A group of 113 House Democrats is calling on the Trump administration to terminate its inhumane and illegal Remain in Mexico policy, saying in a statement, “This policy has led to multiple human and civil rights violations at our border, while also causing the mass suffering of tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers. In the year since its implementation, at least 816 migrants have been assaulted, raped, or murdered while waiting under ‘Remain in Mexico.’”
“In the span of just one year, ‘Remain in Mexico’ has inflicted irreparable harm to nearly 60,000 asylum seekers,” the letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, which has been endorsed by over 40 organizations, states. “The Trump administration has forced the United States to turn its back on our international legal obligations damaging our status as the global leader on refugee protection. We call on the Trump administration to immediately terminate this harmful policy.”
The instances of violence cited in the letter come from a report by Human Rights First, which confirmed that the U.S. is not just violating law by returning asylum-seekers to danger to wait for their U.S. court dates, but also aiding cartels and thugs, who have targeted families for extortion. “Asylum seekers returned to Mexico are targeted for kidnapping and assault in shelters,” the report said, “in taxis and buses, on the streets while looking for food, work, and shelter, on their way to and from U.S. immigration court, and even while seeking help from Mexican police and migration officers.” The policy, legislators say, has been both a humanitarian and a due process disaster.
“Only 4 percent of those subject to ‘Remain in Mexico’ have been able to find legal counsel,” the legislators say. “Families, children, and others are living in makeshift encampments, often without adequate access to water, food, medical care, and proper sanitation. Furthermore, in alleged violation of CBP’s own policy, we understand that other vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals, and those with severe illnesses, have also been forced to wait in these conditions. For LGBTQ asylum seekers, this policy forces them to remain exposed to the very abuse and persecution they are seeking protection from in the U.S.”
The legislators noted visits that many of the letter’s signatories have made to one Mexican border camp where more than 2,000 of these families are living. Blocked from the U.S., many have had to depend on the humanitarian efforts of groups such as World Central Kitchen for basic dignity. These visits, legislators said, “have confirmed that many human rights violations are occurring at the border as a result of ‘Remain in Mexico.’” In just one example, legislators had to force U.S. border officials to allow a child with a heart defect and Down syndrome to pass through even though she’s supposed to be exempt from the Remain in Mexico policy.
”It took members of Congress, those of us who stayed behind, to stand there and say, this person needs to be seen. This child needs to be seen,” Rep. Nanette Barragán said. The child, a 6-year-old Central American girl, was allowed through to the U.S. only after persistence from legislators and advocates. “We had a good resolution today,” Barragán said, “but it shouldn’t take five members of Congress to stay behind, to advocate.” Remain in Mexico must end, the legislators, along with groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Human Rights First, Physicians for Human Rights, and United We Dream, tell Wolf: “‘Remain in Mexico’ repeatedly jeopardizes the physical safety and emotional well-being vulnerable populations sought to escape from in the first place. This program undoubtedly causes further harm and inflicts unnecessary trauma on these populations. The Trump administration must immediately terminate this cruel and illegal policy, provide all asylum seekers with meaningful access to a fair asylum process in the U.S., and restore the U.S. commitment to be a safe haven for refugees.”