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The Growing Consequences of “Remain in Mexico” – Just One Element of Trump’s Human Rights Crisis

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Mexico Shares the Shame with US

We are in the midst of a full-blown human rights crisis created and worsened by the Trump administration’s actions and neglect. Take just one of the many cruel policies enacted – the “Remain in Mexico” or “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy, which returns asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait on their asylum claims to move forward – a process that can take years.

According to Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “Just because the U.S. is outsourcing our cruel treatment of migrants to another country does not absolve us of moral responsibility for what is taking place. Remain in Mexico is just one component of the larger Trump agenda defined by its cruelty that is exacerbating the human rights crisis. Instead of stemming the crisis and providing immediate safety and shelter and seeking to enact long-term strategies that are both more humane and effective, the Trump team remains hellbent on more of the same cruelty. The Trump policies designed to create maximum cruelty, dehumanization and a deterrence-only approach are only serving to worsen the humanitarian and refugee crisis and inflict more pain and misery on people’s lives.”

See below for excerpts and examples of how the MPP policy – just one of a host of cruel and hardline policies being pursued by the administration – is endangering lives and worsening the human rights crisis:

Mike Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First, has a new and disturbing Twitter thread detailing what he has witnessed during an ongoing trip to El Paso and Juarez

The situation here is even worse than we’d thought … We’re not prone to lightly throwing around phrases like “humanitarian crisis,” or “human rights violation.” This is a growing humanitarian crisis. Human rights are clearly being violated. And there is no good reason why either should be the case …

… The human costs of this are as severe as they are long-term. What we heard from refugee families in Juarez was highly credible, heartfelt, detailed, and devastating. We met with families who had been detained for long periods in squalid camps under bridges and tents in the desert. We met with parents who had watched helplessly as their five year old collapsed due to dehydration in US custody — and been refused assistance until their child finally lost consciousness … We met with refugees who had been in a detention facility alongside a child who died, and were told not to cry about it or make too much noise, because ‘nothing important’ had happened … Before we left, I asked the families who is on their side here in Juarez. They answered, almost as one: ‘Only God.’

A powerful story on NPR’s “Morning Edition” explores the dangers facing asylum-seekers stuck waiting in the city of Juarez due to the “Remain in Mexico” policy. NPR’s Monica Ortiz Uribe reports: 

The US has shifted a significant portion of its burden over to Mexico, and if we’ve seen the U.S. inadequately prepared to handle the flow of migrants, Mexico is in even worse shape. There isn’t enough shelter space, families without any money or belongings are being released onto the streets with no guidance or protection. Access to American attorneys is practically a pipe dream and Juarez is a city largely under the control of organized crime, specifically drug cartels, numerous migrants report being kidnapped, robbed, assaulted, some have even been murdered.

…We don’t really know how CBP decides which migrants to send back to Mexico and which migrants to allow into the U.S. Lawyers and advocates who are familiar with the program say that the process is pretty much arbitrary. I’ve seen vulnerable people including pregnant women, transgender migrants and those with serious health conditions get sent back to Mexico. Families with strong asylum cases have also been sent back. I met one such family in Juarez. The family was threatened with death because one of them is a protected witness in a murder case.

NPR anchor Noel King adds:

…You know, I met people who’ve been dropped off literally in the streets at night with no place to stay. Yesterday I stumbled on a group of migrants who are living in the basement of a hotel. There’s one woman traveling with her 12 year old son. The two of them are sharing a twin mattress. So a lot of desperation here. 

Doctors Without Borders’ report finds “devastating humanitarian consequences” due to “Remain in Mexico” policy: 

A report from the humanitarian NGO Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders finds that refugees and asylum seekers forced to stay in the Northern Mexico city of Nuevo Laredo, “often fall prey to criminal groups in the city and are exposed to violence, including extortion, torture, rape and murder…The decisions that these administrations have taken to confront this crisis are having devastating humanitarian consequences. They increase the suffering of thousands of people fleeing their countries, and put lives at risk.” 

The report notes, “According to MSF patient data from January to May 2019, more than 45 percent of 378 patients treated by MSF in Nuevo Laredo have suffered at least one episode of violence in the city, as they waited to cross into the US. Of the 378 patients treated in MSF’s mental health programmes so far in 2019, 45 people (12 per cent) have been kidnapped—26 of them in the seven days prior to their mental health consultation.”

A Los Angeles Times article by Molly O’Toole and Carolyn Cole, “Facing Trump’s asylum limits, refugees from as far as Africa languish in a Mexican camp,” notes

Borderwide, about 15,000 migrants are believed to be waiting. Roughly 15,000 more have been returned to Mexico by U.S. officials under the administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy. They’re required to wait south of the border until their cases wind through American courts — a process that takes two years on average. 

… The metering policy, begun in Trump’s first year, when he boasted the lowest number of apprehensions at the border in nearly 50 years, has transformed even smaller Mexican border cities like this one into overcrowded, fetid refugee waiting rooms, pushing many toward the river …  In the camp’s two bathrooms, waste oozes out of the floor and sinks. Flies buzz around overflowing trash and unrefrigerated food. Temperatures are now often rising above 100 degrees. Worst of all, many say, are the mosquitoes.