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The House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations has announced that it will hold a hearing on Tuesday, November 19, to examine the “human rights and legal implications of the Trump administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.” For months, human rights advocates and media reports have been documenting and calling out multiple human rights and legal violations of “Remain in Mexico,” and just yesterday Buzzfeed obtained an internal DHS document that confirms many of these concerns.
The former Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, announced the “Remain in Mexico” policy, officially known as MPP, that has resulted in over 50,000 credible asylum seekers being sent back to Mexico to await the asylum review process that could take months. Never mind that Mexico was and remains unable to care for and protect thousands of vulnerable families in need. The Remain in Mexico policy was fully implemented under Nielsen and her successor, Kevin McAleenan, who implemented “Remain in Mexico” both as Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and later as Acting DHS Secretary.
Now, Buzzfeed reports, “a group of senior DHS officials not involved with MPP and organized by recently departed acting secretary Kevin McAleenan to review the implementation of the program made a number of recommendations that suggest significant issues created by the program at the border.” On his way out the door, “the former acting secretary called on DHS sub-agencies to deliver a plan within a month to address the recommendations and three months to implement the changes.”
The recommendations in the internal DHS memo, according to Buzzfeed,
call on agencies within DHS, including CBP, to provide immigration court hearing notices in multiple languages, improve language access for immigrants and ensure that they understand the “questions asked and can make informed decisions,” standardize procedures for screening vulnerable populations like children and the disabled, and clarify the role of CBP officers in the process.
As a former DHS official told Buzzfeed, “Some of these recommendations are phrased mildly but suggest they found serious problems that need to be remedied.” These are all problems clearly highlighted by multiple media and human rights reports as serious human rights and legal violations.
Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said:
Former Acting Secretary McAleenan, together with former Secretary Nielsen, created and implemented a policy that most human rights and immigration advocates predicted would result in serious human rights and legal violations. Sure enough, those predictions proved true in multiple media and human rights advocacy reports and now with this internal DHS report obtained by Buzzfeed. This new internal DHS report and the resulting action memo by former Acting Secretary McAleenan just before his departure clearly suggests McAleenan created a human rights and legal mess and then walked out the door demanding that officials he left behind swiftly clean up the mess he made.
David Leopold, Counsel to DHS Watch, Chair of Immigration at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said:
Trump’s so-called ‘Wait in Mexico’ scheme is a dangerous, chaotic mess which subjects asylum seekers to life threatening danger and robs them of the statutory right to apply and be fairly considered for asylum as required under U.S. law. Now we know that DHS officials themselves recognize that MPP is fraught with serious problems, directly impacting the safety and rights of asylum seekers who’ve been forced by the Trump administration to remain in Mexico despite U.S. law. The DHS internal report is damning, requiring Congress’s immediate oversight and intervention.