Delivered to Danger: Illegal Remain in Mexico Policy Imperils Asylum Seekers’ Lives and Denies Due Process
In July 2019, the Trump Administration vastly expanded its “Remain in Mexico” policy – farcically named the “Migrant Protection Protocols.” Since January 2019, it has used this policy to expel over 28,000 asylum seekers and other migrants to Mexico. An estimated additional 18,000 asylum seekers are stranded in Mexico due to “metering”—the illegal policy of turning back asylum applicants at ports of entry. Forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico puts them in grave danger, makes a mockery of due process protections in U.S. immigration courts, and creates disorder at the border.
Better termed the Migrant Persecution Protocols (MPP), this policy is among the most harmful in a series of illegal moves by the administration (including turn-backs, a third-country transit asylum ban, and an asylum-seeker transfer agreement with Guatemala) to ban, block, and deter refugees from seeking protection. MPP violates legal prohibitions in U.S. law and international obligations on returning refugees to persecution, and blatantly flouts the asylum laws Congress adopted for refugees seeking protection at the border.
This report is based on interviews with dozens of asylum seekers stranded in Mexico, communications with attorneys, local advocates, and Mexican government officials, observations of immigration court hearings for more than 170 returned asylum seekers, and media accounts. U.S. government officials failed to respond to meeting requests from Human Rights First. After initial research at the U.S.-Mexico border in January and early February 2019, when MPP was first implemented, Human Rights First’s legal teams returned in June and July 2019 to observe MPP hearings in the San Diego and El Paso Immigration Courts and interview asylum seekers returned to the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Mexicali in Baja California and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.