Join the Fight for Dignity at the Border

November 30, 2018

Dear ROPnet,

This week thousands of migrants who traveled hundreds of miles on foot to assert their right to seek asylum were met at the US-Mexico border by the US military, armed militias, and tear gas. Instead of meeting the asylum seekers with the congressionally mandated opportunity to apply for asylum, the US military fired CS gas, a chemical weapon that has been banned in nearly every country for use during war, at migrants, including children.

Those of us who organize for a better vision of our communities – for dignity, justice, and democracy – are asking ourselves, what would it look like if we responded by using state resources to promptly process asylum applications instead of using state violence to shirk our international humanitarian commitments? How can we join in solidarity with those organizing south of the border and directly confronting the unjust immigration system?

In this ROPnet we share some context on what is happening at the border and ways we, as rural and small town Oregonians, are taking action in solidarity with those organizing for the right to seek asylum.

A question of values and resources:

What we know here in Oregon from our work at Federal Correctional Institute at Sheridan is that the vast majority who are given the opportunity for what is referred to as a credible fear interview pass the interview and are then able to pursue release from detention and begin the process toward a grant of asylum and permanent status here in the US. Nearly every single one of the 123 people detained by ICE and held at FCI Sheridan were released after their credible fear interview, demonstrating that they had a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin. Like the individuals at Sheridan, the migrants in the caravan fear a return to violence and persecution and will likely be found eligible for asylum.

Yet, instead of resourcing a system to support legitimate claims to asylum, the Trump administration tried to regulate people out of their right to apply for asylum by issuing a proclamation that asylum seekers who cross the US border outside an official port of entry cannot apply for asylum. By not providing enough resources to process applications in a timely manner at border checkpoints, asylum seekers are left deciding between living in an overcrowded, flooded stadium at border checkpoints while waiting for weeks to submit their application for asylum and facing repressive force at the hands of the US military and vigilante militias or taking more dangerous routes to cross into the US and potentially losing their longstanding, recognized right to apply for asylum.

Organizing in response:

The thousands of migrants currently at the border are pushing back – they are asserting their right to apply for asylum and demanding a humane response from the US and Mexico. On Thursday a group of migrant women announced that they would begin a hunger strike to protest the slow pace at which they are being allowed to apply for asylum.

In addition to the organizing at the border, our partners at Innovation Law Lab (who formed the Sheridan Pro-Bono Lawyer Project) have joined others in a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s attempt to regulate people out of the right to seek asylum. A federal judge in San Francisco has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from barring people from obtaining asylum if they cross the southern U.S. border outside an official port of entry. Law Lab and their co-plaintiffs will seek a permanent injunction this month.

Here in Oregon, tens of thousands of voters have gone on record this election by voting No on Measure 105 and preserving our 30-year sanctuary law, definitively declaring that our state and local resources must reflect our values for true safety and security, and not be used for immigration enforcement. Groups across the state have organized to push ICE out of our communities, including Josephine County and Springfield ending their jail’s ICE contracts, Yamhill County leaders organizing to get ICE Out of Sheridan, and groups in the Gorge fighting to end their local jail’s contact with ICE. Let’s build on this incredible rural organizing and join in solidarity with those directly confronting the unjust systems of immigration, detention, and deportation.

Here are ways that rural leaders and Human Dignity Groups across the state are taking action

  • Spread the word:

    • Share this ROPnet with your friends, neighbors, and members of your Human Dignity Group

    • Write a letter to the editor reframing what needs to happen at the border and invite your neighbors and community members to consider another response to asylum seekers – one that uses resources to process applications instead of sending troops and tear gas. Use this ROPnet to develop your letter and key talking points. Your friendly ROP organizer can help.

  • Support actions at the border:

  • Organize an action at home:

    • Organize a local action in solidarity with the American Friends Service Committee’s Love Knows No Borders week of action starting on December 10th, International Human Rights Day, and ending on International Migrants Day, December 18th, in conjunction with the American Friends Service Committee action at the border. Sign up here to attend or organize an event in your community.

  • Demand a cut to funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol:

    • Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) current budget expires on December 7th. Congress is currently considering a funding bill that would increase the DHS budget, which includes the sub-agencies of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Senator Wyden sits on the US Senate Committee on the Budget and Senator Merkley sits on the US Senate Committee on the Budget and the US Senate Committee on Appropriations.

      • Senators Merkley and Wyden sit on critical committees for the budgeting process. Call and ask both Senators to cut funds slated for Department of Homeland Security’s budget, so that the budgets of ICE and CBP can be decreased in the appropriations processes.

      • Make calls to all your Senators and Representatives asking them to make a public statement calling for decreased funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), and to commit to weighing in with Senate or House leadership (Senator Schumer or Representative Pelosi) about the need to cut funds for both CBP and ICE.

  • Schedule a strategy session for your group:

    • ROP is happy to join you or support you in planning a gathering to talk about your group’s next steps locally to organize in solidarity with asylum seekers and get ICE out of our communities.

Let ROP know what your group is planning and how we can support your next steps.


Hannah, Cara, Cathy, Rindy, Caroline and the ROP Team