in the state of Tamaulipas where the Biden administration has said it plans to send asylum seekers yet again. The few so-called ‘humanitarian improvements’ are meaningless considering the government agencies tasked with carrying out the Remain in Mexico program on both sides of the border have been implicated in the wide array of abuses endemic to the program and continue to operate with near total impunity. The governments of the United States and Mexico should reverse course immediately.”
“Despite advocates shouting over the top of our voices about the horrific rapes, kidnapping, assaults, torture, and less than humane living conditions of asylum seekers in Mexico subject to MPP in the past, it is being reinstated! We have once again missed the mark on humanity by reinstating MPP. It is devoid of due process, legality, humanity, and morality. ” — Charlene D’Cruz, Director of Project Corazon, Lawyers for Good Government.
“The reinstatement of MPP constitutes an unconscionable violation of the internationally recognized rights of migrants and asylum seekers on both sides of the border, for which both US and Mexican authorities must be held fully accountable. Their complicity and collusion in this context, only days after a UN mission has highlighted the “structural impunity” which characterizes Mexico’s response to over 95,000 forced disappearances on its territory is outrageous and unacceptable. This is further underlined by the recent finding by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission that since 2011 over 70,000 migrants have been trafficked or kidnapped during their transit through the country. US and Mexican authorities are thus jointly responsible for the crimes against humanity that are predictable as a result of the decision to restore MPP,” said Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, on behalf of the International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement, and as co-chair of the Task Force on the Americas of the National Lawyers’ Guild
“The Biden administration’s memo restarting and expanding the Remain-in-Mexico policy is fundamentally inconsistent with human rights and U.S. law,” said Richard Caldarone, litigation counsel at the Tahirih Justice Center. “The original Remain-in-Mexico policy caused untold numbers of women and girls—many of whom were already fleeing domestic and sexual violence—to face severe gender-based violence in Mexico, and the memo does nothing to acknowledge their unique vulnerabilities or protect against such violence going forward. This memo also does not solve the glaring inadequacies when it comes to representation. As a result, we know that many asylum seekers will continue to proceed without lawyers in immigration court. Ultimately, the reinstatement of Remain-in-Mexico—when combined with the illegal Title 42 policy that bars even those vaccinated against COVID-19 from seeking asylum on unfounded public health grounds—functionally ends the possibility of asylum for people who arrive in the United States via the southern border. The Biden Administration should be doing everything in its power to prevent further humanitarian disaster and make good on its promise to restore a humane asylum system on our border, not restarting a harmful policy that has no basis in law and perpetuates trauma among survivors of violence who have already endured unspeakable horrors.”
“By not only reimplementing but expanding the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), the Biden administration is breaking its campaign promise to end this inhumane program,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of CHIRLA. “The administration’s insistence on including all nationalities in the western hemisphere, including the tens of thousands of Haitians fleeing a collapsed home country as well as extreme racism in other parts of Latin America, goes beyond the Texas court’s order to reimplement MPP ‘in good faith’. This program simply does not respect due process, access to counsel, and the basic bodily safety of asylum-seekers stranded in extremely dangerous parts of Mexico. The Biden administration will no longer be able to call the MPP a Trump policy. It is now a Biden policy, and a deadly and heart-breaking one at that.”
“MPP creates harmful risks for asylum seekers who are pushed back across the U.S.-Mexico border, where they encounter dangerous conditions similar to those that they were escaping,” said Olga Byrne, Director of Immigration for the International Rescue Committee. “U.S. border communities have shown time and again that they have the capacity and will to welcome asylum seekers. We urge the Biden Administration to continue to work to end MPP for good, living up to its international obligations and prior commitments, and to work with welcoming communities to implement a safe and dignified system to receive asylum seekers.”
“Reinstating MPP is a stain on our nation,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “It is a dangerous and deadly policy. As happened during its prior implementation, vulnerable men, women and children will suffer denigration, disrespect, assaults, rapes and murders. It is inhumane, unjust, and violates our obligations under our own legal system and international refugee law. Mr. President, we implore you to follow the Catholic values that form the foundation of your life-long public leadership of our country. It is time to draw on those values and prioritize the lives of the suffering men, women and children waiting at our border over politics. It is time that you do what is humane and stop MPP.”
“President Biden is breaking his promise to asylum seekers by reinstating the unlawful Remain in Mexico policy,” said Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG Co-director. “We cannot say that the Biden Administration is working towards restoring access to asylum at our border if it continues to perpetuate Trump era policies that return women, men, and families to death and danger. This is not building back better. We urge the Biden Administration to reverse course and use all of its power to appeal the court order forcing this reinstatement. Insteads of collaborating with the Mexican government to block people from accessing refuge, the Biden Administration should be working with governments to expand access to protection. Only then, will President Biden be living up to his promise to welcome those fleeing persecution in their homes.”
