Expansion of 'Remain in Mexico' policy unnecessarily escalates dangers for vulnerable asylum seekers

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Trump administration’s expansion of the Remain in Mexico policy to El Paso, Texas, piles on to its two-year history of cruel and unjustified attacks on asylum seekers. 

“I am greatly concerned to see the administration compounding a set of policies that already show a disrespect for fundamental human rights and a poor grasp of the causes of the recent surge of refugees with another even more poorly conceived policy,” said Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, a member of CLINIC's board of directors. Along with partner organizations, the El Paso Diocese has been providing legal assistance, shelter and other aid to some of the thousands of migrants who have sought asylum after crossing the border from Juarez, Mexico.

The policy of requiring certain asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await their immigration court proceedings has been in place since January at the San Ysidro, California, port of entry at Tijuana. It recently expanded to Calexico, California, across the border from Mexicali. People who have been forced to wait in Tijuana are reporting threats and violence, including kidnapping attempts. Under the latest expansion, some asylum seekers who arrive in El Paso are being returned to Juarez. In August 2018 alone, Juarez reported 182 killings. 

Bishop Seitz said the administration's Migrant Protection Protocols, "represent a new case of government double-speak. These protocols will not protect but only add further dangers to children and parents whose lives are already threatened. Our government is asking poor and vulnerable people to stay for an extended period of time in areas along the Mexican side of the border which they themselves acknowledge are controlled by narco-trafficking gangs. We are creating a situation in which desperate people with no other recourse will seek even more dangerous ways to enter the United States in order to avoid agents whom they fear will only send them back into danger.”

CLINIC opposed the policy as poorly conceived from the start. 

CLINIC Executive Director Anna Gallagher said the policy's chaotic implementation bears out that warning and promises to strip asylum seekers of their human and legal rights. “For the last two years, this administration has issued one policy after another that disregards our laws, exacerbates human suffering and distorts our country's values." As examples, she cited the Muslim ban in January 2017 through the unconscionable separation of families last spring and the cancellation of the protections of Temporary Protected Status. “This policy flies in the face of people's legal rights, leaving them stranded in Mexico to wade through the complicated asylum process without a lawyer.”

CLINIC called on the administration to focus on a humane approach to protecting asylum seekers, appealing to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to end the misguided and immoral policy.