Administration to Release Regulations that May Force Immigrants to Stay in Mexico Pending Hearings
New York City—Human Rights First today said that any action taken by the Trump Administration to force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while awaiting removal hearings is a violation of the United States’ laws and treaty obligations. Today the administration indicated that it plans to issue regulations to advance the provision in President Trump’s January 25 executive order that seeks to remove immigrants “to the territory from which they came” while they await immigration court hearings.
“Asylum seekers and migrants face grave risks in Mexico due to kidnappers, traffickers, and brutal violence. Additionally, alarming deficiencies in Mexico’s migration system put refugees in danger of return to persecution.” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Attempts to block arriving asylum seekers from the United States not only subject refugees to these dangers but also violate U.S. law and treaty obligations. These actions also undermine U.S. global leadership and set a poor example for countries that are hosting the vast majority of the world’s refugees.”
Earlier this week Human Rights First released a new report assessing the dangers facing refugees in Mexico in the wake of proposals from the Trump Administration and Congress to block refugees passing through Mexico from seeking protection in the United States. The analysis, “Dangerous Territory: Mexico Still Not Safe for Refugees” finds that migrants and refugees in Mexico face risks of kidnapping, disappearance, sexual assault, and trafficking, and that Mexican authorities routinely deport individuals to their home countries regardless of whether they fear return to persecution and the country’s human rights obligations.
President Trump’s January 25th executive order “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” proposed to return some border arrivals to “contiguous territories,” such as Mexico, while they await U.S. immigration court removal hearings. The related notice of proposed rule-making is expected to be published in October.
Human Rights First notes that when Congress—with strong bipartisan support—passed the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States codified its commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol. Under those treaties, states can’t return refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened or reject potential refugees at the border. The United States is also a party to the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits governments from sending people to places where they would be in danger of being tortured, and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and migrants. These treaties must be followed even during times when states are tempted to break them—in fact, that’s usually when they matter the most. Instead of turning away those seeking protection, the United States should allow them to be assessed through its asylum and protection processes.
“The United States has the ability and the capacity to both protect refugees—in this case those fleeing violence and persecution in Central America—while also effectively managing its border. We should be setting a shining example to other countries by managing this challenge in ways that comply with U.S. human rights and refugee protection treaty commitments.”