WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
22 Sep 2020 | Press Release

WOLA Human Rights Awards Honor Leaders in Protecting Migrants and Asylum Rights

U.S. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Mexico’s Fray Matías de Córdova Human Rights Center receive 2020 Awards

Washington, D.C.—On Tuesday, September 22, 2020, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) will present its prestigious Human Rights Awards to two recipients who have worked relentlessly to protect the dignity of migrants and asylum seekers at a time when there are monumental threats to human rights in the Americas. 

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-TX) is honored for her leadership in fighting to restore the rights of migrants and asylum seekers who face treatment at the U.S. border that is anything but humane and dignified.  

The Fray Matías de Córdova Human Rights Center in Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico is honored for their commitment to supporting and defending the rights of migrants, asylum applicants, refugees and their families on the Mexico-Guatemala border.

“Our honorees this year fight for people who are fleeing perilous conditions at home only to be met by cruel policies at the border,” said WOLA’s president Geoff Thale. “We are proud to stand with these courageous advocates who know from deep personal experience that borders should not be barriers to human rights.”

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who represents the border city of El Paso, is a long-time advocate for human rights at the U.S.-Mexico border. She led protests against the policy of family separation and is a strong opponent of efforts to build a border wall. She passed legislation for greater oversight of border enforcement agencies. She also introduced legislation challenging the “Remain in Mexico” policy that has forced thousands of asylum seekers to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexican border towns for their U.S. immigration hearings. In her first term in Congress, Congresswoman Escobar has become a powerful national voice countering the demonization of immigrants. 

“Our nation is in the middle of a contentious debate on the border and immigration policy, policy that has directly affected my district in El Paso, Texas,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “Rather than divide, we must unite our communities behind a vision of humanity and hope on our border. I would like to thank the Washington Office on Latin America for recognizing me with this award. We must continue to stand up for and protect our asylum system, fight for compassion within our immigration system and show good will to those in need.”

The Fray Matías de Córdova Human Rights Center’s advocacy over the past two decades along the Mexico-Guatemala border has included exposing conditions in Mexico’s largest migrant detention center and supporting policies to protect migrants and asylum seekers. The Center’s advocacy work and legal services are especially critical given recent record levels of asylum applications in Mexico, continuing reports of inhumane conditions in Mexico’s migrant detention centers, and the problematic deployment of Mexico’s National Guard to its southern border. 

“This recognition from WOLA helps us continue to denounce the cruel reality provoked by migration and asylum policies that oppose the life and dignity of all. These policies cannot be sustained any longer. We call on all civil society and on citizens to keep building a collective effort that’s ever more united, and to together claim a radical change in the social policies of the governments of the United States, Mexico, and across the region,” said Brenda E. Ochoa Ortiz, Director of Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova. 

At a time of global pandemic, draconian migration policies have transformed the human rights crisis at the border into a deadly humanitarian catastrophe. WOLA’s Beyond the Wall Campaign continues to expose the horrendous conditions faced by migrants and proposes alternatives for policies throughout the region. 

WOLA’s Human Rights Awards have been given annually since 2006 and recognize organizations or individuals who exemplify a commitment to WOLA’s vision of the future, where human rights and social justice are the foundation for public policy.  

This year’s WOLA Human Rights Awards and Benefit Gala is being held online.

Previous honorees include U.S Congresswoman Norma Torres, former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, the independent Venezuelan journalism site, Efecto Cocuyo, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, Commissioner Iván Velásquez Gómez of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), U.S. Congressman James P. McGovern, and Salvadoran online newspaper El Faro. To learn more about this year’s event and sign up to participate, click here.