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Biden Administration Must Protect, not Punish, Survivors

Last month, a group of people stopped for water near El Paso, Texas. They were migrating to the United States to reunite with family and seek protection. Two white men spotted the group and began shooting at them, killing one man and critically injuring a woman. For weeks, several of the surviving witnesses were detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) custody. News reports revealed that one of the alleged assailants had previously racially and physically abused migrants as a jail warden, while the other worked in the same sheriff’s office which arrested the men.

Seventy-six organizations sent a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland denouncing this horrific shooting, which was fueled by dehumanizing immigration policies and white supremacist violence. The organizations call on the Biden administration to urgently heed the following recommendations: 

  1. Suspend any enforcement measures, including criminal prosecution or the removal or expulsion of these individuals
  2. Refrain from prosecuting any survivors and witnesses in USMS custody and ensure that all survivors have prompt access to medical and mental health care from a safe location in the United States
  3. Launch a federal investigation into these shootings to provide independent oversight and accountability given the horrors inflicted on Mr. Sepúlveda, Ms. Casias Carrillo, and other surviving witnesses
  4. Review and investigate white supremacist rhetoric and behavior within existing detention facilities, federal immigration personnel, contractors, and collaborating law enforcement agencies
  5. Direct ICE, USMS, Customs and Border Protection, and collaborating law enforcement agencies to issue formal guidelines for agents prohibiting association, active participation, and support for white nationalist, unauthorized paramilitary, and other extremist groups, consistent with the First Amendment, to enhance transparency and accountability and ensure appropriate discipline. Develop and enforce clear policies to investigate and take disciplinary action in response to violations. 


Signatories include:

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality
African American Ministers In Action
Afghan Coalition
African Communities Together
African Human Rights Coalition
Al Otro Lado
Alianza Americas
America’s Voice
American Gateways
American Immigration Council
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Americans for Immigrant Justice
Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
Anti-Defamation League
ASISTA Immigration Assistance
Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)
Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
Border Network for Human Rights
El Calvario Immigrant Advocacy Center
Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Center for Victims of Torture
Church World Service
Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
Cleveland Jobs with Justice
Coalición de Derechos Humanos
Community Asylum Seekers Project
Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP)
Detention Watch Network
Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.
Doctors for Camp Closure
DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving
Freedom for Immigrants (FFI)
Haitian Bridge Alliance
Hispanic Federation
Human Rights First
Immigrant Defenders Law Center
Immigration Center for Women and Children
Immigration Equality
Innovation Law Lab
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración (IMUMI)
Japanese American Citizens League
Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western MA
Justice in Motion
Legal Aid Justice Center
Mariposa Legal, program of COMMON Foundation
Minnesota Freedom Fund
National Council of Jewish Women
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project (NIPNLG)
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Next 100
New Mexico Immigrant Law Center
Oasis Legal Services
Quixote Center
La Raza Community Resource Center
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southern Border Communities Coalition
Southern Poverty Law Center
Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice
Tahirih Justice Center
UndocuBlack Network
United We Dream
Washington Office on Latin America
Western States Center
Witness at the Border
Women's Refugee Commission
Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights