FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 8, 2023
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WWD Responds to Tragedy in Brownsville, Texas
WASHINGTON – Partners in the Welcome With Dignity campaign for asylum rights mourn the tragic killing of people outside of the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center in Brownsville, Texas last weekend.
Victor Maldonado, executive director of the Ozanam Center, wrote in a press release: “The staff and residents of the Ozanam Center are devastated by today’s tragic event. The individuals injured and killed are asylum-seekers. They came seeking refuge. They were staying at our shelter because they arrived in this country with very little.”
Maldonado reports that the shelter has received a number of hate messages in the aftermath of these killings. Members of the RGV Welcoming Committee responded: “We call on politicians and media to stop the vilification of immigrants. Above all, people like those harmed today are human beings with hopes and dreams. We ask for an end to mischaracterizing our border communities as unsafe and unwelcoming. We also deplore the pretense that forcing migrants fleeing violence in their homelands to wait in dangerous northern Mexico is a humane or secure option.”
Donations to help with medical and funeral costs can be directed here: http://www.ozanambrownsvillecenter.org/donate.html.
Following are quotes from other WWD campaign partners.
Said Ronnate Asirwatham, Government Relations Director, NETWORK Lobby for Social Justice: “We are grieving for the lives lost in Brownsville, Texas yesterday and we stand in prayer and solidarity with their families, those who are injured, and the community who served and welcomed them. Unfortunately these deaths and the subsequent threats to the shelters and others who support migrants are a result of the narrative of hate that is being echoed by some of our lawmakers and influencers. We call on all to end this narrative of hate and see the humanity in us all.”
“We are shocked, and we are grieving the loss of those killed in yesterday’s crash, which also left a number of other people injured,” said Mark Hetfield, HIAS’ President and CEO. “This mass killing may or may not be the result of the escalating dehumanization of people seeking protection in the United States, but it certainly coincides with that campaign of otherization. This must stop now. We must stop it. As a Jewish humanitarian organization founded more than a century ago on the moral imperative to welcome the stranger, and as an organization that works with displaced people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and around the world, we can’t be bystanders. HIAS stands in solidarity with our colleagues at Catholic Charities in Brownsville, the people we serve together, with our many other faith-based and civil society partners, and we are undeterred in our determination to work together for an America that welcomes the stranger, as our faith and American values command us to do.”
“We are devastated by yesterday’s attack and are overwhelmed with grief for all the lives that were tragically lost in this incident.”, said Olivia Pena, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights’ Child Advocate Program Co-Director. “Young Center staff, volunteers, and supporters know the Ozanam Center well and have collaborated with their team of volunteers in the past to support their work in serving arriving immigrants. For years, the Ozanam Center has been supporting the local RGV community, and especially the immigrant community, with the level of compassion and care everyone deserves. We urge everyone to remember each of the victims for who they were as human beings: people with hopes, dreams, and families. People who sought safety in a country that continues to put in place harmful policies rooted in deterrence rather than humanity. And people who deserved to have lived a full and safe life.”
“We mourn deeply today for the people who lost their lives or were injured in the horrific incident in Brownsville,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights & Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “It is a tragedy that those who made the journey seeking safety were met with such horror and harm. While we do not yet know the exact facts of the case, the Women’s Refugee Commission stands by the many partners who each day engage in the critical work of welcoming and reception, knowing the risks they and the people they serve face. We hope the names, stories, and lives of those lost this past weekend are not forgotten.”
“With a heavy heart, CARECEN SF reacts to the news that a group of people were struck and killed by a vehicle outside the Ozanam Center shelter,” said Lariza Dugan Cuadra, Executive Director at The Central American Resource Center of Northern CA – CARECEN SF. “We honor their lives and the circumstances that led them to try to seek safety in the U.S. In the wake of such a tragedy, it is more important than ever to uplift and support the important work being done by welcoming organizations such as the Ozanam Center. Now is the time to reject anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions and ramp up welcoming efforts that address the needs of newcomer survivors.”
“Our hearts are broken by the news of this tragedy in Brownsville, Texas,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “We mourn those who lost their lives and those who sustained devastating injuries as they sought a safer life in the United States, and we call on politicians and media to immediately halt using dehumanizing and dangerous rhetoric about immigrants and border communities that fear mongers and stokes tensions. The people who were killed and injured were asylum seekers who had just arrived to the United States, enduring a long journey across South and Central America; surviving displacement and likely extortion and kidnapping threats in Mexico; and struggling to get an appointment at the port of entry, only to be met with this tragedy just as they were on the brink of starting their asylum cases, reuniting with loved ones, and rebuilding a new life. Our hearts break for the dreams of safety and security for which they endured so much that will now go unrealized for them and for their family members. We send our deepest condolences to all those impacted and to our partners in the Rio Grande Valley.”
“We are mourning with the families and loved ones of those killed and maimed outside of the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, a cherished community partner in Brownsville, Texas,” said Estuardo Cifuentes, Client Services Manager for Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon. “We understand that staff at the Ozanam Center have already received threats and criticism, blaming them for the senseless killing. We condemn this criticism and believe the only way to prevent such tragedies is to humanize the people seeking safety at our borders. These migrants deserved our welcome as they fled dangerous conditions in their home country. We remain steadfast with our partners at the border in both denouncing the stigmatization of migrants and refugees and in providing them with the dignity and respect they each deserve.”
Justice Action Center Legal Director Esther Sung said, “We mourn with our Rio Grande Valley community members in the wake of this senseless tragedy. While details about possible motivations are still emerging, what we know is this: eight people, many of whom came to Brownsville specifically to seek safety, will never again see loved ones. They—and those like them—have been vilified by politicians and members of the media for far too long, and we need the xenophobia to stop.”
“We are devastated by this tragic loss of life and extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed or harmed,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The victims of yesterday’s crash came to our border to find safety for themselves and their families. They deserved a chance to do so without fear. We stand in solidarity with Ozanam Center staff, and with all community members and organizations welcoming people at the border with compassion every day. As the facts of this tragedy are uncovered, we urge our elected officials and the media to recognize the full humanity of all asylum seekers. The escalation of alarmist, racist rhetoric against people seeking refuge continues to drive cruel policy decisions and incite horrific acts of violence, with deadly consequences.”
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life this weekend in Brownsville, and mourn for those who died as we hold in our hearts their families and other community members who were injured or directly impacted by this incident, including staff and volunteers who have been welcoming migrants at the Ozanam Center,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center. “The center’s work has long been a model for compassionate welcome, which the federal government would do well to heed in its immigration policy decisions as Title 42 expulsions end this week. Now is a time for communities throughout our country, from Texas to Chicago, to open our hearts and recognize our shared humanity as we welcome new neighbors who are seeking safety and security.”
To help with medical and funeral costs, donate here: http://www.ozanambrownsvillecenter.org/donate.html.
Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity.
The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights is composed of more than 100 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