By Cameron Hines

On Saturday, December 1st in the Junior Common Room, the St. John’s Santa Fe student chapter of Amnesty International held a panel on refugee rights with attorney Wesley Brockway from the legal nonprofit Santa Fe Dreamers project and community organizer Miraj Bukhari of the Santa Fe Refugee Collaborative. Mayor Allen Webber attended the session but declined an invitation to participate. He thought it would be more valuable to listen to and learn from the other panelists. Nani Detti, chair of Amnesty International at St. John’s, moderated.

 

The panel drove home to me how physically immediate these issues are to our community. “New Mexico has a contracted ICE detention center in Grants, New Mexico, about eighty miles west of Albuquerque,” Brockway, who works primarily on pro-bono asylum cases in a detention center context, told us, in which legal asylum seekers are held in the same conditions as federal criminals. Human rights violations are not just happening in the news. They are happening in our figurative backyard. “If they had any wish, it would be to go back home,” said Bukhari of the women and children asylum seekers and migrants she works with directly, “It’s devastating. Take a look at them and what they have left behind. They really have nothing except for their choice to move forward.”

 

These issues are also have a place of importance directly within our community. While they are not posed with such a threat of immediate danger as asylum seekers, international students struggle with the inefficient, bureaucratic, sometimes seemingly impossible, system of obtaining student visas. One student who I will leave anonymous here had her student visa lost by USPS, and went unable to work or to go home for months.

 

“Because of how politicized these issues are today, we lose sight of the fact that they’re human-rights issues,” said Detti. But there is hope in this aspect. Here was a small group of people educating themselves on current events, asking questions, and learning what can be done to help migrants and refugees into the United States fulfill their legal and human right to seek asylum in the United States. Bukhari and Brockway encouraged us to financially support local organizations like their own that are doing the work on the ground to get these asylum seekers their rights, as well as making us aware of opportunities to sponsor them or volunteer in other ways.

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