Header Ads

Breaking News

Gahanna man inspired to help immigrants at the border - News - The Columbus Dispatch


Tom Cartwright, of Gahanna, has been traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border for more than a year to help migrants seeking safety and asylum for their families.

When Tom Cartwright retired from his executive position at JP Morgan Chase four years ago, he wanted to do something to give back.

Since that day, the now 66-year-old Gahanna resident has helped refugees in Greece, lobbied lawmakers on Capitol Hill and is currently at the U.S.-Mexico border helping immigrants who wish to seek asylum in the United States.

On Thursday night, Cartwright worked with doctors and lawyers to help families who were made to remain in Mexico cross the border and file for asylum in the United States.

He’s been visiting Brownsville, on the western Gulf Coast in South Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, just across the border from Brownsville, as a volunteer with an immigrant rights organization called Witness at the Border since late 2018.

“We all just felt like there were horrific, unjust things really starting to crop up in the immigration space,” Cartwright said. “We felt (the border) was a microcosm of all the things going wrong in the country. I felt the need to be involved.”

A controversial Department of Homeland Security policy that began in January 2019, called Migrant Protection Protocols, which is also known as “Remain in Mexico” is one of those unjust things, Cartwright said.

The policy states that migrants who travel through Mexico to seek asylum from danger in their home countries must stay in Mexico while they go through legal proceedings to be allowed into the United States. Most are from Central America.

The Trump administration said they created the rule to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the border and end the “exploitation” of the country’s immigration laws.

Under another rule introduced by Trump in July 2019, migrants must apply for and be denied asylum in the first safe country they arrive in on their way to the United States — such as Mexico — before applying for protections here.

Before those new policies, people who feared living in their home country could enter the U.S. at the southern border with Mexico seeking asylum. They would be paroled into the country and then could apply for asylum once inside.

As of October, Homeland Security said that it had returned more than 55,000 people to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols.

There are about 2,500 people, many of them children, living in the makeshift migrant camps right across the U.S. border in Matamoros, Cartwright said.

Many Americans don’t realize what’s going on at the border, but Cartwright wants them to know.

In order to open people’s eyes, Cartwright said he writes online reports from the border.

Cartwright also uses what he learns at the border, and the people he meets, to lobby in Washington for better policies and change to help people fleeing dangerous situations.

Meryl Neiman, who is a leader of the grassroots political activism group Indivisible Columbus District 3, said she thinks Cartwright’s work is driven by the injustice he’s seen.

“Tom is, I think, very drawn by the people, the humanity,” said Neiman. “And particularly driven to address the issues where you can really see the negative impact of Trump policies on people’s lives.”

When he visits lawmakers in Washington, D.C., Cartwright said he shows “pictures and tells stories about why people are really here,” he said.

Cartwright mentioned a family he met that was threatened by gangs in their home country of Guatemala. He said they told him that if they didn’t pay gang members from the meager profits of their small business, the gang would kill their young son.

“They’re not just idle threats,” he said. “People are fleeing. They’re so desperate because asylum is so hard to get now.”

Cartwright has seen parents send their children, who are exempt from the Remain in Mexico policy, to cross the border without them, in hopes they will get to safety.

Joshua Rubin, the founder of Witness at the Border, said he relies on Cartwright’s spirit and judgment.

“Tom is intrepid and has been a great ally in the whole movement,” Rubin said. “He’s a good man; he’s a person who cares about people … His energy inspires me.”

dking@dispatch.com

@DanaeKing

Source link

No comments