tags: AVES Blog

Fleeing despair and arriving at the border of rejection

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The conclusion was inevitable: the damage done to thousands of human beings by the program Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), is irreversible. Announced on the 24th of January last year by then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, it was predicted that said anti-immigrant policy, so irresponsibly created, would set off a series of humiliations to human dignity, as well as put the lives of thousands of asylum-seekers in danger.

The first humiliation that even today, exactly one year later, caused an uproar was the unilateral decision to send migrants waiting for a response to Mexican territory, whose authorities not only failed to refuse to take them, but actually accepted them without regard. From any perspective this should have been considered an imposition by the White House, which tends to consider its southern neighbor to be the United States’ backyard.

Little by little, the testimonies of the families who were sent to various border cities in Mexico went from surprising to sad, from disappointment to disillusion, and from impatience to despair.

And in the middle of all that, they were living outdoors, without sufficient humanitarian assistance, suffering from preventable illnesses, especially children, and above all at the mercy of local organized crime groups who saw a gold mine in the ever-growing group of people in search of refuge.

They already arrived tired, insulted, battered, hungry, thirsty, and dirty as part of the caravans that had made their way so publicly through Central American and Mexican lands. And even when the other policy of “Zero Tolerance” had already wreaked havoc on other families separated from their children —a cruel governmental anomaly that continues to harm parents who have not been able to reunite with their little ones for over two years— the true intentions of MPP threw yet another boulder on the backs of those who had looked for a way to create better living conditions for their children, like millions of others in U.S. history had done before them.

This form of cheating migrants with MPP has been so gross and evident that its numerical results speak for themselves: of the almost 50,000 asylum requests received before September 2019, only 1% have been approved. Meanwhile, the number of applicants continued to grow to almost 60,000.

Added to that, as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) adviser Leidy Pérez-Davis said to Agencia EFE some days ago, “MPP has made it almost impossible to bring adequate legal assistance to asylum applicants subjected to the program.”

But the most distressing contrast is contained in the report by Human Rights First (HRF), given that one of the drivers of this type of migration exodus is that people are fleeing from violence in the region: there have been more than 800 publicly reported cases of kidnapping, rape, torture, assault, and other types of violent attacks against asylum-seekers who are returned to Mexico. Among those cases, more than 200 kidnappings or attempted kidnappings were of children.

But HRF clarifies that those numbers may be just the tip of the iceberg of this humanitarian crisis on the U.S./Mexico border, since the vast majority of people returned were not interviewed, either by investigators or by journalists. Overwhelmed, vilified, offended, they went back to their countries with an accumulation of aggressions that will be difficult for them to overcome, psychologically, throughout the course of their lives.

In effect, MPP has been a total failure in the human terrain that calls into question the image of a country that had fought for civil rights at some point in its not so distant past, but that has become the seat of a government that certainly considers this immigration policy that has made thousands of migrants inexplicably suffer, from the perspective of xenophobia, discrimination, and racism, a success. It could be said, then, that based on its results, the Migrant Protection Protocols program is anything but a “protector of migrants.”

It seems that, for the moment, all roads to the once promised land and its liberties are closed to those who are fleeing despair.

To read this article in Spanish, click here.