EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – More than 100 advocacy organizations have sent a letter to the White House urging President Biden to immediately stop asylum-seekers back to Mexico and craft a plan for the safe return of thousands already there.
The groups say the administration continues to send dozens of migrants who request asylum at U.S. processing centers to cities like Juarez, Mexico until called by an immigration judge. Advocates say this is being done under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” that the Supreme Court on June 30 ruled the Biden administration had a right to end.
“They say their hands are tied until the Supreme Court sends a certified copy of the judgment to the court of appeals,” said Melissa Crow, director of litigation at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. “In the meantime, we’re asking that (Biden) end MPP and begin to redress the enormous harm it has caused.”
Advocates say there is no reason for the administration to continue sending asylum-seekers to Mexico when the high court already ruled it doesn’t have to. This only puts asylum-seekers at risk not only of being robbed, extorted or kidnapped on the streets of Mexico but also of enduring stressful conditions and often discrimination at overcrowded shelters south of the border short on resources including food.
“Anything less than a swift and principled end to ‘Remain in Mexico’ will undermine the administration’s credibility, set a terrible example for other countries, reward and embolden efforts to stop lawful administrative actions and bolster the unfounded narratives peddled by those seeking to portray people seeking protection as a threat to the United States,” the letter said.
Border Report on Thursday reached out to the White House and to the Department of Homeland Security for comment and is awaiting a response.
The groups also want Biden to present a comprehensive plan to facilitate the return to the United States of the 6,000 to 7,000 he placed on “Remain in Mexico” since a federal court in Texas compelled him to do so last year.
“Despite new safeguards put in place by the administration, this is a fundamentally flawed policy,” said Savitri Arvey, policy adviser for the Women’s Refugee Commission.
She said she recently traveled to Mexico and spoke to women in constant fear of physical and psychological harm in cities where they have previously been assaulted. Most of those the administration has placed on MPP are single men, but some women and members of the LGBT community have been sent back as well, Arvey said.
“They should have never been sent to Mexico in the first place,” she said. “Not one of those I spoke to in Mexican shelters had legal representation. … It’s very difficult to win a case without representation.”
Other advocates from organizations having signed the letter said the “Remain in Mexico” policy remains a cruel one, regardless of which administration is implementing it.
Marisa Limon Garza, director of advocacy for the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, said she met a Nicaraguan asylum-seeker in Juarez who described his brief detention in the United States as dehumanizing and said he was discriminated at a Mexican shelter because of the color of his skin and the Indigenous language he speaks.
The man she identified as “Jacob” told her Mexican authorities extorted him in the state of Oaxaca, that he experienced overcrowding and difficulty accessing showers in a U.S. detention center and missed his court date after contracting chicken pox at a Juarez shelter and being quarantined for a month.
Jacob fled Nicaragua after being fired from a teaching job for not participating in Sandinista Party political activities and has struggled since to provide for his family by holding menial jobs. His uncle was killed by paramilitaries and he himself was wounded before fleeing to another Central American country and, eventually, the United States, Limon said.
“The realities of ‘Remain in Mexico’ are those of violence and preying on the most vulnerable among us,” she said. “I initially had the false impression this program would not be as bad as before. […] This is a program of family separation and affects people directly.”