By Megan U. Boyanton Cronkite News
WASHINGTON — A new report claims there have been 636 violent attacks on asylum seekers returned to Mexico under Trump administration policy, with nearly half of those incidents taking place in the past few weeks. last two months only.
Human Rights First’s report looked at what happens to immigrants subject to the US government’s migrant protection protocols, which require asylum seekers to return to Mexico pending the outcome of their claims.
Once back in Mexico, according to the report, the migrants were victims of rape, assault, robbery, torture and above all kidnapping, which accounted for the vast majority of the crimes.
“Migrants are targeted if they appear to have connections in the United States who would be able to pay a ransom,” said Kennji Kizuka, researcher at Human Rights First. Migrant protection protocols, also known as the “stay in Mexico” program, are working at ports of entry in Texas and California, but not in Arizona.
That changed last month when the Department of Homeland Security announced that asylum seekers apprehended in the Tucson area would be bused to El Paso and sent to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.
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That has advocates for the safety of migrants fearing that they might otherwise be helping in Arizona.
“We are sending them to cruelty and danger when we have the capacity, the resources and the desire to receive them here,” said Katie Sharar, communications director for the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative.
“We’re taking them over 300 miles to a really, really dangerous, really overwhelmed Mexican city,” Sharar said. “The shelters are largely overcapacity. Often lawyers don’t want to go there because it’s so dangerous.
Arizona U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have chosen not to comment on this story.
The study says the number of incidents uncovered is likely “just the tip of the iceberg,” as the crimes often go unreported by migrants returned to Mexico.
DHS reported that more than 55,000 asylum seekers were returned to Mexico from January, when the policy took effect, to September. A Reuters investigation found that number included at least 16,000 minors – and around 500 infants – who were taken away with their families.
The report indicates that children were the target of 138 cases of abduction or attempted abduction.
An October report by Human Rights First put the number of attacks on migrants at 340.
This report also noted that Tamaulipas, one of the Mexican states receiving asylum seekers, is subject to a “do not travel” advisory from the US State Department – a warning that it applies to countries like Venezuela, Somalia and North Korea.
Kizuka said wealthier migrants may pool their money to rent hotel rooms or beds in local homes, but many others stay in tents or shelters, where they are still at risk. .
“People have been kidnapped, robbed, assaulted inside the migrant shelters,” he said.
Arizona had been considered “one of the last places” untouched by new asylum policies, Kizuka said, but “it’s over now”.
“Asylum is mostly no longer available for people arriving at the southern border,” Kizuka said.
An expert said the threats presented by the “stay in Mexico” policy affect people with legitimate asylum claims, not just those trying to outsmart the system.
“There is a population with legitimate asylum claims who are now deterred from having those claims fully heard,” said Jessica Bolter, associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.
For Sharar, Mexican border towns don’t offer the same “community support” that Phoenix or Tucson can offer migrants. Given the chance, she said Arizona would be up to it.
“There are so many Arizonans who are ready and willing to receive asylum seekers,” Sharar said. “It hasn’t gone away and it won’t go away.”