US Human Rights Network Blog

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119 organizations wrote a letter urging Congress to #SaveAsylum and end the Remain in Mexico Program

Nov 27, 2019

This month, the USHRN endorsed and signed on to a letter to Congressional committees urging action to end the Remain in Mexico program. The letter was submitted via email to the five Congressional offices to whom the letter is addressed, and to the House of Representatives. View the letter here. 


The Remain in Mexico program violates U.S. asylum law and exposes asylum-seekers to kidnapping, illness, food insecurity, homelessness, assault, extortion, and threats to life.


Read an excerpt from the letter below:


“The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced Remain in Mexico in December of 2018 and implementation began in January of 2019. As of October 28, 2019, there are six cities along the U.S.–Mexico border where Remain in Mexico is in effect—San Ysidro, Calexico, El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo, and Brownsville. Remain in Mexico violates and evades U.S. asylum law and betrays the core values of asylum policy—to provide safety and due process to people seeking U.S. refugee protection.


For decades prior to implementation of the Remain in Mexico policy, asylum-seekers who arrived at the Southern U.S. border pursued their asylum claims from within the United States. Typically asylum-seekers were paroled into the U.S., placed into an alternatives-to-detention program, or detained within the U.S. while their case proceeded before the immigration courts (assuming they passed a Credible Fear Interview, for those individuals subject to expedited removal). Under Remain in Mexico, asylum-seekers are “made to wait in Mexico until an immigration judge resolves their asylum claims.” This “wait” can take many months. Despite the overwhelming and ever-present dangers targeting migrants in Northern Mexico, fewer than 1,000 of the over 55,000 migrants placed in the Remain in Mexico program have been allowed to stay in the United States while pursuing their cases. USCIS asylum officers attest that the fear- screening standard and procedures currently in place “virtually guarante[e] a violation” of international treaty obligations.


Migrants forced to remain in Mexico face violence and kidnappings as well as threats to life, health, and well-being. One study found that between 21% and 24% of migrants in the Remain in Mexico program report receiving threats of violence while in Mexico, and of those, over 50% report that the threats turned into actual violence, including beatings, robbery, and extortion. Journalistic accounts indicate that the actual rate of systematic violence faced by asylum-seekers is higher, especially in Northern Mexican cities along the Texas border where kidnappings are common. As the Administration is well aware, drug and criminal cartels operate with impunity in Northern Mexican cities including Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, and they have systematically targeted migrants. In addition, because cities in Northern Mexico long ago ran out of shelter space, thousands of migrants live in encampments on the streets, without regular access to food, potable water, or sanitation facilities. Despite the best efforts of faith-based and civic organizations, thousands of migrants are homeless and destitute, lacking access to necessary health care. The longer an asylum-seeker must “wait” in Mexico, the higher their risk of violence, homelessness, and discrimination.”