National Lawyers Guild staff traveled to Tijuana the first week of December to observe conditions at the border and to coordinate with our members already on the ground as well as our partners at Al Otro Lado. When we arrived at the legal office at Enclave Caracol, we found NLG members already in action. Guild lawyers, legal workers, and law students from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, and NYC Chapters were hard at work providing legal support, training, and observation in coordination with other organizations and local volunteers.
While many saw media coverage of migrants being tear gassed by the U.S. military, there is a great deal happening on the ground that is not being well reported, including unnecessary and illegal delays in the asylum application process, the dangerous conditions at the camps where some migrants are staying, the inadequate and uneven response of international relief organizations, and the constant threat of violence to migrants from law enforcement, far right protesters, and some local community members.
The need for legal professionals on the ground is dire and hundreds have already applied to come and assist with legal support. Attorneys, legal workers, and law students traveling to the border should expect fluid and rapidly shifting conditions, as circumstances change from day to day. However, there are some consistent tasks that will be needed over the next several months, including conducting intake, leading Know Your Rights workshops on asylum and immigration law, holding informal charlas (chats) with individuals about their asylum prospects, accompanying people from their camps and shelters to be added to the list, legal observing at the camps and other locations, and gathering information to help inform strategy.
There is an ongoing need for people to travel to the border for the next several months, especially those who can stay weekdays, speak Spanish, are trained as NLG Legal Observers, or have experience with immigration and asylum law. Those hoping to volunteer as LOs should be aware that legal observation under these conditions is not the same as protests in the U.S.; LOs are sent out to various sites to monitor law enforcement activity, gather information, and keep track of the progress of the list. It is strongly suggested that NLG chapters seek to recruit LOs with extensive experience given the complex and high risk environment in Tijuana.
Those interested in volunteering in a legal capacity need to sign up through Al Otro Lado, a bi-national, direct legal services organization serving indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana. The Guild is coordinating directly with AOL, and all questions about going to the border as a NLG member can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who cannot travel to the border, please consider assisting in other ways:
- Please read and share the 11/27/18 and 11/28/18 lists of demands by migrants
- DONATE to legal support efforts through the NLG Mass Defense program
- Ask your representative to co-sponsor or have your organization endorse the Berta Cáceres Act to stop U.S. funding of the Honduran military
- Sponsor one of the LGBTQ asylum seekers
Above: NLG LA Chapter at CHIRLA for a border monitoring training. (Photo: Twitter/@NLG_LosAngeles)