Thursday, May 27, 2021

Open Letter to Biden from Border Communities

 An Open Letter from Border Communities

Executive Summary

The announcement of the no-bid contract being awarded to Endeavors, Inc. to provide short-term temporary shelter was a shocking surprise to Arizona border communities, particularly to those community organizations providing shelter and supporting asylum seekers released from temporary and long-term detention for the past ten years.  This decision not only shows a lack of transparency and blatant disregard for the well supported and ongoing community work for asylum seekers,but undercuts those efforts in favor of a model that perpetuates the militarization and criminalization of asylum seekers and their families. Not only is this approach in opposition to the promises made by the Biden Administration prior to the elections, but it indicates disregard for the rights of all asylum seekers seeking legal due process at the SW border and an astounding lack of understanding and awareness of the community support networks created by receiving border communities.

The issues facing asylum seekers at the US SW Border are not new, nor did they arise only under the last Administration. Current U.S. short-term border detention policies perpetuate inequitable treatment and blatantly violate international standards of human rights. These policies continue to place asylum seekers and refugees in vulnerable situations, often without a clear process for obtaining relief in a timely and reasonable amount of time. 

Issues raised in this briefing paper,  published as an open letter to the nation and internationally, which seeks transparency and the reassertion of human rights standards can be distilled into a few main areas:

  • Issues with temporary and long-term detention - which include language rights, Indigenous asylum seekers, separation of families, psychological and traumatic effects of prolonged short and long-term detention, inadequate medical attention, inadequate food, confiscation of documents, due process and rights of asylum seekers, and the deaths of Indigenous children and youth that have died at a disproportionate rate in US/CBP/BP custody.

  • Lack of transparency and community involvement - including several specific concerns about Family Endeavors, Inc., an organization that was unknown to local and border communities prior to their being awarded $86 million dollars for a 6.5-month contract.

  • Concerns about the Contract itself - including the lack of consultation with the communities in which these “hotels” will be located and the irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars for a no-bid contract for $86 million dollars for a 6.5 month contract with Family Endeavors, Inc. to provide housing to only 1,239 individuals. 

  • Additional concerns that include safety and transparency concerns, accountability questions/concerns about oversight, training and transparency, clarity about the legal status of individuals being housed, transparency in Funding, and most importantly, the lack of community involvement

Local Arizona communities for over a decade  come together to address the temporary needs of asylum seekers who have been released from DHS custody. They have served as established shelters and spaces that offer temporary housing, food, medical attention, clothing, assistance with travel arrangements to safely get to the homes of their sponsors, language identification and interpretation, and trauma/psycho-social support when needed. Sponsors, who are often relatives of the asylum seeker, have taken responsibility for asylum seekers. They are responsible for housing, feeding and ensuring that all appointed court appointments are attended. This support has continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, providing COVID testing and when needed, quarantine, plus  follow-up medical attention when needed. 

Given the concerns detailed above and the strong network of existing community organizations, we submit the following demands:

Our Demands 


  1. We demand that the Biden Administration Immediately halt the contract established with Family Endeavors, Inc.

  2. We demand full disclosure of the contract with Family Endeavors, Inc. and all related agencies party to the contract under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security (BP, CBP, ICE, USCIS, FEMA, etc.) including a full description of the duties and role of each related agency

  3. We demand that ICE make public any contracting documents that state services contracted for emergency family relief shelters, and all  expectations, requirements, and performance metrics.  required. 

  4. We demand that any contracted shelter implement robust protocols to ensure basic human rights and human needs are fulfilled including for vulnerable populations of Indigenous language speakers, unaccompanied children, women, and LGBTQ immigrants. 

  5. We demand transparency to the public about the process of selecting Family Endeavors, Inc. for the fulfillment of this identified need. 

Asylum and Due Process

  1. We demand a comprehensive, transparent and public process be in place to ensure that all asylum-seekers and/or refugee community members are adequately cared for and served as per the UN 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol internationally acceptable standards in all DHS administered or contracted facilities.   

  2. We demand lawyers have unfettered access to all individuals who are detained in contracted facilities.

  3. We demand that the Biden administration end the enforcement of Title 42 and honor our obligations under international human rights laws and federal regulations that require immigration officials to protect against refoulement by properly processing noncitizens seeking asylum in the U.S. or asserting a fear of return. By law, asylum seekers who have entered the U.S. or arrived at any U.S. port-of-entry must be provided with due process and meaningful opportunities to assert their fears and claims to asylum officers as required by regulation. The fundamental right to life of these asylum seekers cannot be ignored, deferred, or overridden. Disallowing Central American and Mexican asylum seekers at the  Arizona border currently while allowing positive asylum applications for Venezuelans, Cubans,  and Brazilians, appears to be using the asylum system for foreigh policy ends.  There is no exception for avoiding our obligations under binding law and regulations. 

Rights of Indigeneous Peoples

  1. We demand U.S. immigration officials cease and desist from practices and patterns of infringements on the rights of Indigenous migrants. Indigenous migrants do not cede their rights to sovereignty and self-determination protected by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP 2007), and fully implement Executive Order 13166 with full funding to ensure language justice. 

  2. U.S. immigration officials must consult with Indigenous migrants and leadership, and adopt policies and procedures that observe the unique rights and claims of Indigenous migrants under UN DRIP 2007, and train for,  and require all immmigration officials observe, special procedures to protect the unique rights of Indigneous migrants, including reunification of Indigenous children with family members or sponsors willing to provide humanitarian aid.

Local Community Consultation for Provision of Shelter

  1. We remember the 287-G contracts started under the George W. Bush Administration, and then  extended under the Obama Administration that targeted immigrant communities in the border zone and reject any attempt to reinstate them.   

  2. We demand consultation with local receiving communities which have been doing the work and have already created an alternative to the further militarization of (im)migrant communities.

  3. We demand our tax dollars as a part of federal  funding be allotted to support and ensure that existing community networks are able to continue our work in a community model that departs from the existing framework of border militarization and mass detention. We demand a process that truly supports and promotes healing for the vulnerable (im)migrant and asylum-seeking individuals and families who have sought the refuge our policies deny but claim to ensure.


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