Policy Summary
In December, Trump put forth a policy on asylum seekers where individuals would be returned to Mexico while their cases were considered. This policy is generally known as ‘Remain in Mexico’ (as discussed in brief #61) though the Trump Administration refers to it as ‘Migrant Protection Protocols.’ Many individuals have fled Central America from gang violence, which does not observe state boundaries and such individuals’ lives could be at risk even during the waiting process. The UN High Commissioner on Refugees has confirmed that the majority of people fleeing from Central America have real claims of asylum. Many migrants will have to wait in underfunded and/or overcrowded shelters in Ciudad Juarez and/or Tijuana, which are not particularly safe and hostile to migrants.

Trump supporters and administration officials have addressed this concern by pointing out that some US cities, like Chicago, are equally as unsafe. Even Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen states the policy is a ‘vital response to the crisis at our southern border.’

The US cannot deport asylum seekers without at least a screening interview to determine if their case presents a ‘credible fear.’ Under the new protocol an individual also  has to establish that they are ‘more likely than not’ to be persecuted if sent back to their country of origin, which is much harder to prove than the minimum ‘credible fear.’ Thus, various groups are suing the Trump Administration, claiming this policy is an act of ‘war on asylum seekers and our system of laws,’ as it violates US and International Laws of asylum.

Interviews with asylum seekers are one-o- one without access to a lawyer and the interviewer then passes on a report from the session to someone more senior at US Citizenship and Immigration services to make a decision. Usually 75% pass the interview, but Trump’s new  policy skirts around this limitation by providing individuals with a hearing but having them wait in Mexico for such a hearing to take place.

Upon arrival in Mexico, they are granted humanitarian visas which allow them to live and work in Mexico for up to a year while they wait.

The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is an ill thought out regulation and a human rights violation. IT is being implementd without the ‘reasoned explanation’ which is required. It also incentivize sillegal border crossings (by those seeking to escape the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy), and there is an unrealistic expectation that Mexico will provide safety, shelter, support services and legal counsel, and transportation for affected asylum seekers. Mexico has a record of detaining and deporting  back asylum seekers to their home countries where they face serious threats to their lives and freedoms.

This policy also violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) which prohibits agencies from acting in a way that is ‘arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law.’ It directly violates the US longstanding policy of nonrefoulement (not unique to the US) under which it is the obligation not to return people to places where they will face persecution, torture or other cruel and inhuman treatment

Engagement Resources

  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • us: an organization that aims to promote the tech community to support policies that keep the American Dream alive. They specifically and currently focus on immigration reform.

Photo by Baher Khairy

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