Civil, Human Rights Organizations Urge Federal Immigration Authorities to Release Asylum-Seeking Migrants in a Responsible Manner, Public Asked for Support and Compassion

At a press conference convened today by the San Diego Rapid Response Network, ACLU-SDIC Executive Director, Norma Chávez-Peterson delivered the following statement:

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today for this briefing on an urgent humanitarian concern regarding asylum-seeking migrants in our communities…how the San Diego Rapid Response Network is working to shelter and support asylum-seekers…and how caring people can help.

My name is Norma Chávez-Peterson. I am the executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

The United States is a nation with tremendous means, power and capacity for compassion. From our founding and throughout our history, we have provided life-saving refuge to people fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands.

In our proudest moments, America has been a safe harbor for refugees from around the world.  Granting asylum to people seeking peace, freedom and opportunity exemplifies our long-standing national values: compassion, inclusion and justice.  These are among the values that make us a great nation.

The ACLU joins with Jewish Family Service of San Diego, San Diego Organizing Project, Catholic Charities, Casa Cornelia, International Rescue Committee, Employee Rights Center, SEIU Local 221 and other members of the San Diego Rapid Response Network to ask President Trump, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, CBP and ICE to honor our national values.

We urge the Trump administration to follow the law. Allow migrants to make their asylum claims and promptly process their cases with compassion and justice.

Consistent the law, asylum-seekers should be promptly received and processed by U.S. authorities – not illegally turned away and sent back to the very countries they fled…and not criminalized, scapegoated, or abandoned in this country.

In San Diego, immigration authorities are currently releasing asylum-seeking families into our communities without food, clothing, transportation or shelter…and without coordinating or even communicating with local governments or nonprofit agencies who want to help them.

This is happening right now but has received very little media attention. It is an issue of urgent and growing humanitarian concern that requires San Diegans awareness and support.

The San Diego Rapid Response Network stands with migrants seeking asylum because no one stands alone in our communities.

We are a coalition of more than 40 human rights and service organizations dedicated to aiding immigrants and their families.

We operate a 24-hour hotline and maintain a roster of trained volunteers to document dehumanizing immigration enforcement activities, provide emergency assistance, and connect affected people with resources. Together, we respond to the needs of vulnerable immigrants – advocating for their safety, providing emergency assistance, and coordinating free and low-cost legal representation to defend against unjust family separation and deportation.

Since launching in December 2017, the San Diego Rapid Response Network has received more than 1,500 calls to report immigration enforcement activity or to request legal assistance. One of those calls alerted us to a needlessly traumatizing situation created by immigration authorities…who for the past four weeks have been abandoning asylum-seeking families on the streets of our city without money, food, clothing, transportation or shelter.

Migrants seeking asylum are not breaking the law and detention of asylum-seeking families is almost never necessary. The San Diego Rapid Response Network welcome the release of these families so they may pursue their asylum claims.

We call on the Department of Homeland Security to release asylum-seeking families in a caring and responsible mannerand to proactively communicate with non-profit organizations that want to provide them aid.  

In this season of Thanksgiving, we welcome the public’s compassion and generous support.