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August 26, 2019

Complaint to the Office of the Inspector General Concerning Rape, Kidnapping, Assault, and Other Attacks on Asylum Seekers and Migrants Returned to Mexico

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August 26, 2019

VIA ELECTRONIC AND CERTIFIED MAIL

TO:

Joseph Cuffari, Inspector General U.S. Department of Homeland Security 

Cameron Quinn, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties U.S. Department of Homeland Security 

CC: Kevin K. McAleenan, Acting Secretary c/o Office of the General Counsel U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Mark A. Morgan, Acting Commissioner U.S. Customs and Border Protection 

Re: Rape, Kidnapping, Assault and Other Attacks on Asylum Seekers and Migrants Returned to Mexico Under the “Migrant Protection Protocols”; Returns of Other Vulnerable Individuals

Dear Ms. Quinn and Mr. Cuffari:

Human Rights First submits this complaint regarding the illegal mass expulsion of asylum seekers and migrants by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) to Mexico where they have been targeted in violent attacks and the return of vulnerable individuals in violation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) own policies. As of August 18, 2019, DHS has expelled more than 35,000 individuals to Mexico under the Remain in Mexico policy, referred to by the administration as the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (“MPP”). These returns violate fundamental guarantees under U.S. law and treaty obligations to prevent the refoulement (return) of individuals to persecution or torture. 

To date, there are at least 141 publicly reported cases of rape, kidnapping, sexual exploitation, violent assault, and targeting by persecutors, of individuals returned to Mexico. These attacks include: a Honduran asylum seeker from the Garifuna minority group who was kidnapped by Mexican police and sexually assaulted, two Cuban asylum seekers kidnapped together and repeatedly raped, a Honduran asylum seeker held in sexual slavery for months after being returned to Mexico under MPP, among many others. In addition, vulnerable individuals, including children with serious medical conditions, pregnant women, LGBTQ persons, people with physical disabilities, and those with limited mental capacity, have also been returned to Mexico by CBP despite published DHS policies and public assurances allegedly restricting the return of such individuals. These attacks and improper returns are likely just the tip of the iceberg, as the vast majority of the more than 35,000 returned individuals have not spoken to human rights researchers or journalists.

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