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The US Is Making a Mockery of Its Asylum Obligations

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Luisa and her three-year-old son fled Honduras together to come to the United States to ask for asylum; now they have to choose between a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. After presenting at the US port of entry in El Paso, they were interviewed by US border officials and then turned around and told to wait back in Juárez, Mexico, as their case proceeded, without them, in the US. They found temporary space at a shelter, but when Luisa returned to El Paso for a preliminary hearing, she and her son lost their space in their shelter and were forced to make-do on the streets. Since then, Luisa has been occasionally able to pool enough money, along with a group of other women with young children, to pay for a night in a hotel, but sometimes that means there’s not enough to eat. “I prefer to have a roof over our heads than to wander the streets,” Luisa says. But now her money is running out, and her options are dwindling.

Luisa’s plight is a direct result of the Migrant Protection Protocols—commonly referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy that the Trump administration first enacted in Tijuana in January and has since rolled out to other Mexican border cities. The protocols take the administration’s anti-asylum crackdown to a new level: returning mostly Central American asylum seekers to Mexican border towns as they await their US asylum cases. MPP is at best a deterrent mechanism, at worst an evisceration of international asylum obligations, and the administration is using it to try to convince Central American asylum seekers approaching the US-Mexico border that the journey, and now the long and dangerous wait in Mexico, isn’t worth it. Forcing migrants to hang tight as their cases slog through the morass of US immigration courts in notoriously dangerous Mexican border towns—without sufficient services, and where they fall prey to extortion, kidnapping, rape and murder—does the opposite of protect migrants. According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, “We Can’t Help You Here,” MPP seems designed to strip asylum seekers of almost all protections and put them directly into harm’s way.

Since the initial implementation of MPP in January, according to the Mexican government, over 15,000 people have been returned to Mexico, including nearly 5,000 children. The US has also cold-shouldered thirteen pregnant women and dozens of other especially vulnerable individuals. After Trump threatened to impose steep tariffs on Mexican exports to the US, and Mexico agreed to expand their own migrant interdiction efforts, Mexican officials estimated that they expect the number of people returned to the country through MPP to reach 60,000 by August. The MPP program, at least initially, was unilateral and implemented without Mexico’s agreement, with Mexico only accepting returned asylum seekers “for humanitarian reasons,” as one Mexican official, not authorized to talk to the press, told me.

DHS’s own justification for the policy comes from a back-corner provision of asylum law that permits US officials to return migrants to contiguous territory while their claim for legal status in the US is either granted or denied. A lawsuit from the Innovation Law Lab disputes the idea that asylum seekers fall into that category of migrants—those who can be provisionally expulsed. Another aspect of the legal challenge contends that the policy makes it exceedingly difficult for asylum seekers returned to Mexico to find US lawyers while across the border. A new DHS plan to conduct video hearings in tents along the border is in the works, but the solution presents its own problems, and the Department of Justice—which runs asylum hearings—has a troubled record of introducing new technologies, and has done a miserable job of running video teleconference hearings in the past.

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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !