DHS Statement on Refugee Caravan Threatens Punishment for Refugees for Seeking Asylum
New York City—Human Rights First today condemned the statement released by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirsten Nielsen on the Central American refugee caravan that made threats to those who would legally seek protection as refugees at the U.S. border.
“It is not illegal to seek asylum in the United States, but it violates U.S. laws and legal obligations to turn asylum seekers back to danger, criminally prosecute them and detain them unnecessarily and arbitrarily. In addition, as the Department of Homeland Security surely knows, Mexico does not meet the ‘safe third country’ legal standards,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer.
The remaining members of the Central American caravan is primarily made up of refugee families who are fleeing horrific persecution and violence in Honduras and other countries. Today’s statement threatened criminal prosecution and extended detention for those who enter the United States seeking protection.
Human Rights First continues to urge the administration to treat those seeking refugee protection consistent with U.S. laws and treaty obligations and stop punishing those who seek protection at our southern border. The organization notes that the anti-refugee policy agenda pushed by the Trump Administration sets a terrible example for the small number of countries that host the vast majority of the world’s refugees. The United States can and should continue to support the development of effective asylum systems in countries sound of the U.S. border.
“The Trump Administration and the Department of Homeland Security should focus on the actual threats to this country rather than continuing to falsely paint manageable numbers of asylum seekers as dangers to this country in an attempt to push draconian legislation to block refugees from seeking asylum. Families and others seeking U.S. refugee protection are not threats to U.S. sovereignty,” added Acer.
Human Rights First’s recent factsheet and 2017 report “Dangerous Territory: Mexico Still Not Safe for Refugees,” found that migrants and refugees face grave risks of kidnapping, disappearance, sexual assault, trafficking, and other harms in Mexico. They are targeted not only due to their inherent vulnerabilities as refugees and migrants, but also due to their nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Some have been trafficked into forced labor, while refugee and migrant women and girls have been trafficked to Mexico’s southern border where they have been exploited in bars and night clubs that cater to police, military and other forces in the area.