WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
17 Nov 2017 | Commentary

Update on WOLA’s Beyond the Wall Campaign

WOLA launched the Beyond the Wall Campaign in June 2017, in response to the most challenging climate for human rights in decades. Thanks to generous support from our community, we’ve taken on this administration, pushing hard to defend human rights throughout the Americas.

Just over a year since the anniversary of President Trump’s election, WOLA is looking back on what we’ve accomplished, where we stand, and what’s to come.

Here is what WOLA has been able to accomplish through the Beyond the Wall Campaign so far:

On Capitol Hill

  • WOLA experts ramped up advocacy on the Hill, holding over 50 border and migration-related meetings in Congress this year to provide facts and analysis to key policymakers. WOLA also led conversations with Members representing border districts who have authored alternative border policy bills, and drafted talking points and materials for congressional offices.
  • Senior Associate Adriana Beltrán testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations on U.S. assistance to Central America, highlighting the importance of strengthening the rule of law and tackling corruption to break cycles of violence and impunity which drive migration.
  • Thanks in part to WOLA’s advocacy, both the Senate and the House reversed most of the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to Latin America assistance. Both houses proposed US$600 million or more in assistance to Central America, with human rights conditions in place—far more than the Trump administration’s proposed US$468 million.
  • WOLA’s advocacy strengthened congressional opposition to financing Trump’s border wall, and no wall-building funds were included in the FY17 budget. As FY18 budget proposals move forward in Congress, WOLA will continue to push against funding for the wall.

In the Press

  • WOLA was referenced or quoted in over 130 news articles on migration, including top-tier publications such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press. Leveraging this platform, WOLA dispelled rampant misconceptions about border security and migration with facts and careful analysis.
  • Senior Associate Maureen Meyer provided analysis and background information to The Washington Post’s Josh Paltrow for a critical story highlighting asylum seekers being turned away illegally at the border.
  • Senior Associate Adam Isacson pushed back against the argument that a border wall and strict immigration controls would help alleviate the domestic opioid crisis, setting the record straight on drug flows—including the fact that most opioids get smuggled in at official ports of entry.
  • WOLA released over 30 public statements, press releases, and commentaries about border security and migration since June.

For Advocates

  • WOLA developed a first-of-its-kind interactive “explainer that tracks each legislative move on immigration, as a reference for human rights advocates.
  • Pushing beyond condemnation of inhumane proposals, WOLA proposed real policy alternatives for immigration and border issues.
  • WOLA released reports on Access to Justice for Migrants in Mexico, and Mexico’s Southern Border, as well as a resource guide on reporting crimes committed against migrants in Mexico from abroad. These reports and materials provide deep, evidence-based analysis missing from the U.S. border security debate.
  • WOLA published several pieces that critiqued the “immigrants are a threat to our security” rhetoric that the President and the Attorney General have been promoting. In particular, WOLA staff gave advocates the evidence to push back against the idea that recently arrived migrant children from Central America drive MS-13 gang activity in the U.S.

What’s Next

The Beyond the Wall Campaign is a bulwark against some of the worst policy proposals coming out of President Trump’s White House. On October 8, the Trump administration released a wish list of cruel, draconian immigration and border security priorities as conditions for a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This is a brazen attempt to use the lives of ‘Dreamers’ as bargaining chips to push his anti-immigrant agenda through Congress. If this wish list is turned into legislation, Central American children fleeing violence will be forced to make their case for protection before Border Patrol agents, not an immigration judge, and an expanded and emboldened Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would become a massive deportation force to target immigrant families across the country.

We won’t let that happen. WOLA will continue fighting to block President Trump’s agenda, and ensure that rights-respecting, common-sense approaches are adopted instead.

To learn more about the Beyond the Wall Campaign, and how you can get involved, click here.