A year later, how has Trump’s “Stay in Mexico” policy affected asylum seekers?


A year ago, the Trump administration began implementing the Migrant protection protocols, which allowed immigration officials to return thousands of asylum seekers to Mexico while their cases were decided through the US immigration court system. The Department of Homeland Security said the policy, known as “Remain in Mexico,” would address the growing number of asylum applications.

In a way, he has, according to Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Frontiers of Hope Institute in El Paso, Texas. “Inflicting cruelty is the motive for a policy like this,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a deterrent.”

Of the 7,000 asylum claims that have been processed in the El Paso area since the policy was implemented, Corbett said, only 15 people have been granted asylum, a denial rate of over 99%.

“Inflicting cruelty is the motive for a policy like this,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a deterrent.”

By comparison, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Miami together processed more than 85,000 asylum applications during the same period in 2019, with an average refusal rate of 50%, according to Syracuse University Tracking. Overall, the immigration courts denied asylum to his highest rate ever last year, 69% of cases were refused asylum. Nonetheless, immigration courts granted asylum to nearly 20,000 people last year, more than double the number in 2014.

Ashley Feasley, director of policy in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, said tens of thousands of people have been waiting for their court date for months under “circumstances that are not viable”.

On a recent trip to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Ms Feasley met pregnant women and sick children who “shouldn’t be put under these kinds of conditions”. Overcrowded shelters in Mexico had sanitation problems and ran out of space, leaving asylum seekers on the streets. The fact that asylum seekers are willing to suffer in these situations speaks to the sincerity of their cases, Ms Feasley said.

“This is a blatant attempt to end access to asylum,” she said. Few people, despite having experienced traumatic events in their home country and on their journey north, have access to mental health services, Ms Feasley said. And while the U.S. government does not require asylum seekers to be provided with an attorney, groups that offer free services feel thwarted in their attempts to connect with those who need attorneys, she said. declared.

The immigration courts refused asylum to her highest rate ever last year, 69% of cases were refused asylum.

Norma Pimentel, MJ, who is executive director of Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities in Brownsville, Texas, said an average of about 2,500 asylum seekers await their hearing in Matamoros. “Families wait an average of eight months,” she said.

Sister Pimentel spoke of a woman who came from Central America with her daughter, fearing that her husband would take her life. After months of waiting for her court date, the judge dismissed her case. The woman was in tears when Sister Pimentel spoke to her again, not knowing what to do next.

Few asylum seekers appeal their case, Sister Pimentel said, adding that the decision to grant asylum often depends on the judge who hears the case. Syracuse University found a number of judges with a refusal rate over 90%.

For two months, a number of humanitarian groups on both sides of the border have coordinated their efforts to provide direct assistance, legal advice and mental health care to asylum seekers waiting in camps, Sister Pimentel said. . A United Methodist group, for example, brings bottled water twice a day, while others work to purify river water. The network also provided and maintained more toilets.

“These families shouldn’t be here,” Sister Pimentel said of the camps in Mexico. “These are asylum seekers who should have a fair and regular chance in the United States. They should have the opportunity, with a lawyer, to present their case. We need a new policy that is more humane and respectful of the dignity of each person.

“These families should not be here. They are asylum seekers who should be given a fair and regular chance in the United States. »

But, according to Ms Feasley, it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw attention to the camps. She said many on Capitol Hill now see asylum seekers as Mexico’s problem. Democrats and Republicans in Congress, to varying degrees, no longer see the border crisis as a pressing concern, she said. But the many reports released on the policy’s anniversary are helping to raise awareness.

The Hope Border Institute released two studies this week detailing the impact of the Stay in Mexico policy. the first study, a status report, explains that 60,000 asylum seekers were sent back to Mexico because of the policy, 25% of whom were children. Most children cannot continue their education while waiting for their court hearing in Mexico, according to the report. In Ciudad Juarez, just south of El Paso, there is not enough accommodation space to accommodate those awaiting an asylum hearing and only about 3% of asylum seekers have found juridical help for their cases.

“By sending asylum seekers to Mexico, the Trump administration has effectively diverted public attention from the abuse of migrants and the attack on asylum at the border,” Corbett said in the statement. introduction to the study. “Now the attention of the media and political leaders is distant, focused on impeachment and another election cycle.”

In Ciudad Juarez, migrants have been victims of theft, assault, extortion, trafficking, kidnapping and murder. The city records an average of four murders a day, the highest number since 2011. The report also shares stories of asylum seekers, including a 19-year-old Honduran woman who has been separated from her daughter for months because of the Politics.

The second report, by Stanford University School of Law for the Hope Border Institute, argues that Mexico may have violated a number of human rights treaties by cooperating with the Stay At Home policy. Mexico. The report’s findings “suggest that Mexican authorities have committed and failed to protect, investigate and prosecute the extortion, arbitrary detentions, kidnappings, enforced disappearances, torture and life-threatening injuries of migrants in violation the right to life, liberty and security, freedom from torture, freedom of movement and non-discrimination”.

Despite these troubling findings, the DHS announced this week that it is expanding the stay-in-Mexico policy to include Brazilian nationals arriving at the southern border. In one declaration released Jan. 29, DHS called the policy a “cornerstone” in its efforts to “restore the integrity of the U.S. immigration system and relieve the overwhelming backlog of pending asylum claims.” Our nation is safer thanks to the program.

Mr. Corbett disagrees. “[The program] is driven by a politics of exclusion, and the Trump administration has only doubled that over the years,” Corbett said. “That will change in the future, but for now we are resisting a policy of hate.”


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