“Time and time again, President Biden and the administration have affirmed that the Migrant Protect Protocols (MPP) have ‘endemic flaws’ and ‘imposed unjustifiable costs,’ yet they continue to re-implement this heinous and inhumane policy, and in this case, expanding its reach further to include Haitians,” said Amy Fischer, Americas Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA. “MPP will be re-implemented while Title 42 is still in effect, essentially closing our border to people seeking asylum. The United States has obligations under international and domestic law to uphold the right to seek asylum and it is failing. The Biden administration must restore access to asylum now.”
“The restarted ‘Remain in Mexico’ program is a disaster for people who only want what we all want – safety and an opportunity to live their lives free from violence and persecution.,” said Andrew Geibel, Policy Counsel at HIAS. “There is no ‘humane’ way to implement a program which places asylum seekers in danger and makes legal representation nearly impossible. The administration must reverse course, not use the court order as an excuse to expand the Remain in Mexico program, and work to legally re-end the program for good.”
“Despite the Biden administration’s purported efforts to have addressed certain ‘humanitarian concerns about the previous implementation’ of the policy, this iteration contains few differences from that imposed during the Trump era. The vulnerability exceptions in the new guidance remain far too narrow, and the provisions regarding access to counsel are a far cry from meaningful representation,” said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “The Biden administration cannot continue to proceed as if minor tweaks can fix this inherently flawed policy. Instead, the administration should focus its energy and resources on fighting this illegal policy every way it can and establishing a fair and humane asylum process for all those who seek protection.”
“MPP has already given rise to over 1,500 reported violent attacks against people forced to wait in Mexico, including kidnapping, rape, and murder, as neither U.S. nor Mexican authorities guaranteed their safety. No attacks against asylum seekers should be acceptable,” said Stephanie Brewer, Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights at WOLA. “Seeking asylum is legal, and the U.S. and Mexican governments claim to want legal, safe, and orderly migration. But by continuing Title 42 and now reinstating MPP, they violate asylum seekers’ rights and subject them to conditions that are the definition of illegal, unsafe, and chaotic.”
“The failure of President Biden to rescind the cruel, Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy with the speed and urgency the circumstances require means that thousands of deaths, kidnappings, sexual assaults, and extortion of children and families seeking a better life will continue to happen right on our doorstep,” Jess Morales Rocketto, Co-founder of Families Belong Together. “President Biden continues to break campaign promises, and now children and families will suffer under this unconscionable and racist policy.”
“It is appalling that this administration is reverting back to the shameful and inhumane policies of its predecessor, reneging on promises to protect the rights of asylum seekers and jeopardizing the futures of thousands of people seeking refuge, said Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director of Refugee Congress. “We strongly urge the Biden administration to permanently do away with MPP, and begin the work of building a humane, just, and accessible asylum system.”
“The Florence Project is dismayed and deeply disappointed to learn that the Biden administration has officially restarted MPP – a program that effectively forces migrants seeking U.S. protection to wait for months in notoriously dangerous Mexican border regions while they fight their asylum cases” said Chelsea Sachau, border attorney with the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “As we and countless other organizations have stated time and again, there is no way to make MPP safe, humane, or just. Despite campaign promises to restore a safe, orderly asylum process, the Biden administration has done the opposite by continuing allowing, and in fact embracing, Trump-era racist, anti-immigrant policies like MPP and Title 42. Every single day we meet people who report serious danger and harm in Mexico as they wait to seek safety in the U.S. There is no gentler or fairer way to send people back to Mexico while they pursue asylum. We call on the Biden administration to act immediately to end all Trump-era policies that restrict access to protection in the United States and focus its efforts and considerable resources allocated to immigration enforcement to build a safe, orderly, and just asylum process.”
“MPP denies people the right to seek asylum and exposes tens of thousands of individuals and families to real, damaging, and even life-threatening harm as they await processing of their asylum cases in U.S. immigration courts,” said the Immigration Hub’s Executive Director, Sergio Gonzales. “MPP was designed to be cruel and dangerous as an ineffective deterrence mechanism and no amount of humanitarian measures can protect against its rotten core. Secretary Mayorkas reached the same conclusion when he issued a second memo to terminate MPP in October. The American people want a working immigration system that is just, safe and humane, not an expansion of policies that delay protection and push people back into danger. Today is also the result of yet another anti-immigrant decision by a right-wing court. This administration must not relent. It should fight this case on its merits, bravely taking risks to avoid MPP’s violent consequences. End MPP now.”
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The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign is composed of more than 90 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