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Asylum Seekers, Advocates Protests At Border Wall In Nogales

Standing at the base of the border wall’s towering steel bollards in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, on Thursday, nearly 100 people chanted in support of the right to asylum, wearing masks and holding signs. Many others sent messages of support to a live video stream on Facebook.

The event, called #SaveAsylum, was coordinated by a coalition of migrant advocacy groups in Arizona, which initially formed after the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as MPP or the "Remain in Mexico" program, was announced in January 2019.

During Thursday's event, several asylum seekers told their stories of fleeing political persecution and violence in their home countries of Venezuela, Guatemala, Cuba and Nicaragua, and the difficult journeys that led them to the Nogales, Sonora, where some have been waiting nearly a year to ask for asylum in the United States.

“We just invite people in Arizona and across the U.S. to join us in recognizing the validity of people’s asylum claims,” said Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy for the nonprofit Kino Border Initiative, which helped organize the event and provides food and other services to migrants in Nogales, Sonora.

She said the event was an acknowledgement of asylum seekers’ right to protections, even as U.S. policies implemented during the pandemic have cut off access to asylum at the border. In part, the protest was a way for community members in Arizona to send the message that they welcome asylum seekers and oppose policies that are forcing people to wait in Mexico rather than have access to the asylum process in the United States. But it was also a way for asylum seekers who have been waiting for months at the border to share their personal stories.

"So it's really, in that sense, borne from these asylum seekers in Nogales, Mexico, who asked, 'Can we have an event in which we can be heard, and in which community members and officials can understand the urgent need that we have for asylum,'" Williams said.

Kendal Blust was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2018 to 2023.