By Isabel Vasquez, Student Assistant.
The Center for Human Rights and International Justice and the Center for Latin American Studies recently hosted immigrant rights advocate Casey Miller for an engaging discussion of what she terms “the war on asylum” at the US’s southern border. In a presentation that left audience members asking—What can we do to help?—Miller discussed the tactics the Trump administration has deployed to prevent Central Americans from exercising their legal right to seek asylum.
Since 2016, Miller has been fighting for migrant rights in any way she can—as a legal assistant, organizer, and advocate. Previously a dietician, she believes the foundation of her work to be the same: building relationships based on trust. She came to Stanford to share those relationships with the audience, hoping to humanize news coverage of the administration’s immigration policies and further focus attention on the human rights violations occurring at the border.
Sharing stories of family separation, Miller told of fathers who were tricked into signing deportation papers in English that they were led to believe were family reunification papers. She said such tactics—as well as the administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy—were designed to create chaos and to “break people down” to the point of demoralization.
Though acknowledging that the scope of the battle to protect these asylum seekers can appear overwhelming, Miller advised the audience that we have to be patient and “remember who we are fighting for.” Through stories, she spoke of the strength and resilience of people she has met in the course of her work, asking the audience: “If they can keep fighting, how can we not do the same?”
This past summer, Miller helped coordinate the visit of 28 Stanford students to a family detention center in South Texas, where the students provided Spanish language legal assistance to asylum seekers. The visit was made possible through an innovative pair of community-engaged learning courses, SPANLANG 108SL and HUMRTS 108, which are be offered again this fall and winter.