“The Department of Homeland Security is rightly taking steps to end this fatally flawed policy,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “From its inception, Remain in Mexico has inflicted suffering on people seeking asylum, impeded legal representation, and wasted government resources. This humanitarian fiasco should be ended as quickly as possible. Any attempt to force the continuation of this failed policy must be rejected for what it is: irresponsible political theater that endangers the lives of people seeking refuge.”
While the administration said there will be no new Remain in Mexico enrollees, and that asylum-seekers currently in the program “will be disenrolled when they return for their next scheduled court date,” the policy has not been terminated outright as of yet. When that happens, it’ll be the administration’s third attempt. But numerous groups warned in their statements that GOP attempts to continue the policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), were not yet over.
”Even after a resounding loss at the Supreme Court, the states of Texas and Missouri have redoubled their attempts to preserve Remain in Mexico, filing an amended complaint challenging the second DHS memo terminating the policy on Monday night,” the Welcome With Dignity campaign said. "But we will not be deterred,” responded Justice Action Center director Karen Tumlin, stating that “advocates will continue to fight back against ongoing red state efforts to continue Trump’s racist and xenophobic agenda and work towards a world where all people fleeing danger can be safe, not stranded.”
At least 70,000 vulnerable people were sent to Mexico to wait for their U.S. immigration court dates under the previous administration’s iteration of the program. Human rights advocates tracked hundreds of instances of violence against asylum-seekers during the policy’s first year.
“Asylum seekers returned to Mexico are targeted for kidnapping and assault in shelters,” Human Rights First 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. Asylum seekers who have moved to other parts of Mexico in an attempt to find safer places to wait for their MPP hearings have been targeted by kidnappers while in transit, at bus stations, and at airports, when returning to border cities for their hearings.” The Biden administration acknowledged these risks, both in internal documents and the second memo again attempting to terminate the policy last October.
Asylum-seekers currently waiting in Mexico expressed their continued fear for their safety, noting that danger continued to follow them even after leaving their home countries. “We live with this daily fear of leaving the shelter that something will happen to us,” a Venezuelan asylum-seeker told NBC News from Juárez. He said he feared “[b]eing killed in the streets.”
Just weeks ago, advocates and community members held funerals for two Haitian asylum-seekers who died in Tijuana. Calory Archange died from inadequate medical care. Jocelyn Anselme was murdered. “Every month, someone else dies,” asylum-seeker Elie told The San Diego Union-Tribune in June. “They’ve kidnapped many people, as well.” Many say they will venture out only in groups.
“We urge the Biden administration to move as quickly as possible to readmit all those who were sent to Mexico under both the reinstated Remain in Mexico program and the original program,” Kate Melloy Goettel, legal director of litigation at the American Immigration Council, said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “Thousands of people are still waiting in Mexico for a fair shot at seeking asylum. Every day that we wait to bring them back is another day in which their lives and safety remain at risk. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to ensure that the renewed wind-down process runs smoothly and that no one falls through the cracks.”
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