PRESS RELEASE: Rep. Vela joins over 100 House Democrats in Call for Immediate End of Remain in Mexico Policy

 

Remain in Mexico forces asylum seeking families and children into dangerous conditions

 

WASHINGTON— Rep. Vela and over 100 congressional Members called on Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to immediately terminate the Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, otherwise known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. This policy has led to multiple human and civil rights violations at our border, while also causing the mass suffering of tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers. In the year since its implementation, at least 816 migrants have been assaulted, raped, or murdered while waiting under the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

 

“Under this dangerous and illegal policy, the Administration has forced tens of thousands of vulnerable children, families, and other asylum seekers into unsafe conditions before their asylum requests can even be heard. In the span of just one year, ‘Remain in Mexico’ has inflicted irreparable harm to nearly 60,000 asylum seekers.  The Trump Administration has forced the United States to turn its back on our international legal obligations damaging our status as the global leader on refugee protection,” the Members wrote. “‘Remain in Mexico’ repeatedly jeopardizes the physical safety and emotional well-being vulnerable populations sought to escape from in the first place. This program undoubtedly causes further harm and inflicts unnecessary trauma on these populations. The Trump Administration must immediately terminate this cruel and illegal policy, provide all asylum seekers with meaningful access to a fair asylum process in the U.S., and restore the U.S. commitment to be a safe haven for refugees.”

 

In January, Congressman Vela led a Congressional delegation of 19 Members to the largest refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico, where Members were able to see first-hand the cruel consequences of this policy.  It is estimated that over 2,500 children and families are awaiting their asylum cases in Matamoros while living in dire conditions with limited food, water, shelter and sanitation.     

 

The letter was also endorsed by 42 organizations, including ACLU, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, The Immigration Hub, Lawyers for Good Govt Project Corazon Matamoros, The Center for Victims of Torture, Coalition on Human Needs, Women’s Refugee Commission, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, National Immigrant Justice Center, The Latin America Working Group, Doctors for Camp Closure, Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, United We Dream, Immigrant Defenders Law Center , Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Witness at the Border, National Justice for Our Neighbors, Just Neighbors, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), New Mexico Comunidades en Acción de Fé (NM CAFé), Project Lifeline, Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), Doctors for America, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants,  Human Rights First, Church World Service, Tahirih Justice Center, Americas Voice, Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Save the Children Action Network, Families Belong Together, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Texas Civil Rights Project, The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC), National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, Union for Reform Judaism (the URJ), the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Justice in Motion, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), and Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).

 

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here

 

Dear Acting Secretary Chad Wolf,

 

We just marked the one-year anniversary of the Trump Administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. Under this dangerous and illegal policy, the Administration has forced tens of thousands of vulnerable children, families, and other asylum seekers into unsafe conditions before their asylum requests can even be heard. In the span of just one year, ‘Remain in Mexico’ has inflicted irreparable harm to nearly 60,000 asylum seekers.  The Trump Administration has forced the United States to turn its back on our international legal obligations damaging our status as the global leader on refugee protection. We call on the Trump Administration to immediately terminate this harmful policy. 

  

‘Remain in Mexico’ is just another tool used by this Administration to circumvent and dismantle the U.S. asylum system. ‘Remain in Mexico’ obstructs access to legal counsel, making it nearly impossible for asylum seekers into actually obtain asylum.  In fact, members of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents USCIS asylum officers, asserts that the policy fails to provide even basic procedural protections to asylum applicants.   Only 4 percent of those subject to ‘Remain in Mexico’ have been able to find legal counsel.  In contrast, nearly a third of those allowed to remain in the U.S while pursuing their asylum claim have obtained legal counsel over the same time period.  Legal representation is critical to securing asylum as those with lawyers are four times more likely to be granted asylum than those without counsel.   This obstruction of due process not only violates U.S. asylum and immigration law but harms vulnerable children and families who desperately need protection. 

 

Moreover, this policy closes the doors to vulnerable populations, including children and families, forcing them to wait in dangerous conditions in locations even our own government considers very dangerous.  In the last year, there have been more than 800 documented attacks on those subject to ‘Remain in Mexico’, including cases of kidnapping, extortion, torture, rape, and murder.  A recent study by the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at San Diego found that one in four people subject to ‘Remain in Mexico’ in Tijuana and Mexicali have been threatened with physical violence.  Families, children, and others are living in makeshift encampments, often without adequate access to water, food, medical care, and proper sanitation. Furthermore, in alleged violation of CBP’s own policy,  we understand that other vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals, and those with severe illnesses, have also been forced to wait in these conditions.  For LGBTQ asylum seekers, this policy forces them to remain exposed to the very abuse and persecution they are seeking protection from in the U.S. 

 

In response to the alarming reports about conditions at the border caused by ‘Remain in Mexico,’ Members of Congress have traveled to Texas and Mexico to investigate these allegations first-hand. Members have spoken with hundreds of vulnerable families forced to live in makeshift refugee camps.  Unfortunately, these visits have confirmed that many human rights violations are occurring at the border as a result of ‘Remain in Mexico’. 

 

‘Remain in Mexico’ repeatedly jeopardizes the physical safety and emotional well-being vulnerable populations sought to escape from in the first place. This program undoubtedly causes further harm and inflicts unnecessary trauma on these populations. The Trump Administration must immediately terminate this cruel and illegal policy, provide all asylum seekers with meaningful access to a fair asylum process in the U.S., and restore the U.S. commitment to be a safe haven for refugees.

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

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