With the federal administration set to end the use of public health law Title 42 as an expulsion tool to deny would-be asylum seekers entry into the United States (a policy deemed unconstitutional by a federal court late last year) tonight, it is widely expected that a significant number of individuals and families will enter the U.S. through the southern border in search of refuge.
While media reports may portray this as a new crisis in the making, human suffering has been occurring at the border for many years as people make arduous journeys through as many as ten countries in their search for safety. We’ve seen children locked in cages under the guise of “zero tolerance,” mounted Border Patrol agents rounding up Haitian migrants, the recent deadly fire at an overcrowded immigrant detention facility in Ciudad Juárez, and the deployment of Mexico's National Guard as it militarizes its own southern border and faces allegations of violating the human rights of migrants.
Under the previous administration, U.S. immigration policy was characterized by a series of discriminatory and contested actions ranging from the underhanded (attempting to exclude non-citizens from the census) and classist (public charge wealth test), to the overtly racist (Muslim Ban) and cruel (family separation). Beginning in 2020, our nation largely shut down our refugee and asylum systems - the avenues through which individuals have been able to seek refuge from war, oppression, and exploitation for decades. While under the current administration certain narrow pathways have reopened, that has been with the caveat of further restrictions on other pathways.
Against this backdrop, it is unsurprising that, as the Title 42 policy finally winds down, individuals and families in need of protection will attempt to access our asylum system, as is their right per U.S. and international law. It is in anticipation of this reality that the Biden administration hastily introduced yet another new restriction on asylum that is expected to go into effect just prior to the formal end of Title 42 tonight. To push back against this punitive and harmful policy, GCIR submitted a public comment in opposition and advocated against it with members of Congress during the Foundations on the Hill event in February. This new “Asylum Transit Ban” would essentially swap a prohibition on seeking asylum based on one set of rules (Title 42), for a new one – the end result still largely being the denial of entry to individuals seeking the opportunity to apply for asylum.
Yet asylum seekers will still make the journey to the United States for desperately needed protection, as observed by Warsan Shire in her heartbreaking poem “Home,”
“…no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well…”
It is within this context that GCIR is calling upon philanthropy to resource a response to the humanitarian needs of migrants in transit, at the border, and in destination cities. We recognize that international forces including racial capitalism and militarism drive the displacement, exploitation, and oppression of migrants, and responses to events like the end of Title 42 should be grounded in both an analysis of these conditions and the intention to fundamentally shift the conditions that lead to humanitarian crises at home and abroad. Moving resources in a way that centers the leadership and self-determination of immigrant- and refugee-led organizations and the communities they serve is essential to acting in solidarity with, and honoring the dignity and power of, the immigrant justice movement.
Movement groups on the front lines of the fight for justice have long made it clear that they need long-term, flexible, and robust investments that support their ability to organize, build power, sustain, adapt, and respond to evolving conditions and policies. Investments that support leadership growth, development of narrative and communications strategies, coalition building and convening, and other infrastructure building approaches will allow the movement not only to continue serving their communities long into the future – including at times of heightened need – but also to secure cultural and policy wins en route to a more just and liberated world.
In the coming months, philanthropic support will be needed to resource humanitarian assistance and coordination to support migrants in transit, at the border, and in their destination cities. Key needs that have been identified include shelter capacity, transportation, food and water, and legal services. Moving resources to border and regional nonprofits rapidly can be achieved through partnership with efforts such as the National Dignity for Families Fund, direct support of groups including grantees of the California Dignity for Families Fund, or Hispanics in Philanthropy’s Colibri Initiative, which supports groups operating at the intersection of climate change and displacement from the Americas and the Caribbean. For interior cities expected to see an increase in migrant arrivals such as Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., local funder networks, mayors’ offices, and welcoming task forces are best positioned to help identify and direct resources to the local groups that are prepared to respond.
While it is unclear exactly how many individuals and families will seek asylum with the end of Title 42 and the implementation of a new set of barriers, GCIR is committed to operating from a mindset of abundance and love, and we welcome collaboration from partners committed to liberating philanthropic assets in service of immigrant justice. With the potential termination of DACA looming on the horizon and near-constant threats to equity and inclusion coming from state houses around the country, we know it will take a village to move us closer to our vision of collective liberation.
To learn more, contact Kevin Douglas, GCIR's Senior Director of National Programs.