Administration Continues to Exacerbate Challenges at the Southern Border
Washington, D.C.—In response to the Trump Administration’s announcements that it will cut hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Central America, and that the Department of Homeland Security will expand its return of asylum seekers to Mexico, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer issued the following statement:
Secretary Nielsen’s directive to expand the illegal Remain in Mexico scheme is doubling down on a failing immigration policy. The move will endanger the lives of asylum seekers by returning even more of them to Mexico, despite the high risks of death and violence there. Not only does this scheme violate U.S. law, but it gives a black eye to the United States’ proud legacy as a leader on the protection of refugees.
At the same time, the president is choosing to exacerbate the refugee and displacement challenges stemming from the Northern Triangle. By cutting off aid programs that help protect people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, he will not ease the growing humanitarian challenges at the southern border, he will inflame them.
If the Trump Administration is serious about finding solutions, it should be increasing—not cutting—aid to programs that reduce violence and promote protection in the Northern Triangle; it should work with humanitarian groups to properly manage arrivals at the border; it should strengthen fair and timely decision making on asylum claims; and it should launch a case management system to support appearances rather than lock asylum seekers and families in immigration jails for months or even longer.
Recently, two Human Rights First clients were inexplicably returned to Mexico after their initial immigration court hearings under the Trump Administration’s disastrous and unnecessary “Remain in Mexico” scheme. Among the first returned to Mexico under the new plan, they received no explanation despite each expressing fears of returning to Mexico. They now will wait in danger for their merits hearings, where they will present evidence to support their asylum claims, to take place in San Diego several months from now.